Cuteness Alert: New Pony Born Into Ocracoke's Herd

Feb 6, 2015

Say hello to Hazelnut! She was born mid-morning a couple of days ago into the celebrated Ocracoke pony herd.

Hazelnut, newest member of the herd of ponies on Ocracoke, NC
Credit National Park Service

Hazelnut's father is a direct descendant of the original Ocracoke ponies. The mother joined the herd in 2010.

The ponies are an important part of the region's history. Legend has it that the “Banker” horses survived being thrown overboard by European ships carrying livestock to the New World in the 16th or 17th century.

"If a ship ran aground near the coast, animals were thrown overboard to lighten the load so that the ship could be re-floated. The livestock were often left behind when the ship again set sail. Sir Richard Grenville’s ship Tiger ran aground at Ocracoke in 1585. There is speculation that he may have unloaded Spanish mustangs on the island." 

Europeans first settled the area in the 1730s. Over the years, there have been as many as 300 horses on the island. Today, the herd has dwindled to a mere 17. Herd managers have been gradually importing stallions to grow the herd and keep the genetic pool viable.

Boy Scouts cared for the ponies in the 1950s, when the herd was still free-roaming. In 1959, the herd was penned, and has been cared for by the National Park Service ever since.