No one knows for sure how the wild ponies came to live on the Island of Assateague, Virginia. It seems that everyone has a story. One story says that they are descendants of survivors from a Spanish galleon that sank during a storm in 1750. Another story says that they are descendants from livestock that were taken to the island by the locals during the 17th century to avoid taxation from the British.
Each year on the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in July, the horses are herded together and they swim across the shallow water between the islands. After running through the middle of town and down Main Street the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company auctions the foals from the past year and the remaining ponies swim back to Assateague.
The National park has placed a limit of 150 horses that are allowed on the Island. The Fire Department attempts to keep that number around 140. The money raised from the auction is spent on the upkeep of the animals and maintaining the department.