The New Forest is well known for its ponies. Ponies ar everywhere. There are more than 3000 of them and they are permitted to roam freely – a concession granted in the 1079 charter. They feed particularly on the heathland and roadside verges and can regularly be seen ambling through the main streets of small towns and villages. At all times animals have right of way in the Forest. Speed limits are set accordingly.
But the ponies are not ‘wild’. Each is owned by a ‘commoner’ (a resident in the Forest) and is branded and registered for identification. Many are used for gymkhanas, riding schools etc. There are strict rules enforced to protect the purity of the breed and they are rounded up periodically to check their health and general condition.
Small numbers of cattle, donkeys and even a few pigs similarly enjoy the freedom to roam. The Forest also has several varieties of deer but, by their nature, they are far less conspicuous.
Occasionally they can become a little overfriendly!