NL is widely known as home to our famous dog breeds, the Newfoundland and Labrador Retriever. However, what many people are not aware of is that we are also the land of the Newfoundland Pony!
For over 400 years, they have stood by many a Newfoundlander and Labradorian to plough our lands, pull our wood, work in our mines and carry our fish. They have played an integral role in building and sustaining our fine province. They are as essential to our history and heritage as the wooden boat and even the cod fish.
The Newfoundland Pony breed is a mix of Irish, English and Scottish ponies brought over beginning in 1611 by settlers seeking to tame our rugged land and eke out an existence. The initial shipment consisted of Dartmoor ponies from SW England, imported by John Guy, Newfoundland’ first Governor. The ponies with their thick coat proved to be well suited for our harsh climate and by 1935 there were more than 9,000 on the island.
Sadly, by the early 20th Century, they faced population challenges at the hands of man through increased mechanization and a free roaming ban. There were about 12,000 Newfoundland ponies by the early 1970s but within a decade they faced definite extinction with increasing exports to France for horse meat.
Fortunately, the Newfoundland Pony Society was established to help save this beloved creature. 300 ponies were collected throughout the island and placed in captivity for breeding.
Newfoundland ponies are typically 44 to 58 inches (112 to 147 cm) in height and weight between 400 to 800 pounds (180 to 360 kg). Highly obedient and intelligent, the Newfoundland Pony is a sweet and gentle animal. They are docile, good-tempered and easy to work with, all key factors in order to be registered by the society. They are primarily used today for leisure and can also be found participating in horse shows.
In 2014, DNA testing found them to be one of the most genetically diverse breeds in all of Canada! As of 2008, there was a total registered population of 361. Today, there are only 400 remaining throughout the world. While the pony was saved from the brink of extinction, they remain a critically endangered breed with much work left to be done.
At the forefront of this struggle has been the Change Islands Newfoundland Pony Refuge in central Newfoundland who have established a breeding sanctuary to help save this iconic symbol of NL.
A 2nd sanctuary, The Newfoundland Ponies of Cappahayden is located on NL’s southern shore in the heart of the Irish Loop. They too are working hard to help save the Newfoundland Pony.
It has been an uphill challenge to bolster their population. Like any non-profit organization, both donations and feet on the ground are critical components needed for their long-term survival. Here is another moving clip about our beloved pony.
Image Via NF Pony Society
Via Newfoundland Pony Society
Image Via Town of Change Islands
Image Via NF Ponies Of Cappahayden
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