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Dartmoor and the fact that a great deal of it is undisturbed for much of the year is an encouragement to the wildlife.
The more common mammals include: Dartmoor ponies, rabbits, foxes, otters, badgers, grey squirrels, weasels, stoats, hares and deer. Rumours abound of large wild cats such as cougars roaming wild on the moor, but little evidence has been forthcoming and until anything more substantial is available these reports should be filed under the general heading of cryptozoology.
Herds of cattle and domestic sheep can be seen apparently roaming free on the moor. All are owned by farmers and let out to graze. Each is branded - the sheep with a coloured patch on its coat, unique to its owner. The livestock will naturally remain within the territory in which they are released, although walls and cattle grids (a pit in the road covered with metal bars - impassable to hoofed animals) provide an additional level of control.
Dartmoor has given its name to two breeds of sheep - Whiteface Dartmoor and Greyface Dartmoor - which are descended from breeds which have roamed on the moor since at least the 17th century. They are still to be found there, but are now vastly outnumbered by the Scottish Blackface. Less common breeds such as Exmoor Horn and Cheviot are also to be found on Dartmoor. The most common cattle are the Galloway and Aberdeen Angus.
With its range of high grassy moorland, bogs, farmland and deep wooded valleys, Dartmoor also provides a range of habitats for a variety of birds, some quite rare. With their preferred habitat these include:
- Mercer, Ian (2009). "The Dartmoor Fauna in the Twenty-First Century". Dartmoor - A Statement of its Time. The New Naturalist Library. 111. London: Collins. pp. 165–216. ISBN 978-0-00-718499-6.