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Photo Shows Ponies Gathering To ‘Mourn’ A Member Of Their Family

“I felt heartbroken.”

Seeing the dead pony on the side of the road was upsetting enough. But to Sarah Simmons, the woman who made the sad discovery, it was more unsetting to see five other ponies standing close to the road, watching over the body. Simmons believed that the ponies were grieving.

She snapped a photo of the scene and posted it on Facebook — and it quickly went viral.

“I felt heartbroken,” Simmons, a longtime resident of New Forest, Hampshire, in southern England, told The Dodo. “And I found it quite poignant that the other ponies were mourning the loss of a herd member.”

Ponies “mourning” the death of a family member | Sarah Simmons

Simmons knew the pony who’d died — her name was Hazel Hill Scrap, and she was a 9-year-old mare who belonged to a friend of hers. She also recognized two others. “The gray mare and the dark filly at the front of the group looking on [were] actually her mother and half sister,” Simmons said.

These weren’t ordinary ponies — they were “New Forest ponies,” a rare native pony that has roamed the British Isles for thousands of years. While locals own some of the New Forest ponies, others are fully wild. But all New Forest ponies — whether they’re owned or wild — wander freely through the forests and villages.

But sadly, the ponies pay a high price for their freedom. 

They technically have the right of way on the forest roads, according to Simmons, but people often drive too quickly and hit the animals. And the person who hit Hazel Hill Scrap didn’t bother to stop and help her. 

new forest pony mourning england
Hazel Hill Scrap with her owners | Sarah Simmons

Marc Bekoff, an animal behavior expert, said there’s no doubt that ponies grieve. As for whether that’s exactly what the ponies were doing at the moment this photo was snapped, it’s hard to say without seeing their movements, he added, but noted that “the corpse of their dead friend surely has piqued their curiosity.”

Whatever the ponies were thinking as they gazed at Hazel Hill Scrap’s body, her death is a huge loss, Simmons said.

“This pony and her breed lines are irreplaceable,” Simmons explained. “She [would] have bred the next generation, and this has been lost now. This doesn’t help the New Forest pony — as of 2014, it’s been added to the rare breeds survival trust list. We really should be getting more awareness of the breed and its ancient habitat before it risks being lost forever.”

For more information about New Forest ponies and how you can help protect them, you can visit The New Forest Trust