If you’re a bona fide nature lover, you might want to get up close and personal with these wild horses by taking one of the many boat tours around the island. For example, Captain Dan’s offers a Pony Express Nature Cruise that’s specifically devoted to seeing the ponies in their natural habitat! Otherwise, you can also visit the local state park – Virginia’s Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge. This amazing refuge teems with all kinds of birds and wild animals that are waiting to be seen!
Thousands of people visit this narrow and windswept island on the coast of Virginia’s Atlantic shore each summer just to see its famous herd of feral ponies. These horses have been a part of this island since colonial times, and they are a vital part of the town’s economy.
The herd is managed by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company and the National Park Service, with a fence separating them at the Virginia/Maryland state line. Mares on the Virginia side are put on birth control, and their foals are then auctioned off each year. This helps control the population on the island and allows other species, such as migratory birds, to thrive.
Each July, a herd of the ponies is rounded up from their home on Assateague Island and then “swims” across the channel to Chincoteague for an annual auction. This event has been a tradition since 1925 and is held to raise money for local charities, such as fire departments and wildlife preservation groups. In addition, it helps to maintain healthy herds on both islands without overcrowding or overgrazing their environment.
There are different theories on how the herd first came to be. The more romantic one imagines them as descendants of the survivors of a shipwrecked Spanish galleon. There is also the possibility that they were brought to the area by settlers.
The most common theory is that the herd is a remnant of the days when ponies were used for transportation and labor on the farmland. There are now about 3,000 ponies on the island and they are protected by law.
Although the herd is protected, there are still herders who bring ponies to the island from other locations. Some of them are also treated as pets and some even have names! Fortunately, the herd is now more manageable thanks to efforts by the National Park Service and the Fire Company.
While many people come to Chincoteague just to see the herd, others have other reasons for coming, like the breathtaking beaches and fishing spots. The island is also known as a bird watching destination, and is home to the world’s largest population of wintering terns. There are other places in the United States where you can see wild ponies, but if you’re looking for a truly unique experience, then you’ll want to come here and check out the herd of feral ponies on Assateague Island! The experience is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will not disappoint.