Our Massive Real World Equine Reference!
[ INDEX ] Equine Type: Horse Breed: Fell Pony (Fell) [ PREV ] [ NEXT ]
A puzzling appearance:
Fell Ponies are famous for looking like small Friesians and like Dales Ponies. While the Fell is the one that influenced the Dales, the relationship between the Fell and the Friesian is less clear. Did the Fell descend from the Friesian? It might be so, but reality is far more mysterious.
Fell Pony, where did you come from?
Small ponies have roamed Britain back in the pre-historic era. They were domesticated by pre-historic men, and during the Iron Age they were already commonly used for various tasks.
Thousands of years later, in 55 BC, the Romans arrived to Britain, and traveled all the way north to the Cumbrian region. They brought with them various of foreign horses such as Spanish horses, French horses, and more, including Friesian horses.
We know that Fell Ponies probably originated ~2,000 years ago from crossings between these foreign horses and the local British horses, but there is a disagreement regarding the exact identity of the foreign horses that played a role in the development of the Fell Pony.
Fell Theory no. 1:
According to one theory, the Fell Pony was created only after the Romans left Britain. Behind them, the Romans left some of their Friesian horses, who were free to breed with the local British ponies. The result was the Fell Pony: a Friesian-like pony that inherited the look of its Friesian ancestors and the size of its pony ancestors.
There are two problems with this theory, though. First, there is no evidence that the only large breed that influenced the Fell Pony was a Friesian. Second, back in the Roman days, Friesian horses had a different appearance than the appearance they have today, and therefore we can't rely on the appearance of today's Fell Pony as proof of Friesian ancestry.
Fell Theory no. 2:
The second theory suggests that a number of different breeds played a role in the development of the Fell Pony, with the Friesian being only one of them. In addition, the Fell Pony could have been developed during the Roman occupation in the Cumbrian region.
This idea is based on the fact that, before the Romans arrived to Britain, the height of the local ponies in Cumbria was ~12hh, but by the end of the Roman occupation their height had already increased to 13hh. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the Romans indeed crossbred the local ponies with larger horses, and it was probably then that the Fell Pony was created.
What about the Fell Pony's appearance?:
Not only Friesians looked different in the past, but Fell Ponies as well, which is why we can't rely on their look to infer which breeds originally created it 2,000 years ago.
For example, today's Fell Ponies have thick feathering, while Fell Ponies from the beginning of the 19th century had little feathering if any at all. The biggest change is in their coat color, which originally included piebald, skewbald, dun, roan, and chestnut. It was only during the 20th century that the ponies were selected for the solid coats of black, brown, and grey.
A versatile worker and an epic trotter:
Regardless of their exact ancestry, Fell Ponies played prominent roles in the everyday life of every civilization or House that ruled Britain. The Vikings found the Fell Ponies very useful for ploughing and riding, as well as for serving as pack ponies. Even after the Vikings left, Fell Ponies continued to serve as pack ponies until the 20th century, a role in which they excelled thanks to their strength and endurance.
In addition, during the 19th and 20th centuries, the natural talent of Fell Ponies to trot fast led to them being used as race-ponies in trotting races, and as cart ponies for pulling mail carts as well as carts full of various products. Fell mares were also used to create the Hackney Pony, which is a trotter pony breed (see 'Hackney Pony').
The Fell Pony today:
Today, Fell Ponies are rare and are found primarily in the United Kingdom, where they are used primarily for recreational riding, particularly for trekking. As part of their breeding program, the ponies are tested for their ability to cross various terrains, from climbing over hills, to walking through water, bogs, and over fallen logs.
Fell Ponies are also used in driving competitions, endurance riding, and trotting races. Their versatility and comfortable gaits and also made them favored by the British Royal Family, who breeds Fell Ponies at Hampton Court Stud Fell, and uses them as mounts.
Fell Ponies have a deep and broad head that tapers toward a fine muzzle with large nostrils. The profile is straight, the eyes are large, and the ears are small. The neck is muscular and has a neat round topline.
The withers are smooth as appropriate for a sloping shoulder, and the back is short-to-medium in length. The girth is deep, the legs are thick, and the hooves are broad. Overall, the body is wide and muscular.
The mane and tails usually grow extremely long and can be wavy, although the mane can be medium in length. The lower legs are covered with thick feathering that partially covers their characteristically bluish hooves.
The following are the: range, average, (SD), and MOE of performance metrics of ordered Fell Ponies in Horse Isle (not bred ones). In rare cases,
Speed: 13.8-14.9, 14.4 (0.2), 0.04.
Sprint: 41-51, 46 (2), 0.41.
Accel: 0.88-1.06, 0.98 (0.04), 0.01.
Decel: 0.97-1.11, 1.03 (0.03), 0.01.
Jump: 4.88-5.14, 5.01 (0.06), 0.01.
Pull: 2.31-2.78, 2.56 (0.11), 0.02.
Turning: 45.56-57.94, 52.74 (2.89), 0.57.
Reverse: 2.1-2.7, 2.4 (0.1), 0.02.
Stamina: 44.51-47.76, 46.32 (0.78), 0.15.
Reaction: 0.75-0.84, 0.79 (0.02), 0.00.
Coats & Height:
Coat: usually black, more rarely dark-bay ('brown') and grey. The coat is always solid, can be sooty, and usually lacks markings save for the occasional small star.
Height: 13hh to 14hh.
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