Dartmoor Stallions fatherly love

A Proud Stallion and His Son

This Dartmoor stallion is so proud of his son. He gently nibbles and plays with him, gestures representing peace, security, and fatherly love.

From birth, the Dartmoor stallion felt this same nurturing love from his mother. During the first half hour of his life, his mother licked him clean. Soon, this licking was replaced by delicate biting movements that helped keep his coat in good condition.

Early Life and Mutual Grooming

After a few days, the foal would indulge in reciprocal nibbling with his mother. He might also enjoy mutual grooming sessions with another foal. This mutual grooming, established early in life, continues throughout their adult lives. It is a vital part of horse social behavior, offering comfort and strengthening bonds.

True Behavior in Wild Herds

Domestication of horses means Dartmoor stallions are rarely seen running with their offspring. It is only when they run in herds that their true behavior can be observed. Research by a three-member team of scientists from the University of South Bohemia and the Czech University of Life Sciences has shown the fatherly behavior of stallions. Their study found that stallions dedicate significantly more time to the foals than their mothers.

Findings from the European Serengeti

The scientists studied a reserve of wild horses and other big ungulates in Milovice, Central Bohemia. They discovered that mares mainly bring the foals into line but do not play with them. Conversely, the Dartmoor stallion not only tolerates the play of the foals but also actively joins in. The mock fighting with colts can sometimes appear very wild. Foals are more likely to tease their mothers, but they adore their fathers and eagerly observe their every gesture and motion.

The Preciousness of Natural Behavior

Domesticated Dartmoor stallions are often kept separate from mares with foals. This separation makes moments depicted in these photographs so precious. They prove that Dartmoor stallions offer peace, security, and love when allowed to interact with their offspring naturally. These moments truly showcase Dartmoor stallions fatherly love.


Observing the natural behavior of Dartmoor stallions with their offspring provides invaluable insights into their social dynamics. These moments of fatherly love and playfulness highlight the importance of allowing horses to live in more natural herd conditions whenever possible.

By understanding and appreciating these behaviors, we can better support the well-being of both wild and domesticated horses. The images of these interactions serve as a testament to the gentle and nurturing nature of Dartmoor stallions, challenging common perceptions shaped by domestication.

For more insights into the behavior of Dartmoor ponies and their importance in the ecosystem, check out our Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust page.

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