The Exmoor is the last survivor of the Celtic ponies from the Pleistocene age and one of the oldest equine breeds in the world. This ancient breed of pony is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1085, Exmoors are believed to have existed during the Bronze Age.
Experiments have been conducted on the fossilised remains of the original Celtic pony found in Alaska and compared with those of the Exmoor. They have revealed the same shape jaw bones and the beginnings of a seventh molar tooth found in no other breed. Because of its remote habitat in Devon and Somerset it is one of the purist of the Mountain and Moorland breeds in Great Britain, having undergone very little infusion of outside blood.
Much research was carried out on the skeletal structures and dentition of the Exmoor pony by Professor Speed and others scientists. Their findings suggest that the modern domestic horse descended from the four sub type species:
The Exmoor Pony found in north-west Europe resembles Pony Type 1 – Ewart’s Celtic Pony. The Highland Pony – resembles Pony Type 2 – Ewart’s Norse Horse. Akhal-Teke – resembles Horse Type 3 – Nisaean and Bacterian breed. Caspian rediscovered in 1965 – resembles Horse Type 4 – forerunner of the Caspian that is a pony-sized horse of Western Asia.
The Exmoor pony is exceptionally strong and hardy with great powers of endurance. The height limit of the mare is no more than 12.2 h.h. and of the stallion 12.3 h.
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h. Although small in stature they are strong enough to carry an adult rider.
In 1912 The Exmoor Pony Society was founded to improve and encourage the breeding of moorland types. They ensure that the breed stays pure and only true Exmoor ponies are passed for registration and branded by the Society star on the shoulder. At the end of the Second World War the numbers of ponies fell to just 50, as thieves killed them for meat and soldiers used them for target practice. Today, though it is still considered a rare breed, the numbers are estimated at around 2,700 World-wide; the result of a successful breeding programme. Herds of Exmoor ponies still run wild on the moor, they are rounded up each year for inspection; the pony’s herd number is branded beneath the Society’s star and on the nearside hindquarter with the pony’s own number.