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All-time low for Dartmoor Pony population
Dartmoor ponies
Can the Dartmoor Pony be saved?
There are fears over the future of the Dartmoor Pony, after the number of animals on the moor halved in just six months. Farmers say the ponies are a luxury they can no longer afford and that subsidies are needed.
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Hoof-prints found on Dartmoor indicate that ponies were on the moor 3,500 years ago.

The ponies have played a big part in industry on the moor, including tin mining and quarrying.

The Dartmmor National Park Authority chose the pony as its official symbol.

In 1951, there were 30,000 ponies on Dartmoor. In 2004, that figure has been reduced to less than 1,000.

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The number of ponies on Dartmoor has halved in the space of six months and there are now only around 800 left on the moor.

The Dartmoor Pony - the symbol of the national park - was once a common sight on the moor. Just half a century ago there were 30,000 ponies there.

Now, there's a real danger there will soon be none left at all - and farmers are blaming equine passports for being the last nail in the coffin.

Farmers are getting rid of their ponies because of the cost of the passports, which are needed when they're sold on.

The passports are £10, but the price fetched at auction for some ponies is as little as £5.

Peter Palmer
Peter Palmer
Farmers are now urging the Government to offer grants or subsidies which will enable them to keep and breed ponies.

One farmer, Peter Palmer had a herd of 60 ponies 10 years ago. Now, he has none.

"When we sold them, I was crying in the ring," he said. "The passports were the last thing which we didn't want to bear.

"The ponies weren't making a lot of profit anyway and you pay more for the passport than what the ponies are worth."

Another farmer, Miles Partridge, believes the solution is simple: "We need money, and it needs to be an annual payment to people.

"If we don't get the money the ponies will go - they are going."

National Park Authority sign
The pony is the symbol of the national park authority
The situation has reached crisis point, according to Charlotte Faulkner of Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Pony: "I think we're probably down to 800 ponies now, which is very serious really.

"I haven't liked to ask where they're going. I think probably into tins.

"I think quite a lot are being sent up country to be broken and become riding or driving ponies.

"And then some are going to Bristol to feed the lions."

Maureen Rolls of the South West Equine Protection Society on Dartmoor said one of the problems was there are so many cross breeds on the moor and very few pure bred Dartmoor Ponies, and that has driven the price down.

The farming ministry, Defra, argues that if the ponies are kept on Dartmoor they don't need passports at all.

The ministry also points out that the passports are part of European legislation to make sure ponies and horses sold for human consumption meet the required standards.

Article published: 18th April 2004

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