The much-loved Exmoor pony could be at risk from non pure bred ponies getting on to the moor according to a new report.
The report by vet Peter Green, "The free living Exmoor ponies within the Exmoor National Park: their status, welfare and future", was commissioned by the Exmoor National Park Authority, the Exmoor Pony Society and the Exmoor Moorland Landscape Partnership Scheme.
As one of our native breeds, the pony has grazed Exmoor's rough moorland pasture for hundreds of years.
The report says there is a "sizeable population" of ponies on the moor which do not conform to the breed standard, with non Exmoor ponies either escaping or being released on to the moor. Mr Green said: "Several graziers and farmers have reported that ponies have been 'dumped' or abandoned."
He suggests this could be due to owners no longer being able to afford to keep them.
"There is no doubt thatthe free-living Exmoor pony herds are co-habiting with fertile non-Exmoor animals," said Mr Green.
Chairman of the Exmoor Pony Society, David Brewer, said a combination of factors including poor fencing and gates not being closed could be leading to the rise in cross-bred ponies. He also spoke of a need for more communication between all parties.