Sunday, September 22, 2013


Whether their ancestors were unloaded from Spanish treasure ships, were brought to the island by the earliest settlers, or swam ashore from shipwrecks, Ocracoke's "banker ponies" (actually small, compact horses) have been an important part of island history and culture for many years. They served as beasts of burden, steeds, "members" of the US Life Saving Service, mounts for Ocracoke Boy Scout Troop 290, and now, as tourist attractions.

An Ocracoke Island Pony

Ocracoke Opry performer, Roy Parsons (1921-2007), occasionally told a story about Beeswax, a memorable Ocracoke pony who liked to stick his head through open windows and munch on homemade biscuits.

I just learned that in May of 1922 Beeswax, a dun polo pony, was sold at Tattersall's Bloodstock Auction House in central London for 61 guineas (the guinea [an old English coin equivalent to 1 pound, 1 shilling], survives in the horse trade as a unit of commerce).

Beeswax was a valuable stallion colt, and was brought to the island in 1925 by a Mr. Keppel. Older islanders remember Beeswax as a large brown horse that was kept in a sturdy pen on Ocracoke for several years.

The idea was to breed Beeswax (according to Jean Day in her book, Banker Ponies, an Endangered Species, his father was "one of the best polo ponies in America") with various Ocracoke mares. The goal was to produce a new, tougher, more intelligent breed of polo ponies. Because the foals were sold off the island, Beeswax's DNA probably never made it into the local pony gene pool.

However, Ocracoke Island pony DNA has surely made it into the polo pony gene pool...another example of Ocracoke's far-reaching influence on the outside world.

Our most recent Ocracoke Newsletter is a compilation of humorous stories told by or about islanders. You can read it here:

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