Sable Island Horse

The Sable Island Pony also referred to as the Sable Island Horse, inhabits Sable Island off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada. It is small breed that legends say swam to the island from the many shipwrecks that occurred off shore. Other legends say the horse was introduced by Portuguese explorers, but neither is supported by historic or genetic evidence.

The first horses were actually introduced in 1737 by a Boston clergyman, Andrew Le Mercier. The Sable Island horses of today are the descendents of the original herd of Acadian horses brought to the island by Thomas Hancock in 1760. Although they are pony sized, their genetic make-up is of a horse.

In 1801 horses began being trained to haul supplies and equipment for the Nova Scotia government. In the early 1800s other breeds, such as Thoroughbred, Morgan and Clydesdale, were introduced into the bloodline trying to improve the quality of the horse.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, the horses of the island were rounded up and either sold or slaughtered for dog food. In the late 1950s the horse was on the verge of extinction and a campaign was started by school children to save the breed. In 1960 the Canadian government declared the horse protected and was no longer rounded up and sold. In 2008, the Sable Island Horse was declared the official horse of Nova Scotia. In 2011, the Sable Island National Park Reserve was created to further protect the horse breed. Written permission must be given in order for people to interfere or feed the horses on the island.

The horse stands between 52 and 56 inches high and males weigh around 760 pounds and females about 660 pounds. Their size is greatly affected by the available food on the island. Some are removed from the island and are fed more nutritious food, resulting in a larger sized horse. The horse is short but stocky that allows for easy movement on the rough terrain of the island. The coat, mane and tail are shaggy and are usually dark in colors of bay, chestnut, palomino or black — however, some have white markings.

The horses on the island are completely feral and unmanaged with a population between 160 and 360 horses based on the severity of weather. There are several small herds of 40 to 50 horses each that range in an area of about 1.2 square miles. With a lack of predators on the island, most die of starvation after their teeth are worn down by marram, a tough beach grass.

Image Caption: Sable Island Horse. Credit: HiFlyChick/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)