Dartmoor Ponies

The ponies on Dartmoor today are not truly wild animals. They all have owners, but the vast majority are untamed. Farmers mark their ponies to indicate ownership in a variety of ways. Ear cuts, ear tags, and cutting tail hair in distinctive patterns are all common methods.

A pony on Dartmoor is not necessarily of the Dartmoor breed, either. Breeds such as the Arab, Shetland and Thoroughbred have all been crossbred with the Dartmoor pony at times to create the breed known today.

The ponies live all year round on the moor, spending much of their time in small herds. Most foals are born between May and August.

In late September or early October, the pony drifts are held. People on horseback, four wheeled bikes, or even on foot herd the ponies into a small area where they are separated by ownership.

After drifting, the farmers decide which ponies to keep, and which to send to market. Most male foals are sent to market, as are the older ponies. At the market, there is always a vet present to ensure the ponies are not handled roughly or mistreated. Most of the ponies that are sold become riding ponies or pets.

Today, there are less than three thousand ponies on Dartmoor. This is due to a number of factors, such as a reduction in the demand for ponies, and the fact that farmers grazing ponies on the uplands receive no subsidies.

Dartmoor Pony Moorland scheme

In 1987, the Duchy of Cornwall and the National Park Authority in England joined with the Dartmoor Pony Society to formulate a scheme to improve the standard for the ponies running on the moor. The aim was to stimulate an interest among the moor farmers to breed a true to type Dartmoor Pony with the inherent metabolism necessary to stand up to the rigors of their environment.

They are improving the quality of the breed by re-introducing pedigree blood. Approved mares spend the summer running with a registered stallion in one of the newtakes where there is public access, or where they may be seen on a National Park guided walk.

Some of this information was provided by the good people at Dartmoor National Park


The Dartmoor Pony stands at 12.2hh.


The Dartmoor Pony is bay, brown, grey, black, chestnut and roan.


The Dartmoor Pony has a small head, strong neck, strong back and high quarters. Hardy, strong, versatile, a good jumper and long lived. Good stamina with low straight and free flowing movement, yet without exaggeration. The main and tail should be full and flowing. The Dartmoor is a very good-looking riding pony, sturdily built yet with quality.

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