Dedicated to the wild ponies on Bodmin,
Dartmoor and Exmoor
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Hot branding is an identification method used by breeders on Exmoor and Dartmoor. It involves heating metal irons to high temperatures, and then using them to burn marks into a pony's skin to cause scarring. This procedure is carried out without administering any anaesthetic or pain relief.


On Dartmoor, ponies are given one brand mark to denote ownership. The Dartmoor Commoners' Council meeting on 6th October recommended that "geldings should be marked with a specific brand so that they are easily recognised from the mares and stallions that run on the commons".


Exmoor ponies that are hot branded have marks made with a minimum of three separate applications of the hot irons. If the irons are not considered to be hot enough on initial application, the hot irons are reheated and then reapplied onto the already burnt areas. The ponies are branded with a "star" (which is sometimes a diamond shape) on their shoulder to demonstrate that they have passed inspection; with numbers on the shoulder to denote a herd number; and numbers on the rump to give the individual number of the pony. Anchor herd ponies do not have a herd number branded on their shoulder. They have an anchor symbol branded onto their rump instead. The following videos show Exmoor ponies being branded:

BBC Spotlight feature showing hot branding of wild Exmoor ponies, from 2009:

YouTube video showing hot branding of a domesticated Exmoor pony:

A ban?

In 2010, hot branding was banned in Scotland. A ban on hot branding in England is supported by the British Veterinary Association, the British Equine Veterinary Association, the BHS, the Blue Cross, as well as other welfare organisations. Hot branding is already banned for all other animal species in the UK.

Opponents of equine hot branding argue that not only is it painful, but it is an unreliable form of identification. There is a high rate of failure in the readibility of brand marks - partly because native, wild ponies grow thick, woolly coats, but also because numbers branded into the pony's skin become distorted/unclear as the brand marks heal over.




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