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RBST Watchlist 2021

The RBST has recently released a new version of its watchlist. Previously, the watchlist was divided into six categories, Critical, Endangered, Vulnerable, At Risk, Minority  and All Other Native Breeds. The ratings were based solely on female registrations.

The new list is more streamlined with only three categories, Priority, At Risk and UK Native Breeds whilst Irish breeds have been added as a footnote.  For this new watchlist, the RBST has looked at the genetic diversity and the level of in-breeding within each breed.

The RBST, utilises information provided by each of the Breed Societies to create the watchlist.  In the case of the Exmoor pony, this is the Exmoor Pony Society (EPS) which has been responsible for the conservation of the breed and the registration of pedigree ponies since 1921.

How does all this affect Exmoor ponies? Based on the RBST’s work, the Exmoor pony has been placed in the Priority category.  This is of no surprise to the EPS bearing in mind that the breed was brought back from near extinction at the end of the World War II when it was estimated that only 50 ponies had survived on Exmoor.

This reduction in numbers meant that the breed suffered a severe genetic bottleneck seriously limiting its genetic pool.  Once genes have been lost they cannot be regained, the only action that can be taken is to seek to maintain the existing genetic diversity of the breed. The lack of diversity is why the breed is in the RBST Priority category, not because the breed is at greater risk.
The EPS works closely with breeders both on and off the moor to ensure that the current genetic diversity is maintained and t is currently funding  innovative PhD research at Glasgow University.

In 2021, the centenary year of the Exmoor Pony Society, there are over 4,000 pedigree, registered ponies worldwide – the Exmoor pony has always been the Priority of the Society and will remain so in our role as Guardians of the Breed.