There’s even one silver-haired stud named Fabio
Credit: Virginia State Parks
Just when you think the world is devoid of magic, one tiny, pony-filled town in Appalachia comes onto our radar to change all of that. That’s right, more than 100 wild ponies roam freely in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area and Grayson Highlands State Park, both located in southwestern Virginia.
One silver-haired stallion in particular is famous for, well, getting around. And when one park ranger likened his image to the famous ‘90s actor and romance novel model, Fabio, the name caught on. In an interview with Smithsonian.com, the park’s recreation program manager, Sara Abbott, said, “Fabio had been the leader of one of the herds for years. But then we noticed that the mares were no longer giving birth to young in that herd, so we concluded that Fabio isn’t able to do what he needs to do anymore.”
Credit: Virginia State parks
Don’t worry, Fabio, there are plenty of other, subtler ways to express your sensuality as you age. And despite the head honcho of this Appalachian pony club taking a knee, the herd’s population has remained strong. Living comfortably on the 200,000 acres of forest and grasslands circling Virginia’s tallest mountain, Fabio and his crew have been a major tourist attraction for decades.
And it’s easy to see why. These days, there are very few places in the U.S. where undomesticated horses can exist undisturbed—let alone adorable ponies. While there isn’t a detailed history of how these ponies came to inhabit such a vast area of protected land, the U.S. Forest Service does favor one theory. That is, local ranchers bred the animals to withstand the harsh conditions of the Appalachian Mountains with little to no maintenance. Set free, their population size quickly took off.
Abbott confirms the pint-size horses have been in the area for a while now, saying, “The ponies have been in these mountains since the 1940s, prior to the National Forest ownership that occurred in the 1960s.” And should you decide to hike the Appalachian Trail today, there’s a good chance you’ll spot one of these mystical creatures along the way.