When you think of Dartmoor, what’s the first thing that springs to mind? For many people it’s the sight of the Dartmoor pony, arguably the landscape’s most hardy animal and one that has become the official symbol on the national park’s logo. They’ve lived on the moor for centuries, thriving despite harsh winter weather; there are records going back to 1012 AD acknowledging their presence and footprints being discovered that date back 3,500 years!
There’s plenty of information about Dartmoor’s ponies here but here’s a quick breakdown of all you need to know about these resilient creatures:
- They have had a close relationship with man — Over the centuries, ponies have been used in Dartmoor’s mining industry to transport ore, for shepherding, taking families to market and on occasion, even helping the postman deliver letters!
- All of the moor’s ponies belong to different pony keepers, who ensure that each herd is healthy. Despite this, the vast majority are not used to being handled, so they can be nervous or defensive around people and we recommend not approaching them too closely so they can’t kick or bite you.
- It’s illegal to feed them — As you might expect, the diets of a human and pony are drastically different, so even foods like organic vegetables can be bad for them. If people feed ponies, it attracts them to the roadside and puts them at risk of being killed. The animals have plenty of places to graze and never run out of food… so just don’t do it!
- They’re vital for the eco-system — The grazing that the ponies do on our moorland plays a vital role in maintaining a variety of habitats, supporting other wildlife. So if you see other animals on the moor, they may have directly benefitted from the ponies!
- There are several different types — The pedigree Dartmoor ponies are a hardy, rare breed, herds of them can be found on many areas of the moor. They are up to 12.2 hands high and can be bay, brown, black, grey, chestnut or roan. Dartmoor hill ponies can be any size from tiny to large, and any colour including mixed colours. Shetland ponies can also be any colour including mixed, but they are generally the smallest of the ponies on the moor.
For more information on Dartmoor ponies, visit https://www.visitdartmoor.co.uk/things-to-do/dartmoor-ponies