What Are Fell Ponies?

Jennifer R. Povey
3 min readSep 22, 2022
Photo by Ian Cylkowski on Unsplash

So, in my post about riderless horses, I mentioned that Emma, the pony looking so lonely at Windsor, is a Fell Pony. (Note that the U.K. announcer said she was probably a Highland. He was wrong).

And I suspect most readers of this blog have no idea what a Fell Pony is, so I figured I’d do a brief introduction to this breed.

What is a Fell?

Fell comes from Fjall, the Old Norse for mountain. It is used to talk about high and barren landscapes in Iceland, the Isle of Man, Scandinavia, Scotland and parts of northern England.

So a “Fell Pony” is simply a “Mountain Pony.”

Where Are Fell Ponies From?

Fell Ponies are one of a group of breeds that are referred to collectively as “Mountain and Moorland Ponies.” This includes Highland Ponies (of which the Queen was also very fond), Shetlands, etc. The most familiar of these breeds to most Americans is the Welsh Pony, as it’s popular to cross them with Quarter Horses to make a nice little riding pony.

Each of these breeds is from a specific geographical area, and it’s in the name. In this context “Fell” refers to the English Fells, which are a hilly area in the north east of England within the Lake District, and to the broader area.

So Fell Ponies as a breed were established in north eastern England. North western England has its own version, the Dales Pony or Dales Cob. They’re extremely similar breeds and almost certainly have recent common ancestry.

What Are the Traits of a Fell Pony?

The Fell Pony is a fairly “primitive” breed, meaning it hasn’t been changed as much from wild horses. Their traits are:

  1. Not over 14 hands, per the standard. Most Fell Ponies are about 13.2. A hand is four inches. The Queen switched to riding them because she wasn’t able to mount big horses any more.
  2. Black, brown, bay and grey in color, with black being iconic. Chestnut Fell Ponies occasionally show up, but are not eligible for full registration. Instead they, along with any Fell Ponies that have too much white are registered in Section X, which means they are not registered as breeding stock.

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Jennifer R. Povey

I write about fantasy, science fiction and horror, LGBT issues, travel, and social issues.