Ancient and endangered Exmoor ponies introduced to Cochno Farm
A herd of Exmoor ponies – an ancient breed classified as endangered by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust – has been introduced to the University of Glasgow’s Cochno Farm.
The four mares, one accompanied by her 2020 foal, and a stallion were first introduced in November 2020 and are being used in research into Exmoor pony conservation and rewilding. Since their arrival on the University’s farm, they have been joined by the first Exmoor foal born at Cochno, a filly, which arrived on 17th April, with a second making her appearance on 27th May. Both new ponies, valuable new additions to the endangered Exmoor pony population, are growing and developing well and their names will be chosen from a list of suggestions offered by staff and students before being registered with the Exmoor Pony Society.
The ponies are being studied and monitored by a team of researchers at the University of Glasgow and are the subject of Debbie Davy’s PhD, which is funded by the Exmoor Pony Society as part of their centenary celebrations. This collaborative project is supervised by Professors Barbara Mable and Jason Matthiopoulos from the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine. Professor Marcello Riggio, from the Dental School, will be using the ponies in his research on relationships between microbial communities and animal health.
Following a severe genetic bottleneck after the Second World War, the current Exmoor pony population is descended from fewer than fifty foundation animals. Their selective grazing habits have led to their widespread use as conservation grazers on many sites in Britain and Europe, where they are believed to help control invasive plant species, improve biodiversity and contribute to the overall health of the ecosystems they inhabit.
Debbie has been breeding Exmoor ponies in the Highlands since 1982, and is undertaking this project to investigate whether considering genetic variation could improve breeding management practices, and to better understand the impacts of pony grazing on habitat quality and plant diversity.
Debbie Davy, University of Glasgow PhD student, said: “Since their arrival the ponies have been attracting lots of positive attention from Cochno visitors, and the herd is now being used in other student projects. It’s such a pleasure to work with these important by endangered animals and I hope our work here will help us to gain a better understanding of this important breed.”
First published: 20 August 2021