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