Chincoteague is a small island and historic fishing village on Virginia's Eastern Shore. The island was once famous for its oysters but is now more known for the annual swim and auction of the wild horses of Assateague.
Like much of Virginia, Chincoteague Island is a fantastic place for a vacation, no matter the time of year. Some would even argue that the so called "off season," when crowds are smaller, is the best time to visit! Whatever your take, there is no denying that the yearly pony swim is an exciting, unusual, and historic event.
Wild Horses ... or Ponies?
The "Chincoteague Pony" actually lives on neighboring Assateague Island. In fact, in Maryland, the animals are known as the "Assateague Horse" and not thought of as a proper pony at all.
Assateague's 37 mile length shares shoreline with both Maryland and Virginia. The island is famous for its pristine beaches, variety of birds, historic lighthouse, and wild ponies.
Though commonly referred to as "wild," Chincoteague Ponies are actually feral, with fully domesticated ancestors. No one is quite sure of their origin, with competing theories of either colonial or Spanish shipwreck ancestry.
Wherever they came from, wild or feral, horse or pony, one thing is undeniable: they're beautiful.
Annual Chincoteague Pony Swim
One of the best ways to see these beautiful and unique animals is during the annual pony swim and auction.
Though the horses run free much of the year, they are looked after by the local volunteer fire company. These Salt Water Cowboys watch over the herds to make sure they stay healthy. Part of this process is keeping the herd size down.
Rather than cull the animals, the annual pony swim allows for both a health check and an auction of foals. The annual pony swim and auction coincides each year with the Chincoteague Fireman's Carnival, making for lots of fun. Proceeds from both the pony auctions and the carnvial go towards caring for the remaining horses for the rest of the year.
This year's Pony Swim day is Wednesday July 24, 2019. The Chincoteague Fireman's Carnival runs Fridays and Saturdays, from June 28th to July 27th, 2019.
The Wild Horses of Assateague
Pony Swim Day isn't your only chance during the year to see the wild horses of Assateague. There are health check Pony-Penning days in spring and fall, too. You can learn more about that and more on the Chincoteague Chamber website.
Both the wild ponies and Chincoteague were made famous by Marguerite Henry's 1947, "Misty of Chincoteague" book series. You can see a taxidermy of the real Misty of Chincoteague, and plenty more at the Museum of Chincoteague.
Virginia is home to a lot of fascinating history and wonderful places. When it comes to vacation success, however, the quality of your accommodations is just as important as those that you visit. For the best in Virginia lodging, look no further than a locally owned Virginia B&B. A Virginia Bed and Breakfast not only offers superior hospitality but also inside info on what to do and see. Make the most of your next Virginia vacation. Make it a Virginia B&B!