There are a number of points that suggest that fell-bred Fell Ponies are considered truer to type than ponies bred elsewhere. First is that some longtime non-fell breeders have found it necessary to preserve breed type in their herds by regularly returning to fell-bred herds for breeding stock (click here for that discussion). Another point is that when hill breeders look for outcrosses, they often choose ponies from other fell-bred herds. Finally, considering which ponies place in the most important Fell Pony shows is also instructive regarding where ponies are found to be most true to type..
The second point about fell-bred ponies being truer to type is how hill breeders choose their outcrosses. In my studies of the stud books of The Fell Pony Society, I always pay attention to how the long time hill breeders are breeding. I’m especially watchful for when and how they choose breeding stock outside their own lines. I have observed that, if hill breeders desire to bring in new blood, they most often choose ponies from other hill breeders rather than ponies from elsewhere. This tendency suggests that fell-bred ponies are indeed different from other ponies and are therefore necessary to the continuation of the breed.
Placings at Fell Pony Society Shows
The final point about fell-bred ponies being truer to type is show placings at the most important Fell Pony Society shows. Specifically I looked at ten years’ worth of placings for Supreme Champion and Reserve Champion at the Stallion and Colt Shows and the Breed Shows in Cumbria. Of the thirty eight ponies placed, 71% were fell-bred, suggesting that in the eye of Society judges, fell-bred ponies are more likely to show proper type. Even the Southern Show, farther removed from Cumbria, showed this tendency with 61% being fell-bred.
If there were no difference between fell-bred ponies and Fell Ponies bred elsewhere, then we would see a greater migration back and forth between fell herds and other herds, and we just don’t see that very often.