The public have rushed to support a call for the Dartmoor Hill Pony to be preserved.

The pony, much beloved by visitors to the moor, is however, much more than a symbol of the wilderness.

The breed is an internationally classified endangered species and is a native to England and therefore a precious gene pool which is used as a reference point fro which a lineage can be traced to the earliest equine breeds from England which have diversified throughout the world in various forms. The pony also has a good influence on the biodiversity of the moor through its grazing.

A petition on has raised nearly 100,000 names calling on Natural England (which is part of Defra (the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) to commit to preserving the current numbers of ponies.

Joceline Hibbs, is a volunteer with the Friends of of the Dartmoor Hill Pony group which supports the charity the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association (DHPA). The DHPA represents farmers who maintain the hill pony grazing on Dartmoor.

Joceline said: “This is a significant moment when the petition reaches 100,000 because if this was on the government website then it would have to commit to a debate in the ouse of Commons. What it shows is that people from all backgrounds, not just landowners and farmers care about the Dartmoor hill pony. And therefore, the Government, through Defra and Natural England, should demonstrate that they are listening.

“Defra and the Fursdon Review of how to manage Dartmoor land more effectively, have indicated or recommended they support the idea of committing to not doing anything which will result in a decline in pony numbers. There are not many semi-wild Dartmoor hill ponies left, on average only one in an area of Dartmoor equivalent to 40 football pitches. There are also only 1,000 breeding mares left. They need the help of us all. The Dartmoor pony is the right animal in the right place, unlike some species, like the Dodo which became extinct.

“Defra must ensure that Natural England helps support the Dartmoor hill oony and save it from extinction. They have been on Dartmoor for about 4,000 years and scientific evidence has shown it is a true native species of England and its genes can therefore be traced back to the earliest equine animals anywhere in the world and show how man’s influence has affected them.

“The Dartmoor Hill Pony has also uniquely evolved to survive the harshest environments such as Dartmoor, which becomes increasingly important as the climate changes.”

The petition calls on Defra Secretary Steve Barclay to make sure pony numbers do not drop because of how the Farm and Environment Payment Schemes operate.