Whether it is birds, mammal, fish, reptiles, or invertebrates that most interest you the New Forest supports an exceptional range. Species threatened elsewhere continue to survive in the New Forest: The Dartford Warbler, Curlew and Lapwing are well known by those who spend time in the Forest, as are the smooth snake and adder. This special landscape provides a unique home for all six of Britain’s species of reptile.
Of course, the most iconic beast is the New Forest pony. Although it is now designated a “rare breed”, commoners have made great efforts to produce high quality pure-bred registered ponies, which are internationally popular for riding and showing. The New Forest Stallion Scheme, for example, means that only a small number of carefully chosen stallions are allowed out early in the Summer, selected for their quality, bloodlines, and temperament. Similarly some owners of cattle and pigs have worked hard to build a market for their genuine “New Forest” produce, although most cattle that have benefitted from grazing the Forest are sold on to farmers to finish for market.
Some of the special creatures that survive in the grazed New Forest are much smaller than its most obvious inhabitants. The area is particularly rich, for example, in invertebrates and pond life.
Rare birds and butterflies survive on the grazed Forest whilst their habitats have been lost elsewhere in southern England: Curlew, Lapwing and all Cuckoo remain familiar on the New Forest. The grazing and traditional land management systems of the New Forest, which have been continuous over centuries, have preserved an essential mosaic of connected habitats, with a rich variety of vegetation. The grazing and rotational management of gorse and heather maintain the mix of heights and densities that are crucial to many species.