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Dartmoor Pony Breed Description

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Breed Organization

The Dartmoor Pony Registry of America DPRA

Native Country
Great Britain

Other Names

Adult Height
11.1h - 12.2h

Adult Weight

General Description

Dartmoor ponies stand an average of twelve hands (48") at the withers. They are dark in color, mostly bay, brown or black with an occasional gray or chestnut. White markings, if any, are very small. As a hearty moorland breed, the Dartmoor is sturdy in conformation, more similar to a warm blood type than to the elegant Welsh. This distinctiveness and consistency of appearance makes it easy to pick the Dartmoor out of a crowd, as well as match ponies for a driving team.

Height: Not exceeding 12.2 hh.
Head: Should be small, well set on and bloodlike, with the nostrils large and expanding and the eyes bright, mild intelligent and prominent. The ears should be small, well-formed, alert and neatly set. The throat and jaws should be fine and showing no signs of coarseness or throatiness.
Neck: Strong, but not too heavy and of medium length. Stallions have a moderate crest.
Shoulders: Good shoulders are most important. They should be well laid back and sloping, but not too fine at the withers.
Body: Of medium length and b, well-ribbed up and with a good depth of girth giving plenty of heart room.
Loin and Hindquarters: Strong and well covered with muscle. The hindquarters should be of medium length and neither level or steeply sloping. The tail is well set up.
Hind legs: The hocks should be well let down with plenty of length from hip to hock, clean cut and with plenty of bone below the joint. They should not be "sickled" or "cow-hocked."
Fore legs: Should not be tied in, in any way, at the elbows. The forearm should be muscular and the knee fairly large and flat on the front. The cannon should be short from knee to fetlock with ample, good, flat, flinty bone. The pasterns should be sloping but not too long. The feet should be sound, tough and well shaped.
Color: Bay, brown, gray, chestnut, roan. Piebald and skewbalds are not allowed. Excessive white markings should be discouraged.
General: The mane and tail should be full and flowing. The Dartmoor is a very good-looking riding pony, sturdily built yet with quality.
Movement: Low straight and free flowing, yet without exaggeration.


The earliest reference to the Dartmoor Pony appeared in 1012 in the Will of a Saxon Bishop, Aelfwold of Crediton. Much later during the heyday of tin mines on Dartmoor, the ponies were used extensively for carrying the tin to the Stannary towns. When this finished they were left to roam free apart from those required for work around the farms.

In 1898, the Polo Pony Society (now the National Pony Society) set up Local Committees to produce descriptions of each of England's native breeds. Apart from the height, the original description of the Dartmoor was almost identical to the present breed standard. Five stallions and 72 mares were inspected and entered into the first Stud Book by the local committee. The height limits then were 14 hands for stallions and 13.2 for mares but very few ponies came near to them. The biggest stallion was Brentor Confidence at 13.1 hands. Two mares reached the maximum height. The Director of Convict Prisons, Dartmoor, registered both which were probably ridden by the warders as they escorted convicts to and from their work outside the prison. In fact, the warders continued to ride ponies when escorting prisoners until the early 1960s. Less than twenty years after this good start the breed was hit very hard by the First World War.

The 1920s were an important time for Dartmoors. A breed society was formed in 1924 with a council and a paid secretary. The height limit was finally fixed at 12.2 hands. Several of the breeders known to exhibitors today started their interest in breeding and showing Dartmoors around this time, and some of the most influential bloodlines of today first attracted attention in the 20s and 30s. Unfortunately the breed society failed about five years later but was reformed with Miss Calmady-Hamlyn as Honorary Secretary, a spot she continued to hold until 1960 when, through ill-health she reluctantly retired. During her fifty years with the breed she saw the Dartmoor become a pony to be reckoned with at the major shows, thanks in no small part to her hard work and great flair for breeding.

Ponies of this era whose influence is still felt today include, Judy V, a champion mare bred by Mr. E. P. Northey, who produced the first Breed Standard and got the first Dartmoor Stud Book off the ground. The Leat, another champion, this time bred by the Prince of Wales at his Ducy Stud at Tor Royal near Princetown. Juliet IV, yet another champion and the offspring of the above two ponies, was bred by Miss Calmady-Hamlyn in 1923 and from her, in 1941 came the outstanding show and stud success, Jude.

The 1930s were a period of consolidation of the breed. The breed then came out of the Second World War with very few registered ponies. Registration by inspection was introduced, and prize winners at various selected shows were automatically eligible for registration. Despite the difficult times there were some bright moments for the breed during the war years with the arrivals of Jude (1941), Quennie XX (1943), John and Linnet (1944) and Jenny VII, Betty XXI, Chymes and Honeybags (1945), all destined to play their part in putting the breed back on its feet again. Shortly after came the noted sires Pipit, Janus and Jon, all by Jude, and the great outcross brood mares and winners Quennie XXIII, Cherrybrook, Hele Judith and Halloween II.

The membership and registrations gradually increased and by the end of the 1950s the breed was in much better shape. So much so that registrations on wins or by inspection finished in 1957, with all registrations in the Stud Book in future coming solely for ponies whose parents were already registered.

Today, the breed has spread over Great Britain with the main strongholds outside the south west being in the south east, the midlands and the north east of England. There were also a few breeders in Scotland, and some ponies had been exported to the United States. The Dartmoor is globally rare, with an estimated global population of 5-7,000 and fewer than 150 purebreds in the United States.


Their very nature helped them to settle easily and quickly to general work around the farms and further afield, as many a tale of ponies being ridden with very little training testifies. Now they are a valued part of the conservation of the moor as they help to keep the tree invasion at bay and the gorse under control more than any other animal.


They are often used as foundation breeding stock for the Riding Pony. The breed is a suitable size and temperament for a children s mount, but it is also quite capable of carrying an adult. They are used for hunting, trail riding, showing, jumping, dressage and driving, as well as everyday riding.


Extremely robust.

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