Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Pony Pasture

According to a 2006 article in the NC State Economist, "North Carolina law requires keepers of livestock to enclose their livestock, poultry and horses with an adequate fence. Livestock is broadly defined as bovine or equine animals, swine, sheep or goats. Horses are included in this definition, regardless of whether they are kept for business or for pleasure. As a fencing-in state, North Carolina is distinguished from states located primarily, but not entirely, in the western U.S. where cattle grazing predominates, and landowners who want to keep livestock off of their property are forced to fence them out. North Carolina was also a fencing-out state in the 1800s, but the law changed around the turn of the twentieth century due to population growth and the expansion and increased importance of crop production."

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.

NPS Photo

 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/.  

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