North Carolina's Wild Horses

The Ocracoke "Banker" Ponies

     Ocracoke's "ponies" are not really ponies at all, but are true horses, descended from Spanish mustangs just like the Corolla and Shackleford horses. In fact, the resident Ocracoke horses at the pony pens on NC12 tend to be a bit larger than the Shackleford mustangs because they get supplemental feed and hay which the Shackleford horses do not get. There are nineteen of these full-time residents at the pony pens (as of April 2009), which are part of a fenced complex including pasture of up to 180 acres. They were fenced in by the National Park Service not only to keep them from danger after the paved highway NC12 was built on Ocracoke, but to keep them from overgrazing the island's vegetation.

     Visitors can see the Ocracoke horses at the pony pens located next to NC12 between the Hatteras Inlet ferry landing and Ocracoke Village. There is adjacent parking for multiple vehicles and a tall viewing stand where they can try to get a better view of the horses. As shown in the photo, the front is double fenced so visitors cannot reach or pet the animals. Neither can they see much of anything without climbing the viewing stand. The man climbing on the fence in the photo was lucky a Park Ranger didn't see him.

     From the viewing stand it's easier to see over the fence, but the view isn't all that exciting. All that fencing for so few horses somehow takes away all the adventure and excitement. Any illusion there may have been that these horses are wild is completely shattered. Why the fences are so tall is a mystery, unless it's to utterly discourage them from any vain attempt to escape. It's not like they would get very far anyway, unless they could catch a ride on the ferry. The only real danger is that they would get on the highway, and that would surely turn into a disaster.

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