Dying breed? Why Dartmoor hill ponies’ days may be numbered

Auction highlights gloomy outlook for ancient breed, as red tape and high running costs hit commercial market

The Dartmoor hill pony auction – an autumnal tradition and once a rip-roaring, gossipy gathering of the clans – was a less than cheerful event to attend this time round.

Pony after pony was ushered, bright-eyed and skittering, into the ring at the Tavistock livestock centre, on the edge of the Devon moor, only to be quickly led back out unsold, even though most were up for grabs for just £20. By the end of the morning, new homes had been found for only 20 out of 60 animals. The auctioneer looked gloomy, the pony owners and conservationists demoralised. “That was the worst ever,” said Mary Alford, who brought along 18 ponies but sold just six. “It’s a sad day for these animals and for hill ponies in general. I don’t know what I’m going to do with them.”

The future is grim for many of the ponies that failed to sell. The majority will be slaughtered and end up as a meal for a pet or even a zoo animal; the hide of some may be used to make drums.

The problem runs deeper than this. The lack of a market for the hill ponies has led to concerns that after 3,500 years of roaming on the moors, the breed’s days could be numbered.

Read the full story here.

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About jensera

Jennifer Harrington is a Toronto-based illustrator, writer and graphic designer. She illustrated the best-selling children’s book series 'A Moose in a Maple Tree,' which includes the titles 'A Moose in a Maple Tree,' 'The Night Before a Canadian Christmas' and 'Canadian Jingle Bells.' She is also the owner of JSH Graphics, a boutique graphic design agency that specializes in print and web advertising. With her latest project, Eco Books 4 Kids, Jennifer has partnered with illustrator Michael Arnott to create a series of ecologically-themed ebooks for children. Her next book, 'Spirit Bear,' is due for release in the Summer of 2013. Jennifer offers two different school presentations for her 'Moose in a Maple Tree' collection, an illustration demonstration and a Christmas concert series, which can be booked at www.amooseinamapletree.com. She will be taking bookings for school readings of 'Spirit Bear' beginning in October 2013.

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