veryone who visits the New Forest is being asked to keep their distance from the area’s free-roaming animals – to keep themselves safe, to keep the commoners’ animals well and their natural grazing habits intact.

The New Forest is well-known for its free-roaming ponies, donkeys, cattle, pigs and in some places, sheep. For their safety and your own please don’t feed or pet them; there is plenty of natural food and it’s important they don’t come to rely on people. They may look friendly but they are unpredictable, will react very suddenly when they feel threatened, and can barge, bite or kick. This is especially true when they have young with them.

Cattle may seem calm creatures but are very protective of their calves. Please stay away from livestock and avoid getting between the animal and their young. If you have a dog, keep it under effective control – use a lead if necessary.

Feeding ponies is against the byelaws and giving them human food, including things like carrots, causes serious issues in the New Forest. Some ponies and donkeys develop an unhealthy craving for human food and become aggressive with people who, quite rightly, try to keep their picnics to themselves. The animals also tend to gather near roads, looking for people with food, and this makes them more vulnerable to traffic accidents. Human food also gives the ponies colic (bad stomach ache) which is very painful.

Dorset Society:

"The livestock’s natural grazing has, for centuries, kept the New Forest a very special place and makes the New Forest look as it does today," says Nigel Matthews, Head of Recreation and Learning at the New Forest National Park Authority.

"It also maintains the natural habitats that make the area internationally important for nature conservation and keeps the New Forest accessible for everyone to enjoy.

"Interfering with them in any way puts you and them at risk. Animals have died because of artificial feeding, and by being drawn to the car parks and roads. Disrupting their natural grazing habits have led to them becoming ill or losing weight and having to be removed.

"Enjoy your time in the New Forest, but please keep your distance from the animals."