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Exmoor Ponies

Updated on April 16, 2012

Exmoor Ponies, a brief History

These ponies are originally native to the British Isles and some still roam free as semi-feral livestock on Exmoor and Dartmoor large moorlands(National Parks), in Southwest England.

They are a member of the Mountain and Moorland Pony breeds, and were first mentioned in Exmoor in 1086. However the breed society was not formed officially until 1921.

In 1818, Sir Richard Acland the Exmoor Royal Forests last warden took 400 of the ponies from Exmoor to Winsford Hill. They became known as the Anchor Breed,and to this day there are still a number of living descendants still at Winsford Hill.

A markerexmoor national park -
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The Exmoor Pony, is strong, dense boned, hardy and has great endurance. It is also known to be resistant to horse related diseases. The jaw structure on these ponies is different to all other horse breed insomuch that it has signs of development of a 7Th molar.

They have large heads in proportion to their bodies, small ears and what is called a "toad-eye", a very fleshy eyelid which helps to provide good insulation and deflect water. They grow a double-layer winter coat the under-layer being woolly and the top coat being long and oily, again this helps to keep them dry and warm during harsh winters on the open moorland where they come from.Their manes and tails are thick and long and have a layer of coarse white hairs(snow-chutes) which again help to deflect water.

Their colouring is variations of dark bay(brown) with Pangané (mealy) markings around the eyes, muzzle(nose and mouth), under the belly and the flanks.Pangané is considered to be a primitive trait and it is true that this breed is at least 1000 years old.

In height the stallions and gelding should be only up to 12.3hh(130cms) at the wither, this the point at the bottom of the neck above the shoulders. The mares should be around 12.2 hh.

Although when domesticated they are use in all equine activities, including long-distance riding, driving, showing, showjumping, cross-country, in fact are a great all-rounder, they are also a great part of nature conservation. Their grazing habits in the wild help to conserve old heathland and chalk grasslands as well as the conservation of the open moorlands were a small number still live.

Rare breed

The Exmoor Pony saw a sharp decline in its numbers during WWII when the open moorland became a training ground for soldiers who unfortunatley, and wrongly used the ponies for target practise. They were also stolen off the moors and sold for meat. Consequently their numbers decreased to just 50 ponies and they were recognized as almost extinct.

However, in 1981 a small group of breeders made the numbers of this native and rare breed public and a campaign and efforts were then started to raise the number. This included exporting animals to North America and then from there at a later date into Canada. Today there are still small herds being successfully maintained.

By 1990 small herds had been established in various locations in the UK and to this day are used to maintain vegetation on nature reserves.

Every purebred Exmoor Pony is branded with a 4 point start , although this practise is highly criticised and considered unkind.

Despite all the good people's efforts the breed is still at considered at Critical status by the Equus Survival Trust and at the present time there are known to be only 100-300 breeding mares in existence and only 800 ponies worldwide.


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    • clairemy profile image

      Claire 6 years ago

      They have wonderful personalities, though I think of ponies as playful children and having had a couple of Exmoors in my yard I know thats how they were. Great for teaching kids. Thankyou for your comment.

    • Talullah profile image

      Talullah 6 years ago from SW France

      Great hub full of lovely photos. These little ponies have such personality, don't they? I used to live in south west England and my first experience of riding was on Exmoor ponies. A lovely hub; thanks for writing it!

    • clairemy profile image

      Claire 6 years ago

      Horses and ponies know good people. They are extremely sensitive animals, and they also sense when people are nervous. You quite obviously see no reason to be which is wonderful. Thankyou for yet another very encouraging comment.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Voted up and awesome. These are wonderful little animals and it's wonderful that someone took it upon themselves to make certain that they didn't go extinct. On Chincoteague Island, off the coast of Virginia in the USA, there is a wild pony auction every year. These are also gorgeous, hardy animals. I happened to be there during the auction, just petting the ponies. An older man came up to me, surprised that I was petting them, as I didn't have a clue that they were wild. He cautioned me that they gave a vicious bite. Evidently, they didn't mind me.