The Newfoundland’s history is an excellent example of what it takes to make a breed. Like many others, its roots are in several older breeds (including Exmoor, Dartmoor, New Forest, Highland, and Connemara ponies) that came to Canada’s Newfoundland province with colonists from the British Isles in the 17th-18th centuries. In their new home, the hardy creatures who were adapted to the harsh conditions of the North Atlantic were allowed to roam and intermingled to produce the unique Newfoundland pony.
Newfoundlands were used by local farmers and fishermen for plowing, hauling fishing nets, kelp, and wood, and transporting goods and people around the island. Between the 1970’s-80’s, mechanization put these ponies out of a job, and a ban on free-roaming led them to be dispersed, slaughtered, and ignored. Now the breeding population is about 200 to 250 and they are widely scattered.
“In 1997, the provincial government of Newfoundland, in recognition of the potential extinction of Newfoundland’s unique pony, passed the Heritage Animals Act of Newfoundland and Labrador. This Act provided legal protections to the Newfoundland Pony by making it illegal to transport Newfoundland Ponies off the Island without export permits. This ensured that ponies leaving the island were headed only to breeders and pony lovers – not meat packing plants. The Act also designated the Newfoundland Pony Society as the public group responsible for registering, promoting and protecting the Newfoundland Pony.” (from The Newfoundland Pony Society website)
Newfoundland Ponies can range from fine-boned to stocky. They have a thick mane, and their low-set tail allows rain and snow to easily slide off. Their height ranges between 11-14.2 hands and their weight 400-800 lbs. Their “hooded” eyes are protected from rain, snow, and pests, and furry ears keep the bugs out and help prevent frostbite. They can be bay, black, brown, chestnut, dun, grey, roan, and white (with pink skin) in color, typically with dark points. White or light color on limbs is acceptable but pinto colors are not. They have a heavy coat which sometimes changes color and character seasonally. They have feathered fetlocks, and flint-hard hooves.
Newfoundland Ponies are hardy, good-tempered, and sure-footed animals; they work well for riding, driving, and light draft work, and can be ridden by both children and adults.
DNA studies published in 2011 confirmed the unique genetic makeup of this breed. During this same time, The Livestock Conservancy confirmed the breed’s history and census numbers with the assistance of several dedicated breeders. This breed remains in need of dedicated stewards.
Did you know:
Heritage breeds are being raised on more than 4,000 farms, ranches, and backyards across America. Still, new breeders must be recruited to protect and expand rare livestock and poultry populations. America’s farmers are aging; future generations of breeds need future generations of breeders. That’s why Livestock Conservancy microgrants now include a Youth Division to encourage tomorrow’s breed stewards. Click here to invest in the future with a gift today.