By: Blonde Two
If you haven’t already heard of Dartmoor National Park’s famous ponies then it won’t take you long to spot some as you make your way across the moor. Dartmoor ponies are a firm favourite with many visitors and have a long historical relationship with our beautiful moor. Amongst other things, they have been used to transport tin across Dartmoor and carry guards from Dartmoor Prison but they also make great riding ponies for children.
Dartmoor ponies aren’t ‘wild’
Only one of these is a Dartmoor pony…
Although they often live on Dartmoor right through the winter and are not generally handled, Dartmoor ponies are all owned and cared for by the Dartmoor Commoners. Don’t get too close but you may spot identification marks in the form of brands. Every animal that grazes on Dartmoor common land is required to have either a mark like this or an ear tag.
The Dartmoor pony drift
Each year, in the autumn, the ponies on Dartmoor are rounded up (drifted) and taken to their owner’s farms. Foals are separated out and branded then some are kept to replace stock whilst others are sent to market. In recent years, falls in the market value for ponies and changes to registration regulations have meant that it has become harder for commoners to keep Dartmoor ponies on the moor. In an attempt to increase their value and keep them on the moor, some farmers are experimenting with selling Dartmoor pony meat in the same way that sheep and cows are sold as meat.
Dartmoor ponies are good for Dartmoor
Dartmoor ponies are an iconic part of Dartmoor’s attraction to visitors but it is important not to interact with or feed these seemingly friendly beauties. Feeding ponies attracts them closer to the road and traffic. In 2019, 30 ponies and foals were killed on Dartmoor’s roads.
‘In 2019, 30 ponies and foals were killed on Dartmoor’s roads…’
Not only do Dartmoor ponies do very well on Dartmoor’s poor vegetation, they help to maintain a variety of important wildlife habitats. They are also often chosen for conservation grazing in a variety of locations across the UK.
Types of ponies on Dartmoor
Piebald and skewbald ponies are not purebred Dartmoor Ponies…
Dartmoor ponies have a fascinating mixture of breeding with Welsh Ponies and Arabs making up part of their genetic mix. You will see ponies on Dartmoor in all kinds of lovely colours but purebred Dartmoor Ponies are a registered endangered breed and have beautiful coats in brown, black, grey, roan or chestnut. One thing we love doing is comparing the colour of a foal to its mother. They are often very different to each other.
How to look after Dartmoor’s ponies
Livestock on Dartmoor are free to roam and may be on the roads. You can help keep these beautiful ponies as part of the Dartmoor landscape by following these simple guidelines.
- Keep your speed down. The speed limit on Dartmoor is 40 mph but be particularly careful in poor visibility and around bends.
- Never feed Dartmoor ponies. Your food will not be good for them and feeding encourages more ponies onto the roads.
- Never stroke or touch Dartmoor ponies. They can and do kick and bite.
- Get in touch with our Dartmoor Livestock Protection Officer if you see any livestock that is ill or injured.