When Dartmoor was designated a National Park, in 1951, the pony was chosen to be its logo. Ponies help to give Dartmoor its unique character and are one of the attractions for visitors to the area. They are an integral part of the moorland landscape and are a part of the area’s cultural heritage.
Ponies have lived on Dartmoor since prehistoric times. Although herds of ponies roam freely on the moor, they all belong to different pony keepers. Most have not been handled so you should not approach them too closely.
The owners round up their ponies every year in the autumn at the annual pony 'drifts'. They then decide which ponies to keep on the moor and which to sell. The foals are usually weaned from their mothers at this time.
The ponies are very hardy and actually thrive on Dartmoor despite the harsh weather and poor vegetation. In fact, by grazing the moorland they play a vital role in maintaining a variety of habitats and supporting wildlife.
Types of pony
Because of their calm temperament, strength and surefootedness, the ponies have been used for many varying purposes, and this has led to the breeding and development of the different types that are seen on the moor today.
Over the years they have been used as pit ponies, for shepherding, or taking the family to market and on occasion even carrying the postman to deliver the mail.
The very small ponies are the result of breeding with Shetlands and were used originally in the mining industry. The single coloured ponies are the traditional type and share some of the same ancestors as the 'registered' pedigree Dartmoor Pony, which is famous worldwide. Ponies with mixed colouring (e.g. brown and white, black and white and spotted) have been bred to meet popular demand. With proper training, the various types can make excellent driving or riding ponies.
Please do not feed the ponies
- It encourages them to stay near the road where they might be killed or seriously injured.
- The food we enjoy is not a natural or healthy diet for ponies and can make them very ill.
- Ponies will learn to expect food from people and might frighten or hurt them in an attempt to get more food.
- It is illegal to feed the ponies (See Byelaws: In respect of Dartmoor National Park 10(1)).
- The ponies are untamed - they can be unpredictable and may kick and bite if approached.
- The Dartmoor Pony Action Group is committed to supporting and preserving healthy ponies, in sustainable numbers, that will continue to graze on Dartmoor
Report an injured animal
All livestock including ponies are owned by local farmers and commoners. If you come across injured livestock please phone the Livestock protection officer
Livestock Protection officer: 07873 587561