Dales Pony

Dales Pony

Dales Pony
Country of origin England
Breed standards
Dales Pony Society Breed standards
Horse (Equus ferus caballus)

The Dales pony is one of the United Kingdom's native mountain and moorland pony breeds. They are known for their strength, hardiness, stamina, courage, intelligence, and good disposition. The history of the modern Dales pony is strongly linked to the history of lead mining in the Dales area of England, and it was originally a working pony descended from a number of breeds. Today it is used for many different activities, but its low numbers has placed it on "endangered" status with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.


Breed characteristics

The Dales pony is ideally 14 to 14.2 hands (56 to 58 inches, 142 to 147 cm). The head is straight, neat, and broad between the eyes, with a fine muzzle and incurving ears. The body is fairly short in the back, with a broad and deep rib cage, long, broad and well-muscled quarters, a well-muscled neck of a good length joining neatly into strong withers and strong sloping shoulders. The legs are very muscular, with hard, dense bone, clearly defined tendons, flexible pasterns, and large round hooves with open heels. The mane, tail and leg feathers are straight, silky and abundant. The majority of Dales ponies are black, though brown, bay, grey and roan colours are also acceptable. The only white markings permitted on the head are a star and/or a snip; stripes, blazes, and white muzzles are not allowed. The hind legs may have a small amount of white, not extending above the fetlock joint, though ponies with excess white markings may be registered in the B register of the stud book. They should move with a great deal of energy and power, lifting the hooves well clear of the ground. The over-all impression should be of an alert, courageous but calm and kind animal.[1]


Horses have been present and used in the Dales area from early times. Horse remains dating to Roman times were found in the Ribchester area of the Dales, during North Pennines Archaeology's excavations at land behind the Black Bull Inn in 2009,[2] and the Romans themselves named an ancient British tribe to the east of the Pennines the Gabrantovici, or 'horse-riding warriors'. [3] The history of the modern Dales pony is strongly linked to the history of lead mining in the Dales area of England, which stretches from the Derbyshire peaks to the Scottish borders. Lead has been mined in this area since Roman times,[4] and Richard Scrope, then Chancellor of England, owned lead mines at Wensleydale in the 14th century.[5] Iron ore, fuel for smelting, and finished lead were all carried on pack ponies, with each pony carrying up to 240 lbs at a time.[6] Pack pony trains of up to 20 ponies worked 'loose' (i.e. not led), under the supervision of one mounted train leader.

The modern Dales pony is descended from a number of breeds, with the original working ponies being bred by crossing the Scottish Galloway pony with native Pennine Pony[7][8] mares in the Dales area in the late 1600's. A century later Norfolk Cob bloodlines were brought into the breed, which traced back to the Darley Arabian, and most Dales ponies today have pedigrees which can trace back directly to this influential horse (one of the foundation sires of the modern Thoroughbred). Clydesdale, Norfolk Trotter, and Yorkshire Roadster blood was added to improve the trotting ability of the Dales.[9] The bloodline of the Welsh Cob stallion Comet was also added during the 1850s to improve the breed's gait. [10] With their agility, power and speed, the Dales had great success in the trotting races of the 18th century and the organized hunts. The Fell Pony continued to intermingle with the Dales into the early 20th century. In 1912, Dalesman was chosen as a Fell premium stallion by the Board of Agriculture. In 1924, he was re-registered as a Dales Pony.[11]

The Dales Pony stud book was opened in 1916, with the formation of the Dales Pony Improvement Society, after the introduction of Clydesdale blood threatened to affect the quality of the Dales ponies.[9] Stallion premiums were awarded first by the Board of Agriculture, and later by the War Office, to ensure that stallions displaying the best of the breed characteristics were used for breeding.

The breed almost disappeared during the Second World War, as ponies were taken for breeding vanners, for work in towns and cities, and for use by the army as pack and artillery ponies.[12] At the end of the war, the future of the Dales pony was preserved by a small but dedicated group of breeders, and in 1964 The Dales Pony Society underwent reorganisation, and a drive was instigated to find and register as many ponies as possible. [13]

The Dales Pony has 'endangered' status with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. [14]


Dales ponies today compete in show jumping, cross-country, dressage, driving, and eventing. Their calm, kind temperament, combined with their ability to carry heavy weights for long distances, has made them an ideal pony for endurance riding and trekking holidays, as they can carry novice or experienced riders, adults or children alike, over all kinds of terrain and for long distances. [15]In the UK they have competed at National level two in Le Trec. Small herds still roam free in the eastern Pennines.


  1. ^ Dales Pony Breed Standard
  2. ^ OASIS (OASIS reference northpen3-60750, registration required)
  3. ^ Harding 2004, p. 23
  4. ^ Weigall 2008, p. 244
  5. ^ Yorkshire Dales National Park education leaflet
  6. ^ Lynghaug 2009, p. 455
  7. ^ Dales Pony, Oklahoma State University, retrieved December 22, 2008.
  8. ^ Lynghaug 2009, pp. 455–456
  9. ^ a b Lynghaug 2009, p. 456
  10. ^ The Fell Pony Museum
  11. ^ Edwards 1992, pp. 68–73
  12. ^ Lynghaug 2009, p. 457
  13. ^ Dales Pony Society
  14. ^ Rare Breeds Survival Trust
  15. ^ Curry 2004, p. 114


Weigall, Arthur (2008), Wanderings in Roman Britain, ISBN 978-1443702287 

Lynghaug, Fran (2009) (in English), The Official Horse Breeds Standards Guide: The Complete Guide to the Standards of All North American Equine Breed Associations, Stillwater, MN: Voyageur Press, ISBN 0-7603-3499-4 

Curry, Marion (2004) (in English), Horses (1000 Facts On...S.), Miles Kelly Publishing Ltd, ISBN 1-84236-469-3 

Harding, D.W. (2004), The Iron Age in Northern Britain: Celts and Romans, natives and invaders, New York: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-30149-1 

Edwards, Elwyn Hartley (1992), Leading the field: British native breeds of horses and ponies, London: Stanley Paul, ISBN 0-09-175332-5 

External links

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