The Fell Pony breed description defines four allowed colors: black, brown, bay, and gray. My first two Fell Ponies didn’t refute the number, nor did their first foal. It was only when my fourth Fell Pony arrived that the four allowed colors were thrown into question.
That fourth Fell Pony was registered black, but her color was much different than the others. My first three Fells were jet black, and that fourth Fell was summer black, the kind of black that gets rusty tinges easily and fades in summer. I began perusing the stud books about this time, and indeed “brown/black” showed up occasionally. Then of course I learned that in fact summer black is more common in the breed than jet black is.
This past summer I then learned the meaning of brown with black points when I went to register my filly foal Willowtrail Mountain Honey. When I compiled the ‘Color’ section of my new book Fell Ponies: Observations on the Breed, the Breed Standard, and Breeding (click here for more information), I wrote in the introduction about the six actual colors in the breed, with ‘summer black’ and ‘brown with black points’ added to the defined four.
Earlier this month I realized I’d forgotten the seventh color when compiling that section. The seventh color is a consequence of genetics and regulatory requirements. Regulations imposed on the Fell Pony Society require that any offspring of registered Fell Ponies be eligible for registration. Chestnut is recessive to black in color genetics, so two black Fell Ponies carrying the recessive chestnut gene have a 25% chance of throwing a chestnut foal. I remember seeing a video several years ago of a Fell herd on a fell with a chestnut running with blacks and grays. Section X of the stud book was created in part to accommodate the rare occasion when a chestnut Fell Pony is born and requires registration.
As the stud book documents, in the past there were even more colors, including roan, piebald and skewbald. Now, though, it’s black, summer black, gray, bay, brown, brown with black points, and chestnut. While the breed description defines four colors, in practical terms we have seven colors in the Fell Pony breed.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2013