During the 18th and 19th centuries Ocracoke ponies ranged freely on the island with little need for fences since the sound, ocean, and inlets served as natural obstructions. It was only in the village that fences became necessary. Islanders typically installed two fences, an inner fence to enclose their garden, and an outer fence to keep wild horses out. At that time North Carolina was a fencing-out state.
In 1917/1918 all of North Carolina except the Outer Banks became a fencing-in state. The current livestock law was not adopted for Ocracoke until 1958. Even then the statute applied to all livestock except the wild Banker ponies. With the establishment of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the construction of a hard-surfaced road the length of Ocracoke Island, free ranging ponies became a hazard for automobiles, and automobiles threatened the lives of the ponies. As a result, a large fenced-in pasture was established in the middle of the island.
There are currently just under 20 ponies (although small and powerful, Banker "ponies" are full-grown horses) in the Ocracoke herd. You can read more about them here: https://www.nps.gov/caha/learn/historyculture/ocracokeponies.htm.
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a history of the Ocracoke Lighthouse, with information (and an artist's sketch) about the earliest lantern room. You can read the Newsletter here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/ocracoke-lighthouse/.