Thursday, October 11, 2012

Chincoteague, Virginia


Chincoteague is a town on Chincoteague Island in Accomack County, Virginia, United States. The population was 2,941 at the 2010 census. The town is perhaps best known for the Chincoteague Ponies, although these are not actually on the island of Chincoteague but on nearby Assateague Island. These ponies and the annual Pony Penning Day are the subject of Marguerite Henry's 1947 children's book Misty of Chincoteague. This was made into the 1961 family film Misty, which was filmed on location.

Misty of Chincoteague is a 1947 book by American author Marguerite Henry, inspired by a real Chincoteague Pony named Misty. Set on the coastal island of Chincoteague, Virginia, the book tells the story of the Beebe family and their efforts to raise a filly born to a wild horse. The book won the Newbery Honor. The 1961 film Misty was based on the book.


 The real horse on which the book was based was actually foaled in domesticity in 1946 on Chincoteague at the Beebe Ranch, not in the wild on Assateague Island as was told in the book. However, as in the book she was sired by a stallion named Pied Piper, out of a dam called Phantom. Though these horses also were domesticated in real life, they too provided inspiration for the wild ponies portrayed in the novel. Misty was a pinto horse whose coloration included a large patch of white on her side, shaped like the United States. Her hoof prints are in the sidewalk outside the Roxy Movie Theatre in Chincoteague. After being purchased by Henry as a weanling and spending part of her life at Marguerite Henry's Wayne, Illinois home, she was moved back to Chincoteague and in 1972 she died. Her body and that of her foal Stormy have been preserved via taxidermy and can be seen at the Beebe Ranch. Misty had three foals, Phantom Wings in 1960, Wisp O' Mist in 1961, and Stormy in 1962. As of 2011, there are around 80 known surviving descendants of Misty.


The Chincoteague Pony, also known as the Assateague horse, is a breed of pony that developed and lives in a feral condition on Assateague Island in the United States states of Virginia and Maryland. The breed was made famous by the Misty of Chincoteague series written by Marguerite Henry starting in 1947. While phenotypically horse-like, they are commonly called "ponies". This is due in part to their smaller stature, created by the poor habitat present on Assateague Island. Variation is found in their physical characteristics due to blood from different breeds being introduced at various points in their history. They can be any solid color, and are often found in pinto patterns, which are a favorite with breed enthusiasts. Island Chincoteagues live on a diet of salt marsh plants and brush. This poor-quality and often scarce food combined with uncontrolled inbreeding created a propensity for conformation faults in the Chincoteague before outside blood was added beginning in the early 20th century.


Several legends are told regarding the origins of the Chincoteague, with the most popular being that they descend from survivors of wrecked Spanish galleons off the Virginia coast. It is more likely that they descend from stock released on the island by 17th century colonists looking to escape livestock laws and taxes on the mainland. In 1835, the practice of pony penning began, with settlers rounding up ponies and removing some of them to the mainland. In 1924 the first official "Pony Penning Day" was held by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, where ponies were auctioned as a way to raise money for fire equipment. The annual event has continued in the same fashion almost uninterrupted to the present day.


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