The Exmoor Pony is native to the British Isles, where some semi-feral herds still roam the moorlands on Exmoor in southwest England. Fossil remains found in the area date back to about 50,000 BC indicating that there were small equines present then. With generations spent in isolated territory with very little possibility of cross-breeding, the breed ‒ believed to be the most primitive of the northern European horse breeds ‒ maintained its purity. Descendants of ponies removed from the moor in 1818 formed the foundation bloodstock of the modern Exmoor. The Exmoor Pony Society was formed in 1921.
Similar to other breeds in Europe, the Exmoor Pony was nearly wiped out during WWII, being casualties of war (and target practice) and slaughtered for their meat. Thankfully, a small band of breeders saved and promoted the breed to the point their numbers allowed export to other countries, including Canada in the 1950s.
The first stud book was established in 1963. Despite the increase in their popularity and numbers, the Livestock Conservancy considers the Exmoor to be at “critical” levels with an estimated global population of fewer than 2,000 (est. 800 individuals).
The Exmoor displays features similar to primitive wild horses thanks to natural selection in a harsh climate: a winter coat with an insulating undercoat and an outer coat of greasy, nearly waterproof hair; a thick mane, tail, and forelock; large air-warming nostrils, and a “mealy” muzzle. Its uniform brown coat acts as camouflage and there are no white markings to stand out against the landscape.
Exmoor ponies stand a stocky 11.1-12.3 hands and are athletic, intelligent, hardy, good-natured and willing, although also strong-willed at times. They make excellent family riding ponies that are small enough for a child and large enough for a small adult.
Originally employed as pit ponies and for farming duties, Exmoor Ponies are competitive under saddle and in harness. They are also used as efficient ‘conservation grazers,’ eating tough plants so that more delicate species can grow.
For more information, visit:
Exmoor Pony Society