The Dartmoor Pony is a breed of pony from England. Bones from wild horses have been found within tombs dating back to around 3500 BC. In an investigation during the 1970s, ponies from Dartmoor were found to be domesticated as early as 1500 BC.
During medieval times, Dartmoor ponies were used for carrying loads from the mines through the moor. After the mines were no longer used, the majority of the ponies were released into the moor. The remaining were used by farmers.
From 1789 to 1832, breeders added Shetland bloodline trying to produce a suitable pit pony, but it caused the purebred stock to decrease greatly. In 1898 the Dartmoor was entered into a studbook started by the Polo Pony Society. In the early 1900s, the ponies were bred at Dartmoor Prison and used to escort prisoners until the 1960s.
In 1922, Arab bloodline was introduced into the Dartmoor. Welsh Pony and Fell Pony were also added into the bloodline. During WW I and WW II the breed suffered greatly with only a few ponies being registered by the end of WW II. After the war was over, local people began to inspect the breed and register as many as possible, resulting in an increase in numbers by the 1950s.
To entities have been established to preserve the breed. The Dartmoor Pony Moorland Scheme in 1988 and the Dartmoor Pony Preservation Scheme in 2004. As a result, the Dartmoor Pony has been given Rare Breed status. An estimated 25,800 ponies were around in the 1930s, but the numbers have declined to around 5,000 today.
Although the Dartmoor Pony is native to Britain, today the breed is also found in the US, Europe, New Zealand and Australia. The herds of wild ponies that run free on Dartmoor are protected and it is illegal to feed them. However, a common sight is for passerby’s to roll down the window and hand them a snack.
The Dartmoor’s head is small with wide set eyes and alert ears. It has a broad, deep rib cage and a medium length, strong body. It has long strong legs to the flat-fronted knee but has short cannons. The shoulders are angled with rounded muscular quarters. It has a full and flowing mane and tail. The Dartmoor stands 42 to 50 inches high and is bay, brown, black, gray, chestnut or roan in color.
The Dartmoor is used for hunting, trail riding, showing, show jumping, dressing, driving, and everyday riding. They are mild tempered and suitable for children to ride, but strong enough for adults also.
Image Caption: Dartmoor Pony. Credit: Herby/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0, 2.5, 2.0, 1.0)