The Fell Pony Museum: The Breed Today
The Fell Pony Museum
Fell Characteristics :: Temperament and Maturity :: Fell Breeders :: Type & Conformation 1900 - 2000 :: Stud Cards :: Action: stills and video

Type and conformation

Fell ponies should be around 13.2 hands, and not over 14 hands high. They are stocky, active and strong, with hard dark or "blue" coloured feet and flexible, resilient pasterns. A good Fell should have a measurement of at least 8 and a half inches round the cannon bone of the foreleg under the knee, and the measurement round the natural "waist" in the ribs where the saddle girth lies is usually about 65 inches but often more. Fells usually have lots of feather - long hair fringing the lower leg and hoof - and long silky manes and tails. Some ponies may cast the feather in summer and regrow it in winter; kept in muddy conditions in winter, they will lose the fringe around the hoof.

While Fells are powerful and hardy they should not be at all "horsey". Their heads are comparatively broad between the eyes with a deep jaw giving plenty of room for even teeth. They should look brisk and alert with kind eyes and pricked ears. A Fell's head is ponylike with small pricked ears, straight profile, and a neat muzzle with open nostrils

In the show ring, straight silky feather, mane and tail hair is preferred although many ponies do show more or less tendency to wavy locks and this may be of varying quality.

A good animal has a good length of rein and a well sloped shoulder. Her mane and tail are fine, straight and profuse, and her back is not too long. A longer back is often countenanced in a mare on account of her needing "room to carry a foal", but it is not liked in a gelding or stallion.

Flat, clean bone is preferred in the lower leg, without any tendency to being back at the knee or calf-kneed. Good clean limbs are best seen in the photograph of Mountain Ranger (below), Tebay Vespa in the 17th C page and Heather Boy on the late 19th C page.

Tebay Jenny, black mare, on the Howgill Fells Black and white photo of mare and foal

Two mares from the Lune Valley

It is interesting to compare the stock of 90 years ago with stock today.

Left: Tebay Jenny, black 13.1, with the look of her sire Tebay Campbellton Victor (below). A workmanlike pony bred by David Trotter, and typical of the Howgills stock in 2000 (photo courtesy of Thomas Capstick.)

Right: Merry Maid II, dark bay 13.3, 1st prize winner in the Polo and Riding Pony Society class for Fell mares, at Kirkby Stephen in 1910. Merry Maid II was by Merry John, black-brown, 14hh, out of 1843 Mountain Maid, a bay 13.2hh mare by Comet, brown, 14.3hh. Owner and Breeder William Hewetson, Smardale Hall, K Stephen.

Tebay Campbellton Victor

Tebay Campbellton Victor, fell pony stallion
Victor and his most famous owner, Sarge Noble. Photo published in Hoofprints in Eden (Millard 2005) courtesy of Mrs Noble.

Small, feisty black stallion with plenty of bone, mane, tail and feather Victor was born on the Monday of Appleby Fair Hill gathering, in early June of 1976. He was by Lownthwaite Stardust x Tebay Brandy.

David Trotter considered him, even then, the best foal he had bred. At just a few hours old he had silky feather from the back of his knee to the ground, "just like a little Clydesdale", and a "sweet little head".

T. C. Victor: black stallion in rough pasture
Tebay Campbellton Victor as an aged horse; note the feather and good forelegs. Photo courtesy of Barbara Muller.

David invited Jimmy Campbell, a visiting Irish gipsy, to inspect the new colt. The Irishman said that he was the best Fell pony foal he had seen, and asked David to name him after "the best pony ever to come out of Ireland - Campbellton Victor"... The spelling and spacing given here, although it is different from that in the Stud Book, is what his breeder intended and has always written.

Victor was a small pony, around 12.2 hands high. He was very popular for crossing onto taller mares, and mares got by him were a particularly good "nick" with the bloodlines of Heltondale Black Prince III.

Two stallions: 77 years apart

Fell stallion, Waverhead Prince II, 13.3, aged 17 when this photo was taken Fell stallion, Mountain Ranger, 13.3, noted sire and prize winner

Left: Waverhead Prince II, black 13.3hh, was foaled in 1983. He was by Greenholme Geoff x Waverhead Magic and has been a highly successful sire. In the photograph, he was aged 17, and champion at the 2000 Fell Pony Stallion Show at Dalemain, which he had won on several previous occasions.

He is in heavier condition than Mountain Ranger. He has rather more feather and his tail has not been docked, which makes it harder to compare his limb conformation. However he is a horse of great quality.

Right: Mountain Ranger, black 13.3hh, was foaled in 1906. He was by Park End King x Scoredale Queen (a daughter of Blooming Heather). Both parents were grey.

His main prizes were won in 1906 and 1907. He was premium stallion in 1912 for the Middleton-in-Teesdale district where he was bred, and won first prize at Egglestone Show in 1917. A horse of great presence and quality, he would be a prize winner today. His limbs are particularly notable for their clean flat bone.

His stud card is in the Museum.

Two mares in 1910

Grey Fell mare, 2nd in 1910 at Kirkby stephen Sweet Heather, 2nd at Brough  in 1910 and 1911

Left: 2039 Diamond II, grey mare born 1896; 13.3hh; by North Star, black, a 14hh "typical Fell sire", out of Topsy, a 13.2hh grey mare (sired by a Riding Pony). In this photo, Diamond was 2nd prize winner at Kirkby Stephen in 1910 in the Riding and Polo Pony Society's class for Fell mares. She had previously won, in 1902, 1st for Brood mares at Stainmore; in 1903, 1st for Ponies saddled and mounted, at Stainmore; 1907, 1st for Brood mares at Kirkby Stephen. Owner & Breeder James Dent, Kirkby Stephen.

Right: 2106 Sweet Heather, dark brown mare born 1908, 13.3 hh; by Stainmore Fashion, dark brown 14.2hh (by Yorkshire Fashion, black); out of a brown pure Fell mare (by King of the Mountains, black). She was 2nd prize winner in 1910 and 1911 at Brough in the Polo and Riding Pony Society class for Fell mares. Bred by G Alderson, Brough, and owned by Frank W Garnett, Dalegarth, Windermere; Secretary of the Fell Pony Society. Both photographs from FW Garnett's 1912 book on Westmorland Agriculture.

Mares line up for the Senior class at the Breed Show 2000

Mare class at the Breed Show 2000

Thomas Capstick at the head of the line with Heltondale Misty IV.





grey stallion trotting in-hand at show

Lunesdale Mountain Mist at Stallion Show 2002

Fell action is ideally long and ground-covering, moving from the shoulder with a moderate amount of lift at knee and hock. The late Bob Atkinson, farrier and horsebreaker of Brough, used to say a Fell should move quickly "as though the ground was red-hot". Mountain Mist was sold to a breeder in Czechoslovakia and sired two dozen foals there.


Last updated 31 July, 2021
Copyright © since 2000 The Fell Pony and Countryside Museums.