THE New Forest pony has been classified as a “rare minority breed” as the numbers of foals has dropped dangerously low.
Figures released by the New Forest Pony and Cattle Society (NFPBCS) have revealed that the number of pure bred ponies living freely on the New Forest dropped from 1,057 in 2009 to 197 in 2013.
Although the RBST call this population dip “very worrying”, they are optimistic that the breed will not be lost entirely as long as the ponies are “managed critically”.
A statement from the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) has revealed that the numbers of new foals being born have fallen drastically in recent years, dropping from 1,463 newborns five years ago to just 423 in 2012.
The trust classifies animals into their minority breed category if the species has a population of just 1,500 to 3,000.
A conservation officer at RBST said: “The New Forest ponies have dropped quite considerably and have now entered onto our watch list. They are a few hundred animals below our rare breed threshold now - that’s a steep decline in a short period of time.
“They are exceptionally special for the eco-system of the New Forest, which needs to be conserved.”
The RBST suggests that the population dip may be due to the lack of buyers for young ponies.
In a joint statement with the Verderers, Jane Murray, Secretary of the New Forest Pony Breeding and Cattle Society (NFPBCS) said that the New Forest pony has suffered from a drop in both the number of breeding adult females, and the number of newborn foals in recent years.
A spokesman from the Verderers said: “We used to have 20 stallions out and that number has been reduced to ten, who are put out on the Forest for four weeks.
“This will have a consequence on the number of foals born.”