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Dartmoor Commoners' Council - Animals on the Moor

Lambing and Bird Breeding Season - 1st March to 31st July  
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Sheep and ponies and some cattle are grazed on the commons all year round, but most cattle and some sheep are turned out for the spring and summer months. Mixed grazing of cattle, sheep an ponies ensures that a variety of rough growth and grasses are kept under control creating a rich patchwork of habitat and wildlife.


Every animal grazing on the common is required to have an identification mark that is clearly visible and these marks must be registered with the Dartmoor Commoners’ Council. Each commoner has his or her own identification marks, often the first letter of the owner’s surname. Ponies are marked with a brand on the body and cattle must have tags in their ears.

Sheep must be marked with a shaped cut in the ear and a coloured paint mark on the fleece. The position of the paint mark on the body, as well as its colour, distinguishes the ownership of one flock from another.



The Scotch Blackface has taken over from the Welsh Mountain as the predominant breed of sheep on Dartmoor but they have only been here since the nineteenth century. There are many crossbred sheep (mules) although the more traditional breeds, such as the Whiteface Dartmoor and some Exmoor Horns can still been seen on a few commons.


Scottish Blackface, Whiteface Dartmoor and Mules


Black Galloway, Belted Galloway and Highland


The most popular breeds of hardy cattle are the black or dun Galloway and the Belted Galloway (distinguished by a white band around the middle of the body). There are also a few herds of Welsh Blacks, some Blue Greys, and Highland Cattle (recognised by a long, shaggy coat and large curved horns).

There are a lot of crossbred cattle as many hardy types have been crossed with the larger, more commercial breeds. Pockets of traditional South Devon cattle can be seen during the summer months.

Contact Details

Dartmoor Commoners' Council, 1 Canal Road, Tavistock, Devon, PL19 8AR Tel: 01822 618892