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The Newfoundland Pony

As long as there have been Newfoundlanders in this newest province of Canada there have been ponies assisting them in their labours. As the people have struggled to survive inhospitable weather and landscape and a changing society, so the ponies have had a struggle to adapt to the changes brought on by a modern, mechanized world.


The Newfoundland Pony is descended from those pony breeds commonly used in Europe for draft purposes. In 1611 John Guy brought Dartmoor and Exmoor ponies to the island. Lord Falkland brought over a hardy type for living on hard ground.

In the 1800s when settlement was finally encouraged small draft horses were brought from New England and Nova Scotia. Sable Island ponies came in 1852. In 1939 Welsh ponies arrived from Toronto and were cross bred with Newfoundlands.


The ponies’ work year was mainly in the fall, winter, and spring when they hauled caplin and seaweed for the gardens and firewood for the winter. In summer the owners were occupied at sea and ponies were turned out onto open spaces to roam freely and breed.

No law restricted their movements.

The animal that evolved from 400 years of island interbreeding is now known as the Newfoundland Pony. Taken as a whole its characteristics are distinct and unique.


The ponies have a good temperament, are docile and easy to work with. They have a color range from black to brown to bays to roans, chestnuts, and greys, including various shades of dun. They usually have dark legs and manes.

They have a heavy coat which can change color and character seasonally. They have small furry ears and a low set of tail to conserve heat in winter. They have a short back and a height that ranges from 11.0 to 14.2 hands.

Evolution gave them legs that are close together so they can travel narrow woods paths freely.


In the 1935 census there were 9,025 ponies in the province. Over the next 30 to 40 years came modern machinery, communities with modern lawns and modern ways. Animals were no longer needed to haul seaweed and firewood. Where once a garden had to be fenced to keep the animals out, new laws decreed fencing animals in. This meant scarce hay land had to be used as pasture.

The animals had lost their role in the modern world and their place in modern communities. Numbers dwindled until in the late 70s there were fewer than 100 breeding animals. Most left for the dinner tables of Europe and Japan.


A newly appointed University professor traveled across the province in the late 70s with his family. They saw these cute little horses roaming beside the Trans Canada Highway. After much searching they discovered this animal was important to the history of Newfoundland and Labrador. They organized the Newfoundland Pony Society and began lobbying.

Finally in June, 1994, the story of the pony reached the floor of the House of Assembly when a resolution was presented by NDP MHA Jack Harris. It was adopted, the first step in creating the Heritage Animal Act.

WHEREAS the Newfoundland Pony represents a significant element of the working heritage of our province, providing transportation, working power in the woods, in the fisheries and in farming and in being the virtual engine of outport and rural life for hundreds of years;

"AND WHEREAS the Newfoundland Pony is a distinctive breed of horse unique to our province having developed from various strains of Moorland ponies and other horses brought here in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries and through natural breeding and adaptation evolved characteristics especially suited to our climate and needs of our people;

"AND WHEREAS economic change and the lack of recognition and protection for this important part of our living cultural heritage has caused the number of ponies to dwindle to the point where there are less than 100 breeding animals;

"THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the House of Assembly urge government to recognize the importance of the Newfoundland Pony by introducing legislation establishing the pony as a Heritage Animal;"

"AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that measures be taken to assist in the establishment of the Newfoundland Pony as a recognized breed including providing or endorsing means of acknowledging individual animals as Newfoundland Ponies;

"AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that government protect Newfoundland Ponies from being exported from the province for meat and take steps to encourage the growth and development of the Newfoundland Pony population."

(Moved by NDP MHA Jack Harris and carried unanimously.)

In 1996 the Heritage Animals Act was passed into law providing for a mechanism to ensure the survival of these animals in the province.

On September 5, 1997 the Newfoundland Pony became the first animal to be designated a Heritage Animal under this Act and the Newfoundland Pony Society was designated as the organization responsible for the preservation and protection of this animal.


Founded in 1979 and incorporated in 1981, the Society has adopted as its Mission Statement:

"A Charitable organization dedicated to preserving, protecting and promoting the Newfoundland Pony as a distinct heritage animal. We encourage ethical breeding standards, maintain a registration process, and foster public awareness of the pony’s history and its future."

The Society is a registered Charity and its activities include caring for old ponies in our Retirement Home, carrying out educational and other public awareness programs including a quarterly newsletter, fund raising and keeping the Registry. Attendance at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto is a major event. The Society is now in the process of seeking federal protection for this Heritage Animal.

For more information please contact

A1C 5V3
TELEPHONE 709-744-2623


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