Pit pony

Pit pony

A pit pony was a type of pony commonly used underground in coal mines from the mid 18th up until the mid 20th century.


Ponies began to be used underground, often replacing child or female labour, as distances from pithead to coal face became greater. The first known recorded use in Britain was in the Durham coalfield in 1750. In later years, mechanical haulage was introduced on the main underground roads replacing the longer pony hauls ("driving") and ponies tended to be confined to the shorter runs from coal face to main road (known in North East England as "putting") which were more difficult to mechanise. As of 1984, 55 ponies were still at use with the National Coal Board in Britain, chiefly at the modern pit in Ellington, Northumberland. At the peak in 1913, there were 70,000 ponies underground in Britain.

Breed and conformation

Larger horses, such as varieties of Cleveland Bay, could be used on higher underground roadways, but on many duties small ponies no more than 12 hands high were needed. Shetlands were a breed commonly used because of their small size. In the Interwar period, ponies were imported into Britain from Iceland and the United States. Geldings and stallions only were used. Donkeys were also used in the late 19th century. The ponies were low set, heavy bodied and heavy limbed with plenty of bone and substance, low-headed and sure-footed. Under the British Coal Mines Act of 1911, ponies had to be four years old before going underground; they could work until their twenties.


Pit ponies were normally stabled underground and fed on a diet with a high proportion of chopped hay and maize, coming to the surface only during the colliery’s annual holiday. Typically, they would work an eight-hour shift each day, during which they might haul 30 tons of coal in tubs on the underground narrow gauge railway. Recollections differ on how well the ponies were cared for in earlier years, but it should be remembered that they represented a capital asset to the mine, and that the best work could be obtained from animals that were in good condition.


*cite book|author=Bright, John|title=Pit Ponies|publisher=Batsford|location=London|date=1986|isbn=0-7134-5226-9

ee also

"The Stars Look Down"

External links

* [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0125458/ "Pit Pony"] - 1997 film

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • pit pony — pit .pony n a small horse that was used in the past for moving coal in a mine in Britain …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • pit pony — noun Etymology: pit (I) chiefly Britain : a pony used for packing or haulage in a mine * * * pit pony noun A pony employed for haulage in a coalmine • • • Main Entry: ↑pit * * * pit pony UK US …   Useful english dictionary

  • pit pony — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms pit pony : singular pit pony plural pit ponies a small horse used in coal mines in the past …   English dictionary

  • pit pony — /ˈpɪt poʊni/ (say pit pohnee) noun a small pony, formerly used for haulage in coalmines, etc …   Australian-English dictionary

  • pit pony — noun Brit. historical a pony used to haul loads in a coal mine …   English new terms dictionary

  • pit pony — noun (C) a small horse that was used in the past for moving coal in a mine …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • pit — 1. n. & v. n. 1 a a usu. large deep hole in the ground. b a hole made in digging for industrial purposes, esp. for coal (chalk pit; gravel pit). c a covered hole as a trap for esp. wild animals. 2 a an indentation left after smallpox, acne, etc.… …   Useful english dictionary

  • pony — po|ny1 [ˈpəuni US ˈpou ] n plural ponies [Date: 1600 1700; Origin: Probably from early French poulenet, from Latin pullus young animal, young horse ] a small horse →↑pit pony, ↑Shetland pony pony 2 pony …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • pony — noun (C) a small horse see also: pit pony, Shetland pony …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • Pony — A pony is a small horse with a specific conformation and temperament. There are many different breeds of ponies. Compared to horses, ponies often exhibit thicker manes, tails and overall coat, as well as proportionally shorter legs, wider barrels …   Wikipedia

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