Best of British: 60 things that make Britain great

Imagine you're cut off in a far-off land. What longings would be uppermost in your mind? Here we celebrate those aspects of life that make our islands distinct and beguiling.

2. Exmoor pony

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The ponies that roam Exmoor’s heathery hills are proudly pure bred. The endearing uniformity of their mealy muzzles, bulging ‘toad’ eyes, chubby furry bodies and specially adapted tail with ‘snow chute’ is testament to assiduous protection of the gene pool by some 10 herd owners since numbers shrank after the Second World War. Every autumn, farmers round up their ponies—tricky, as this Thelwell-ish native has a mind of its own—for inspection by The Exmoor Pony Society. The enchanting local distinctiveness of Britain’s fields and farmlands, and the integrity of our native breeds, owes everything to such groups, plus the admirable Rare Breeds Survival Trust started by farmers 40 years ago.

‘The coming generations will have good reason to call us unfaithful
stewards if when we are gone there are no little horses on the Exmoor hills’
(Mary Etherington, 1947)

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