Former pit pony Tony dies at 40
One of the country's last surviving pit ponies has died of old age, the animal shelter which cared for him in retirement said.
Tony lived to the grand age of 40, having had a tough start to life working below ground at the Ellington Pit in Northumberland.
When his work there finished in 1994, he was sent to the Newcastle Cat and Dog Shelter, where he was popular with local schoolchildren - many of whom in later years knew little of the once-proud mining industry.
Tony worked at Ellington with three other ponies - Pike, who also went to the shelter, and Sparky and Carl who went to live at the National Coal Mining Museum for England in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.
Pit ponies spent their lives underground, even being stabled there, apart from the colliery's annual two-week summer break when they were allowed out into the sunshine.
Ellington was the last English pit to use ponies, and Tony outlived his former colleagues, though others from Welsh mines may still survive.
Leyla Rutter, chief executive of Newcastle Cat and Dog Shelter, said: "It is with great sadness that Newcastle Dog and Cat Shelter announce the death of Tony the pony.
"As the last surviving pit pony from Ellington Colliery, his sad death marks the end of an era and an important part of our North East heritage."
Ms Rutter said Tony's last years were healthy and he enjoyed companionship with the other ponies, particularly a Shetland called Willie, and donkeys at the centre.
"We are all very proud of him and he touched people's hearts," she said.