A collaboration of coast and countryside organisations on The Lizard Peninsula

Exmoor Pony, the-lizard.org, CornwallThis tough pony is another of our hard-working grazers, helping to conserve the heathland and coastal habitats of The Lizard.
Photo: Steve Townsend




Scientific name: Equus ferus caballus (the scientific name for the domestic horse, of which Exmoor Ponies are a breed)

Cornish name: Hoba is the Cornish word for a pony

Status: Given “endangered” status by the UK Rare Breeds Survival Trust

What to look for:

Appearance and colouring: Brown (dark bay), with what are called ‘pangaré’ markings (paler areas) on the muzzle, flanks and belly.
Size: 114 to 130 cm (11.1 to 12.3 hands)
Where: Free-roaming on Exmoor, where they are semi-feral managed herds, and also elsewhere, used in conservation grazing and in other functions.

Exmoor Pony, The Lizard, CornwallWhen you’re out for an invigorating walk on one of our Lizard nature reserves, you may well come across some of our ponies, who have an important role to play in preserving biodiversity and supporting The Lizard’s rare fauna and flora. You can find out more about this in articles elsewhere on our website. Find out about a year in the life of a National Trust pony or read the diary of a ‘pony-patter’. Or maybe you would like to sponsor one of our ponies. In this species profile, though, you can find out a bit more about one of the pony breeds you can see on The Lizard: the Exmoor Pony.

Strong and hardy despite its small stature, the Exmoor Pony is well-suited to the tough conditions you might encounter on The Lizard. This makes it a perfect breed for conservation grazing, but its adaptability and resilience means you can find Exmoors in a variety of roles, from teaching children to ride, to winning competitions as driving ponies.

In their past, Exmoors were bred on the Exmoor moorlands of Devon and Somerset to cope with the wild upland conditions, supporting farmers and shepherds in their work. They have a broad back and short, strong-boned legs. Their teeth, with a firm, clean bite, are adapted to eating the tough heathland vegetation that other grazers might reject. They are sturdy enough to stay outside throughout the harshness of winter, helped by their thick winter coat: this is two-layered, with a warm under layer of woolly hairs, and a top layer of oily hairs that provide excellent waterproofing.

Exmoor Pony, The Lizard, CornwallThe paler markings (called ‘pangaré’ markings) on the breed’s muzzle, belly, and flanks contrast with its dark bay coat; these markings are in fact a primitive equine trait, evidence of the Exmoor Pony’s long history as a breed, and its closeness to its origin as a descendant of wild horses.

Exmoor Ponies as a breed nearly did not survive the twentieth century. Exmoor was used as an army training ground in the Second World War, and many were sadly shot for target practice, or killed for their meat; only 50 were left by the end of the War. A determined group of breeders set about reviving the population, and, although still considered “threatened” and “endangered” by the Livestock Conservancy and UK Rare Breeds Survival Trust, respectively, the Exmoor Pony is once again finding its niche in our lives and hearts.




Did you know…?

…Our word pony comes from the French word for a foal – poulenet.
…Horse and pony species have been in the British Isles since 700,000 BC; equine fossil remains on Exmoor date back to 50,000 BC, and ponies on Exmoor are mentioned in the Domesday Book, in 1086.


Exmoor Pony Centre
Exmoor Pony Society


Exmoor Pony, The Lizard, Cornwall

Published: December 2017
Author: Amanda Scott
Photos: Steve Townsend

Find out about other animals, including mammals, you can see on the Lizard.