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Big Book of Breeds
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[ INDEX ] Equine Type: Horse Breed: Dales Pony   [ PREV ] [ NEXT ]
The Dales Pony is a rare British pony breed. It is known for its unique appearance, which can only be confused with that of the Fell Pony.

During the 17th century, the lead mining industry flourished in the Pennine Chain in north England, and the workers relied on strong pack ponies to transport the lead. The job involved carrying heavy lead pigs over a distance of over a hundred miles, while crossing rocky and hilly terrains. The pack ponies had to have great stamina, and be strong and sure-footed in order to withstand the difficult journey.

In order to create the ultimate pack pony, farmers in the Pennine region mixed local ponies with Scotch Galloway ponies which were known for their speed. By selecting and breeding only the strongest offspring, the farmers managed to generate a new pony breed who had the necessary qualities for serving as the ideal pack pony for the lead industry. This pony was the Dales Pony.

Besides working as pack ponies, Dales Ponies also worked as farm ponies, and this eventually became their primary job, when the invention of trains rendered pack ponies redundant. Furthermore, because they were able to pull heavy weights, Dales Ponies were also used to transport carts with heavy loads. In addition, they were also used for riding, be it for hunting, show-jumping, or even herding sheep.

Another important quality of the Dales Ponies was their natural ability to trot quickly and smoothly. This ability was refined even more in the 18th century, when Dales Ponies were crossed with various trotting breeds such as the Hackney. The crossbreeding didn't reduce the strength and stamina of the Dales Ponies, but rather added speed and height to their trotting gait. As a result, people started using Dales Ponies in trotting races, in addition to using them as farm and riding ponies.

The strength and speed of the Dales Ponies made them excellent for the British army, who either crossed Dales mares with heavier horses to produce vanners, or used the ponies themselves as artillery ponies in the battlefield. Unfortunately, the widespread use of Dales Ponies by the army almost led to the extinction of the breed, and at the end of World War II only a few ponies remained.

The Dales breed was saved from extinction by dedicated breeders, who took the few ponies that were left after the war, and re-established their breeding program. In 1964, the Dales Pony Society organized the breeding efforts by formulating a breed standard, and setting up formal inspections and registration policies. Thanks to all of these efforts, the Dales population came back from the brink of extinction, though it still remains a rare breed. Today, Dales Ponies serve as riding or harness ponies.

Until the 20th century, it was accepted to cross Dales Ponies with Fell Ponies. Therefore, Dales Ponies have a similar appearance to that of the Fell Pony. That said, the two are separate breeds, with separate standards, and should be treated as such. In addition, Dales Ponies might look like small Friesians because of their feathering and because of their long, thick, and often wavy manes and tails, but these two breeds are not necessarily related to each other, and have a vastly different conformation.

Dales Ponies are almost always black in color, but brown and grey ponies also born from time to time. In addition, in rare cases, Dales Ponies can also have a roan coat. White markings are restricted to small stars, snips, and minimal markings on the hind legs. Mismarked ponies are not eligible for breeding. Dales Ponies stand between 14hh and 14.2hh.

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