The Ocracoke Pony herd has a new member – “Alonso,” a three-year-old registered Spanish stallion from the Corolla Wild Horse herd. “Alonso” was recently adopted by the National Park Service and was transported to Ocracoke Island on February 2nd.
Legend has it that the “Banker” ponies of Ocracoke were left by shipwrecked explorers in the 16th or 17th century. European ships commonly carried livestock to the New World and if a ship ran aground near the coast, animals swam ashore and were often left behind. Sir Richard Grenville’s ship, Tiger, ran aground in Ocracoke in 1565. There is speculation that he may have unloaded Spanish mustangs on the island.
Since the 1730s documentation exist of the presence of Ocracoke ponies on Ocracoke Island. While small and powerful, they are full-grown horses, although physically different – they possess a different number of vertebrae and ribs as well as distinct shape, color, size, and weight that sets them apart from other horses.
The ponies have played a major role in the island’s history, serving residents as beasts of burden at both work and play. In the late 1950s, Ocracoke Boy Scouts cared for the ponies and were the only mounted troop in the nation. By law, the free-roaming animals were permanently penned in 1959 to prevent over-grazing and to safeguard them from traffic after the highway was built in 1957. The herd has been cared for by the National Park Service since the early 1960s.
Currently, there are sixteen horses in the Ocracoke herd. For more information, click on the link below.