The Chincoteague Pony, also known as the Assateague horse, is a breed of pony that developed and lives in a feral condition on Assateague Island in the United States states of Virginia and Maryland.
The United States of America, commonly referred to as the United States or America, is a federal republic composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions.
Maryland is a state in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C. to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east.
Assateague Island is a 37-mile long barrier island located off the eastern coast of the Delmarva peninsula facing the Atlantic Ocean.
Watch Famous Ponies Swim in Chincoteague Island Tradition | National Geographic by National Geographic
The breed was made famous by the Misty of Chincoteague series written by Marguerite Henry starting in 1947.
Marguerite Henry née Breithaupt was an American writer of children's books, writing fifty-nine books based on true stories of horses and other animals.
Misty of Chincoteague is a children's novel written by Marguerite Henry, illustrated by Wesley Dennis, and published by Rand McNally in 1947.
Chincoteague Ponies by ChincoteagueDotCom
While phenotypically horse-like, they are commonly called "ponies".
This is due in part to their smaller stature, created by the poor habitat on Assateague Island.
Variation is found in their physical characteristics due to blood from different breeds being introduced at various points in their history.
They can be any solid color, and are often found in pinto patterns, which are a favorite with breed enthusiasts.
Island Chincoteagues live on a diet of salt marsh plants and brush.
This poor-quality and often scarce food combined with uncontrolled inbreeding created a propensity for conformation faults in the Chincoteague before outside blood was added beginning in the early 20th century.
Inbreeding is the production of offspring from the mating or breeding of individuals or organisms that are closely related genetically.
Several legends are told regarding the origins of the Chincoteague, the most popular holds that they descend from survivors of wrecked Spanish galleons off the Virginia coast.
Galleons were large, multi-decked sailing ships used as armed cargo carriers primarily by European states from the 16th to 18th centuries during the age of sail and were the principal fleet units drafted for use as warships until the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the mid-1600s.
It is more likely that they descend from stock released on the island by 17th-century colonists looking to escape livestock laws and taxes on the mainland.
In 1835, the practice of pony penning began, with local residents rounding up ponies and removing some of them to the mainland.
In 1924 the first official "Pony Penning Day" was held by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, where ponies were auctioned as a way to raise money for fire equipment.
The Chincoteague Fire Department is a historic U.S. building located at 4026/4028 Main Street, Chincoteague Island, Virginia.
Pony Penning is an annual event held in Chincoteague, Virginia on the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in July.
The annual event has continued in the same fashion almost uninterrupted to the present day.
Although popularly known as Chincoteague ponies, the feral ponies actually live on Assateague Island.
Although the entire Island is owned by the federal government, Assateague is split by a fence at the Maryland/Virginia state line, with a herd of around 150 ponies living on each side of the fence.
The herds live on land managed by two different federal agencies with very different management strategies.
Ponies from the Maryland herd, referred to in literature of the National Park Service as Assateague horses, live within Assateague Island National Seashore.
The National Park Service is an agency of the United States federal government that manages all U.S. national parks, many American national monuments, and other conservation and historical properties with various title designations.
They are generally treated as wild animals, given no more or less assistance than other species on the island, other than to be treated with contraceptives to prevent overpopulation.
Birth control, also known as contraception and fertility control, is a method or device used to prevent pregnancy.
Conversely, the Virginia herd, referred to as Chincoteague ponies, lives within the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge but is owned by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company.
The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is a 14,000-acre wildlife preserve operated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
The Virginia ponies are treated to twice yearly veterinary inspections, which prepare them for life among the general equine population if they are sold at auction.