The now-endangered Newfoundland Pony will be the subject of a new photo archive to preserve the memory of its role in rural development.
The Newfoundland and Labrador government plans to work with the Newfoundland Pony Society and Memorial University’s history department to compile a “photographic history” of the pony.
The plan for the photo archive is to publish submissions in book form, featuring stories and photos from the province’s residents.
“The Newfoundland Pony was an important part of life in rural Newfoundland and Labrador for many decades,” the province said in a release. “Sturdy and dependable, the Newfoundland Pony plowed gardens, hauled fishing nets, kelp and wood and provided families with transportation.”
But the pony population “plummeted” as modern technology replaced it in the functions it performed, the province said. It declared the Newfoundland Pony an official heritage animal in 1997.
The Newfoundland Pony population worldwide now totals less than 400 animals, the province said, and though “concerned individuals from across Canada” have been able to stabilize the population, the pony continues to be identified as a “critically endangered species” by Rare Breeds Canada.
Newfoundland and Labrador’s own population of Newfoundland Ponies has previously been estimated at fewer than 160, down from an estimated 9,000 in 1935.
Calling the animal “one of the most enduring figures of this province,” provincial Natural Resources Minister Kathy Dunderdale said it’s the province’s responsibility “to preserve those parts of the collective memory of the past for the benefit of the future.”
According to the Newfoundland Pony Society, the pony’s ancestors arrived with Newfoundland’s early settlers from the British Isles. Primarily they were Exmoor, Dartmoor and New Forest ponies and, to a lesser extent, Welsh Mountain, Galloway, Highland and Connemara ponies.
The hardiest of these ponies interbred and ultimately evolved into one common pony type, now recognized as the Newfoundland Pony, the society said.
The society has previously called for owners to register their Newfoundland Ponies with the society and to confirm through DNA analysis if they suspect they own a purebred.
People interested in sharing stories or photos for the Newfoundland Pony project can contact Christopher Youe at Memorial’s department of history at 709-737-8420 or by e-mail at [email protected]