Newfoundland Pony

  • HEIGHT: 11–14.2 hands
  • PLACE OF ORIGIN: Newfoundland, Canada, with genetic contributions from England, Ireland, and Scotland
  • SPECIAL QUALITIES: A hardy, stocky pony whose extremely dense winter coat is often a strikingly different color from the summer coat
  • BEST SUITED FOR: Family pleasure, beginning riders, and driving

The English officially settled Newfoundland in 1560. From the very early days of settlement, hardy ponies formed an important part of both the workforce and the culture. John Guy imported Dartmoor Ponies in 1611, followed shortly after by a shipment of unnamed ponies brought by Lord Falkland. Other importations followed. The primarily English and Scottish settlers brought with them the types of animals with which they were most familiar and that were readily available for shipping at convenient seaports. This meant mostly multipurpose or draft-type ponies from the west and southwest of England and Ireland and some from Scotland.

As settlement on Newfoundland increased in the 1800s, more small draft horses came over from New England and Nova Scotia. Sable Island Ponies arrived in 1852, and Welsh Ponies much later, in 1939. The foundation breeds generally considered to be the early ancestors of the Newfoundland are the Connemara, the Dartmoor, the Exmoor, the Fell, the Highland, the Galloway, and possibly the New Forest.

The ponies could handle all forms of transportation and work. They hauled kelp from the beaches and logs for firewood.

THE PACING GALLOWAY

In The Newfoundland Pony, Andrew Frasier writes that in 1992 a tiny remnant remained of one interesting subtype of Newfoundland Pony known as the Pacing Galloway. These animals were true pacers. It was said that they could easily pace a distance of twenty-five miles, at a speed that frightened many onlookers. Frasier located only one young pacing stallion, which he hoped to use for breeding. He also discovered a few mares and geldings, some actually rescued from trucks on the way to slaughter, but many of the mares were too old to be successfully bred.

They pulled sleighs in the winter, plowed gardens and fields, and did general farmwork. Most of their work took place from fall through early spring. In the summer, when the majority of people were at sea fishing, the ponies roamed loose, grazing and breeding freely. Fences were unknown, so from the early 1600s on, the Newfoundland Pony developed as a blend of numerous breeds.

The ponies adapted quite successfully to the harsh climate. In 1935, an official census counted 9,025 ponies on Newfoundland. Numbers began to decline after that, however, first when tractors began doing the work the ponies had always done, and later when free-roaming animals were banned. In the 1970s, the ponies became a source of cheap meat for France and were very nearly exterminated.

Just before the point of extinction, a few interested individuals organized support for the ponies that had been so important for nearly four hundred years. The Newfoundland Pony Society was formed in 1980 to gather the ponies and establish captive herds. The group located and registered three hundred ponies, although the total population at the time was thought to be considerably higher. In 1997, Newfoundland Ponies were officially designated as a heritage breed, the first from Newfoundland, and the Newfoundland Pony Society became the organization responsible for the protection and preservation of the breed.

In the winter, this sleek pony will grow a heavy coat that may be a completely different color.

Breed Characteristics

Newfoundlands have made a successful transition from hard work to recreational use. Riding instructors appreciate their docile temperament, and they have been successful at open horse shows. They make excellent family horses for riding and driving and are ideal for sleighs.

Conformation

The Newfoundland usually stands between 11 and 14.2 hands and weighs between 400 and 800 pounds. It has a small head with small, sharply pointed ears and large expressive eyes. The ears usually contain a great deal of thick hair, which protects the animal from insects in summer and helps retain heat in winter. The horses are stocky, with a strong, muscular neck and a short back. The croup is sloping, with the tail set low.

Seen from the side, the ponies have a deep chest; the distance from the withers to the bottom of the chest is about the same as the distance from the bottom of the chest to the ground. Viewed from the front, the legs are close together and the chest is narrow. The coat is very thick and dense in winter. The mane is thick and in winter usually falls to both sides of the neck, but in summer it lies only on one side.

The Newfoundland has a number of breeds in its lineage, including the Connemara, the Dartmoor, the Exmoor, and the Fell. In 1997 the provincial government named this breed the first provincial Heritage Animal of Newfoundland.

Color

The usual colors are black, bay, and brown. Roans are common. Chestnut, gray, and dun appear, but not true white (white horses have pink skin; gray horses have dark skin). The ponies have minimal white markings. Many ponies show dramatic color changes between winter and summer. Pintos are not allowed in the registry.

BREED ASSOCIATION FACTS AND FIGURES

According to the Newfoundland Pony Society (founded in 1980):

• There were 307 registered ponies in 2005.

• Up to six foals are added each year.