There is no denying that the Fell Pony and the Friesian Horse resemble each other, but the idea that the Fell Pony is nothing more than a miniaturized version of the Friesian Horse rubs many conservationists of the pony breed the wrong way. They claim that any contact between the two breeds would have only occurred two millennia ago and any similarities are superficial. Nevertheless, because the Friesian is currently seeing a rise in popularity, this comparison is bringing a lot of attention to the Fell Pony as well, but is it for the right reasons? We're going to take a look at how the two breeds actually came together, what the similarities are about the breeds and how conservationists are reacting to the claim that the Fell Pony is nothing more than a "mini-Friesian".
We can thank the Romans for bringing together the Fell Pony, a native of northern England on the border with Scotland, and the Friesian, which are considered to be the oldest domesticated horse in Europe. The Friesians were either brought to modern-day Great Britain by mercenaries working for the Romans or the Romans themselves, but no matter how they got there, it is generally agreed that they appeared along with the Romans. Much of the Roman's time in Great Britain was taken up by the construction and manning of Hadrian's wall, which separated England from Scotland, which also happened to be the native home of the Fell Pony. When the Romans left in a hurry to try to defend the fall of Rome, they left behind approximately one thousand Friesians, many of which were stallions, which were then bred with the native ponies.
Despite the fact that this meeting of the breeds occurred two thousand years ago, it would be unfair to say that the Fell Pony didn't come away with some striking similarities. Both breeds are always seen with long manes and tails and both have feathering at the bottom of the legs. Friesians are seen exclusively in black, and while Fell Ponies do come in a wider variety of coat colors, black is the most common today. Finally, there are those who do claim that they share a great trotting capacity. Friesians are well known among enthusiasts for their trot, which may have been passed down to the Fell Pony, which is also well known for its stamina and speed in this gait.
Meanwhile, conservationists of the Fell Pony are worried that this comparison will only demean the value of their native pony and take away any interest in the breed itself. It must be noted that the two breeds did only meet two thousand years ago, which can hardly be considered a relation in modern terms, and it would be patently false to claim that the Fell Pony was bred to become a smaller version of the Friesian. But conservationists also claim that any physical similarities are only superficial. If the pony's and horse's manes and tails were cut, would the two bodies still look alike? Also, would the Friesian be able to withstand the harsh landscape of the Cumbrian Mountains? But most of all, conservationists are concerned, with good reason, that the comparison will eventually take away the long and storied history and tradition of the Fell Pony that it has earned in its own right.