The Sable Island Horses of Nova Scotia

horses of sable island iii

The Sable Island Horses of Nova Scotia, Canada

“The Sable Island horse, sometimes referred to as the Sable Island pony, is a type of small feral horse found on Sable Island, an island off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada. It is a small type, often pony sized, but with a horse phenotype and horse ancestors, and usually dark in colour. The first horses were released on the island in the late eighteenth century, and soon became feral. Additional horses were later transported to improve the herd’s breeding stock. They were rounded up for private use and sale for slaughter, which by the 1950s had placed them in danger of extinction.” -Wikipedia-

Sable Island derived its name from the French word for “sand”. It lacks natural trees, being covered instead with marram grass and other low-growing vegetation. In 1901, the federal government planted over 80,000 trees in an attempt to stabilize the soil; all died. Subsequent plantings resulted in the survival of a single Scots Pine. Although planted in the 1960s, it is only a few feet tall.


The island is home to over 550 free-roaming horses, protected by law from human interference. This feral horse population is likely descended from horses confiscated from Acadians during the Great Expulsion and left on the island by Thomas Hancock, Boston merchant and uncle of John Hancock. In 1879, 500 horses and cattle were estimated to live on the island, and the island vegetation was described as covered with grass and wild peas. In the past, excess horses were rounded up, shipped off the island, and sold, many used in coal mines on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. In 1960, the Canadian Government, under the Canada Shipping Act, gave the horse population full protection from human interference. -Wikipedia-

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Shipwreck survivors published early survival narratives about their experiences at Sable Island, beginning with the sinking of the Delight in 1583. The first formal history of the island, Sable Island: its History and Phenomena, was written in 1894 by George Patterson. Many other histories of the island and its shipwrecks have been published since, such as Lyall Campbell’s two books – Sable Island, Fatal and Fertile Crescent in 1974 and Sable Island Shipwrecks: Disaster and Survival at the North Atlantic Graveyard in 1994 –Wikipedia-

Sable Island is a narrow, crescent-shaped sandbar with a surface area of about 34 km2 (13 sq mi). Despite being nearly 42 km (26 mi) long, it is only 1.5 km (0.93 mi) across at its widest point. It emerges from vast shoals and shallows on the continental shelf, which, in tandem with the area’s frequent fog and sudden strong storms including hurricanes and nor easters, have caused over 350 recorded shipwrecks.






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Jen Goldie

"Life is made up of small comings and goings and for everything we take with us, we leave a part of ourselves behind" - Summer of 42

9 thoughts on “The Sable Island Horses of Nova Scotia”

    1. I visited Salmon Idaho a few times. Coming from a large city it was a real breath of fresh air. Calmed me down. Where I was had a beautiful view of the mountains of Montana. Driving through those mountain highways in winter on the way to Salmon was terryfying LOL

      Liked by 1 person

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