BOOKS: The Newfoundland Pony

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1993:

The Newfoundland Pony, by
Andrew F. Fraser. Creative
Publishers (St. John’s, Newfoundland,
Canada), 1992. 213 pages. $14.95.
The Newfoundland pony is on the
cusp of extinction, no match for progress in
the form of tractors and snowmobiles.
Numbers of Newfoundland ponies have
dwindled from more than 10,000 in 1976 to
barely 400, as the greater part of its popu-
lation has been sacrified to the insatiable
Moloch of the slaughter trade––in particu-
lar, to the killing plants of Quebec, which
supply the French appetite for horseflesh.

Newfoundland ponies are in fact now rarer
than their earliest progenitors, the
Przewalskis of Asia, which were the last
truly wild horses.
The Anglo-Celt settlers of
Newfoundland brought their ponies with
them from England, Scotland, and Ireland,
crossing stock to reinforce enduring primi-
tive characteristics. Back in the Old
Country, their ancestral stock was refined
for slenderness, higher tail sets, and nar-
rower faces and jaws. Bred out was the
deep-jawed dentition that enabled ponies to
forage on coarse grasses and brush. The
Newfoundland settlers, however, were
interested in performance, not papers.
They encouraged strength, longevity, and
ability to live on scant forage, along with
deep chests, close elbows, hairy fetlocks,
and recessed eyes that protect the ponies
against the worst the Atlantic north coast
can deliver.
Without the primitive characteris-
tics retained in the Newfoundland pony,
Fraser demonstrates, the Newfoundland
society and economy could not have devel-
oped. This pony was the perfect answer to
working the smallholdings of wood, field,
beach, garden, and sea. Having worked
with ponies all his life, Fraser is well-quali-
fied to observe the fragile but rich interac-
tion among man, land, and beast.
Illustrations offer the only glimpse
we will have of one Newfoundland pony
type now believed extinct. Plentiful 30
years ago, the pacing Galloway was known
to cover distances of 25 miles or more with
an ease that left some passengers unwilling
to trust the pony’s speed. The Galloway
gait was unknown in other pony breeds.
Fraser and the members of the
Newfoundland Pony Society have scoured
the Avalon Peninsula and Newfoundland
for stallions to carry on the pony tradition.
A search of years has located one promising
stallion just weeks from castration. “The
bulk of the remainder,” reports Fraser, “are
mares and geldings.” A tiny few of these
have been rescued from the slaughterhouse
trucks. May their progeny survive to add
many more years to their noble history.
––Sharon Cregier
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