Ponies have lived on Dartmoor for thousands of years, and are part of Dartmoor’s rich heritage.
Hoof-prints found on Dartmoor during an archaeological excavation in the 1970s show that domesticated ponies were to be found here in the Bronze Age (1,500BC).
The first written record of ponies on Dartmoor occurs in 1012 AD, with a reference to the ‘wild horses’ of Ashburton, owned by the Bishop of Crediton.
During the 18th Century Dartmoor’s ponies were put to industrial use, working in the coal mines alongside the miners and in 1820 hauling granite at Haytor.
In the 19th Century, the quest for breeding finer polo ponies saw Dartmoor’s ponies being crossed with Arab, hackney and thoroughbred horses. Prince Edward (later Edward VIII) kept Dartmoor ponies near Princetown and was keen breeder of polo ponies. The Dartmoor Stud Book was created, and in 1925 the Dartmoor pony was recognised as a pedigree breed.
Dartmoor ponies today
Because of their calm temperament, strength and surefootedness, over the years Dartmoor ponies have been used for many varying purposes, such as pit ponies, for shepherding, or taking the family to market and on occasion even carrying the postman to deliver the mail.
This has led to the breeding and development of the different types that are seen on the moor today.
You can find detailed information about the types of ponies on Dartmoor, their breeding, history and more on the following websites:
You can read more about the important role ponies on the moor play to help conservation.
Find out how to Help look after Dartmoor’s ponies.
Find out more about human history on Dartmoor.