Many things may be uncertain right now, but owners of a small family farm in North Whidbey are certain their mission to breed critically endangered species is a worthwhile one.
Shuna and George Cerrato of Cascadia Heritage Farm recently welcomed four new foals of the Dales pony breed, with the newest one being born just last week.
According to George, the breed’s popularity with the British Army in both world wars led to its near extinction. Many of the ponies did not survive and many of those that did were left behind in Europe, where they were often slaughtered for food, the BBC reported.
The Cerratos said they believe there are only a handful of Dales pony breeders in the U.S.
“They’re really a great all-around horse, which means you can use them for riding, pulling things,” George said.
“They’re very friendly. They love people,” Shuna said. “Being ponies, they have a lot of character.”
On a sunny afternoon the foals Belle, Blossom, Bounce and Brilliant are energetic, running back and forth in a pasture belonging to the Cerratos’ neighbors. Despite their vigor they are still young and stick close to their mothers.
When they are fully grown, Dale ponies are no small creatures. Shuna said the breed falls just short of being classified as a horse because of its height.
Besides the Dales ponies, the Cerratos also have bred San Clemente Island goats, another endangered breed.
“The reason we kind of hung our hats on these critically endangered animals is difference,” George explained. “Difference matters. Diversity matters. We believe it matters and we’re going to keep fighting for it.”
The couple moved to Whidbey Island on a whim in 2011 after purchasing a log cabin near the edge of Deception Pass State Park.
Coming from a busy life in Seattle, they turned their efforts towards small-scale farming, raising their son Viggo at the same time.
“We want to have our son grow up in a world where this doesn’t become an abnormality, that this type of option for people can still be available,” Geroge said about life on a farm.
Acknowledging that having domestic animals around is becoming a rare activity in itself, George encourages others to experience it.
Starting Cascadia Heritage Farm wasn’t easy for the Cerratos, but now they are motivated by their mission to raise interest in the endangered breeds.
Some of the newly born Dales pony foals will likely be sold to a breeder or someone wanting to start a small farm.