Donkeys originate from the semi-desert regions of North Africa but have adapted well to almost any climate. There is only one type of donkey in Britain, although there are different breeds in other countries.
They were never of great commercial importance in England, unlike Ireland, where they were used to carry panniers (a pair of baskets or boxes, with one on each side of the donkey) and pull small carts.
Descended from ancient Celtic stock, the Exmoor pony remained isolated on Exmoor for thousands of years. It existed on the moor with little human interference, except for the annual round-up, to check the animals’ welfare and brand the foals. In the last 200 years, changes such as enclosure of much of the moor, spread of motor transport and “improvement” of our native ponies by cross-breeding, has led to a decline in numbers.
When Joe Henson was establishing his collection of rare breeds, each of his four children were allowed to choose a breed which they would like to bring to the Farm Park and care for. The Exmoors were Adam’s choice.
RBST Watchlist Status: Endangered (300 to 500)
These miniature ponies were originally developed as the farm horse of the Shetland Islands. They were valued for their small size and relatively great strength. As a result, hey were taken south during the industrial revolution and were widely used down the coal mines as ‘pit ponies’, pulling up the coal trolleys. Today, they are popular children’s riding ponies.
On the Shetland Isles, the ponies can be seen grazing by the roadside, on the beaches or on the heathery hills. Appearing to roam wild, the ponies are, in fact, all owned and tended to.
Did You Know?
Horses and ponies are both equine breeds, but whether an animal is a horse or a pony usually depends on how tall they are. An equine which stands 14.2 hands high or more would be classed as a horse, those below are ponies.