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The Wild Ponies Of Assateague Island

Updated on October 6, 2011

Assateague Island Ponies

The Beauty Of The Lower Eastern Shore

Nobody knows for sure how the ponies arrived on Assateague and Chincoteague Island. Some believe that the horses swam to shore when a Spanish galleon ship that carried horses sank offshore. Others believe that the horses arrived with early colonial settlers. In 1997 a Spanish shipwreck was discovered in the Atlantic ocean not far from Assateague Island, which leads many to believe that the first theory is indeed true.

The ponies feed on the marsh and sand dune grasses and you can often find them snacking on food that they stole from beach visitors. Therefore, if you do plan on visiting this beautiful state park, make sure to keep your food safely locked in a cooler or car.

The ponies can be found on the Maryland side and Virginia side of Assateague. Each has a herd of around 150 animals. On The last Wednesday in July the horses are rounded up for the annual Pony swim. The tradition started in 1924 and is a big event.The horses swim across the Assateague Channel to Chincoteague Island where some of them are auctioned off. This ensures that the population stays at about the same. The average price for a pony is about $1,200.

There are also special boat tours you can take to go "Pony Watching". These tours take you to the most beautiful and remote areas along Assateague where you can see various herds of wild ponies every day.You can also see dolphins, birds and other wildlife along the way.

During the hot summer month many ponies can be found right down on the beach, mingling between vacationers. However, for your safety and the safety of the ponies, do not touch or feed them. A stallion recently had to be removed from the beach because he got used to being fed by humans and was aggressively looking for more food.

Assateague Island has much to offer for nature lovers - bike and hiking trails, campgrounds and many different tours. Definitely a vacation to remember!


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    • Esmeowl12 profile image

      Cindy A. Johnson 6 years ago from Sevierville, TN

      Thanks for the wonderful photos and info. My son has camped on Assateague for several summers with his cousins and raves about the horses.