CHINCOTEAGUE, Va. (WRIC) — The oldest Chincoteague wild pony has died at the lofty age of 25.
The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company made the announcement on Thursday, Dec. 1 that the pony known as Wild Thing had “crossed the rainbow bridge and joined the big herd in the sky.”
Wild Thing fathered many foals during his two decades on the island, many of which were sold as “buybacks” during the yearly round-up events the island holds. A buyback pony is auctioned with the stipulation that it will be donated back to the Fire Company and returned to Assateague Island to replenish the herd. The winners of buyback ponies get to name the horses before they return to the island.
During the annual event, ponies are rounded up before swimming across the Assateague Channel to the eastern side of Chincoteague Island. The next day, some of the wild horses are auctioned off in order to control their population in the area.
“Wild Thing was known as the “Popes Island Stud” by cowboys because nearly every roundup he would be on his own island where he stayed almost all year and our boat crews would have to walk the entire island to get him to swim back to Assateague, it usually held up the roundups quite a bit,” the volunteer fire company wrote in a Facebook post.
“He was also a constant sight for many boat tours that traveled to his home territory to see the ponies, Wild Thing’s herd was out more than any other group in Virginia most of the time,” the post continued.
According to the Chincoteague Island website, the ponies have lived on Assateague for over 400 years and became their own official breed in 1994. The Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company maintains the island’s herd of around 150 ponies.