A Miniature Clydesdale?

1988 Parker, Colorado Christmas ParadeI have heard Fell Ponies called miniatures of many things, but I admit that when I heard the other day that they are miniature Clydesdales, it was a first.  The Fell Pony Society, of course, is correct in adamantly asserting that Fell Ponies are not miniatures of anything.  They are a unique breed, and genetic studies have confirmed that fact.  (1)

Because I stand on the fringe of the draft horse world, I occasionally have visitors who are acquainted with the draft horse breeds.  Usually when they see a Fell, they think miniature Percheron, at least in part because of color.  Clydesdales, though, make more sense, not in the color department but from a perspective of geography.  Clydesdales are from Scotland and were used on farms in Cumbria when real horsepower was in common use.  When I perused the beautiful book Cumbria:  True to the Land by Tony Hopkins, I was surprised by how many Clydesdales were shown and how few Fells.  For me Fells and Cumbria are synonymous; apparently not so for everyone.

The connection between Clydesdales and Fells goes further.  For instance, I’ve heard of Fell/Clyde crosses; I’m not familiar with Fells being crossed to any other draft breed.  And when excessive white markings appear on a pony, it’s often remarked that there’s Clydesdale blood somewhere in its background, often theoretically via a Dales Pony.  (Interestingly, in one genetic study, Clydesdales do appear on the same branch of a phylogenetic tree as Fells, Dales, and Highlands. (2))

So when I heard the statement that Fells are miniature Clydesdales, while it was a new one, it made more sense than many of the other ‘miniature’ statements I’ve heard.  In the end, though, Fells are of course Fells and nothing else.

  1. Fell Pony ObservationsSee for instance the chapters on Genetic Diversity in Fell Ponies:  Observations on the Breed, the Breed Standard, and Breeding, available by clicking here.
  2. Prystupa, et al.  “Genetic diversity and admixture among Canadian, Mountain and Moorland and Nordic pony populations,” Animal, The Animal Consortium, May 2011, p. 1

© Jenifer Morrissey, 2014


About workponies

Breeder of Fell Ponies, teamster of work ponies, and author of Feather Notes, Fell Pony News, and A Humbling Experience: My First Few Years with Fell Ponies. Distributor of Dynamite Specialty Products for the health of our planet and the beings I share it with.
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