The Exmoor is the oldest UK breed classified under the nine breeds native to the British isles. These ponies roam semi-feral across the moorlands of the Exmoor National Park.
The Exmoor is thick-set, small, and brown or dun in colour with the characteristic pale or ‘mealy’ nose. They are so sturdy that children and adults can ride them.
It is though out that the first wild ponies moved to Britain from Alaska 130,000 years. This was so long ago that ponies must have existed around the time of the mammoth and the saber-toothed tiger.
When the Celtic people settled in Britain, they tamed and used the ponies to pull their chariots.
There are mentions of ponies on Exmoor in the Doomsday Book – Britain oldest ever public record. The was written in 1080 – 941 years ago!
World War 2 then nearly wiped out the breed. A combination of absent owners, poverty, and the use of the moorlands for the troops resulted in there being 50 ponies left after the war. Passionate breeders desperately tried to save the breed, and ponies were even exported to Canada and the USA. Nowadays, there are under 500 recorded in the UK, and they are still considered an endangered species.
The Exmoor is superbly adapted the wild, able to withstand the UK cold and rain. They have thick eyelids called ‘toad eyes’ and very thick forelocks that help protect them. The ‘toad eye’ along with the thick forelocks helps the rain run directly off the face. To complete their protection systems, their coats have two layers, kind of like thermal underwear! Every year in the breeding season, the native herds are rounded up by the local farmers to be inspected and some are selected to be sold as recreation ponies.
Blog from HQ Magazine, September Issue 2021.