Chincoteague Pony

The Chincoteague is a breed of pony that is found roaming free on the small island of Chincoteague off the coast of Virginia and Maryland.

Here is everything you need to know about these fascinating creatures!

Chincoteague Pony Breed Info

Here are some of the key things you need to know about the Chincoteague Pony:

Height (size) 12.0 – 13.2 hands high
Colors Bay, chestnut, gray, dun, black, brown, cremello, and palomino. Pinto pattern is very common.
Country of Origin United States of America (Virginia and Maryland)
Common Uses Pleasure riding and driving, and they can even be used as sports ponies in hunting

Chincoteague Pony Facts & Information (Breed Profile)

The Chincoteague Pony, also called the Assateague Pony, consists of two herds on the island off the coast of Virginia and Maryland.

One part of the herd lives on the Virginia side, while the other part lives on the Maryland side.

They are kept apart from one another by a Virginia-Maryland state boundary fence.

The Virginia herd is called the Chincoteague herd, while the Maryland herd is often called the Assateague herd.

Records of the Chincoteague Pony date back to at least the early 1630s.

Assateague Island has been home to wild ponies for centuries.

Some people believe that the wild ponies of Assateague Island are descended from horses that were brought to the island by early settlers and left there to graze freely.

However, other evidence strongly suggests that they are the descendants of the survivors of a Spanish galleon that sank off the shore of Assateague Island in Virginia.

Penning was first developed as a method for livestock owners to identify their herds, brand them, divide them apart, and harness them.

By the 1700s, it had developed into an annual celebration for the whole town.

Penning on Chincoteague Island is not documented until the mid-1800’s, and it is thought to have started with two islanders who owned large herds that grazed on the island.

By the year 1885, they were being held in Chincoteague one day and Assateague the next day.

As a result of the increased interest in the pony swim, people from all across the nation started traveling to participate in the yearly penning.

After a series of terrible fires in the Town of Chincoteague, the locals discovered that their firefighting equipment was highly inadequate.

The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company was given permission by the municipality in 1925 to stage a carnival during Pony Penning in order to raise money.

The carnival was a big success thanks to the sale of over 15 colts to aid the local fire department that year.

In 1937, an estimated 25,000 people attended the event.

The increased revenue from carnivals and auctions allowed the fire department to modernize its equipment and facilities, and in 1947 it began purchasing ponies from local owners in order to establish its own herd.

They relocated the herd to Assateague, where the government allowed publicly owned herds, but not private herds, to graze on the newly established Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

This refuge is situated on the traditional lands of the Pocomoke and Occohannock people.

Pony Penning is still a part of the Chincoteague Volunteer Firemen’s Carnival every July.

At low tide, “Salt Water Cowboys” herd the horses over the Assateague Channel’s narrowest part, after which they are checked by veterinarians.

After a rest period, they are herded through town to a corral at the Carnival Grounds where they remain until the next day’s auction.

The Pony Auction is not only a form of funds for the fire department, but it also helps to reduce the herd’s population.

In order to keep the permit that allows the herd to graze on the refuge, the number of horses in the herd cannot exceed 150.

On the Virginia side of Assateague Island, around 70 foals are born each spring.

The National Park Service is currently responsible for the care of the herd in Maryland, while the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company (CVFC) is in charge of the herd in Virginia.

Different methods are employed in each state to maintain a healthy population of wild ponies.

Some female horses in Maryland are given a contraceptive vaccination by dart gun every year.

This has been shown to minimize the number of pregnancies without causing any damage.

With the exception of providing contraception and emergency treatment, the Maryland herd’s ponies are treated like any other wildlife by Park Service employees.

If you’re interested in learning more about this fascinating breed, keep reading!

Alternative Names

“Assateague Pony”


When domesticated, these ponies are obedient, lively, willing, docile, friendly and easy to keep.

Physical Characteristics

Chincoteague Ponies are stocky, with short legs and thick manes.

The head is small yet refined, and the eyes are widely-spaced.

The feet are very hard and the joints are sturdy.

The bellies seem large and round, but they are mostly bloated due to excess water consumption.

They have light fetlock feathering.


Bay, chestnut, gray, dun, black, brown, cremello, and palomino.

Pinto pattern is very common.

Some of the brighter patterns include strawberry roan on white, as well as palomino on white.

Height (size)

12.0 – 13.2 hands high






Average is 850 lb (385 kg)

Blood Type


Common Uses

Pleasure riding and driving, and they can even be used as sports ponies in hunting


Generally healthy

Popular Traits

Independent, hardy, adaptable


Marsh grass rich in salt.

They have to drink twice as much water as a typical horse to make up for the salt in the cord grass.

This is the reason why their bellies appear so bloated.

Country of Origin

United States of America (Virginia and Maryland)


Spanish colonial horses (theorized), Welsh Pony, Shetland Pony