Meet The Beer-Drinking Pony That Made Political History In The UK

Looking at the state of world politics today, it's hard not to think that human beings have made a mess of leadership and wonder if another species of animal could do a better job. It's a question the town of Cockington in Great Britain has taken a stab at answering. On Saturday, July 23, it anointed a miniature Shetland pony named Patrick as its mayor (via Facebook). "We think Patrick the Pony has made history by becoming the first pony mayor in the U.K.," one of Patrick's owners, Kirk Petrakis, said of the occasion (via Food & Wine).

Patrick, who is 4 years old and around 2 feet tall (via the Daily Mail), won't actually be making any political decisions. Instead, he is serving as unofficial mayor after the Devon village's previous human mayor Don Mills passed away in 2019. Interestingly, Patrick is a bit of a write-in candidate since his ascendancy to office came thanks to an online petition. "We believe Patrick would be a brilliant Pony Mayor for Cockington, for being non-judgemental and genuinely caring and supportive to all," the petition read. His owners, Kirk and Hannah Petrakis, made Patrick a chain of office for his appointment ceremony, according to ITV. Patrick also wore a red mayor gown with a white border, The Washington Post reported. The ceremony was also attended by official human politicians, including Member of Parliament for Torbay Kevin Foster. "It was a really lovely occasion," Petrakis told Devon Live.

A born beer drinker

Like any politician, Patrick has his vices. In his case, he enjoys drinking Guinness at Cockington's Drum Inn. Kirk Petrakis began taking Patrick to the pub daily in early 2020 to help him get used to noisy environments filled with lots of people, The Mail reported at the time. While at the pub, Patrick got to enjoy a carrot and a few sips of Guinness. "It's a special treat for him. We decided on Guinness as he was born on St. Patrick's Day," Petrakis told The Mail. 

The early pub visits were the beginning of Patrick's rise to fame. The regulars loved him so much that they decided to throw him a second birthday party, and he grew popular both in person and on social media. "The response was brilliant. People were coming over taking photos and lots of children enjoyed meeting him," Petrakis told The Mail at the time. What's more, Patrick took to fame well. "He loves being in the pub and he really loves all the attention," Petrakis said.

A true public servant

Patrick the Pony's pub visits weren't just a good time. Instead, they were part of what arguably turned him into a better public servant than most politicians. That's because his time at a pub helped him train to become a therapy pony, according to Food & Wine. He has used that training to visit hospitals, mental health facilities, recovery groups, and schools (via ITV). Kirk Petrakis told the Daily Express that Patrick's role as a therapy pony was especially important for the people of Cockington during the coronavirus pandemic. During the lockdown, people could get outside of themselves by watching Patrick on social media, The Washington Post reported. This made them very excited to meet Patrick back at the pub when the lockdown lifted. 

Petrakis recalled one story of a woman who had become afraid to leave her home. "She walked around the village with Patrick and it really helped her," he told the Daily Express. "Now, her family says she's running, and she's living her life again and that's because of Patrick." In addition to one-on-one encounters, Patrick has also raised funds for a variety of causes and is the mascot for the Devon Recovery Learning Community and the War Horse Memorial, according to the petition. "Shortly after he appeared at a fundraising event for Ukraine, someone jokingly said he does so much good work for the community that he should become mayor," Petrakis told the Daily Mail. Thus, the idea for the petition was born, and it quickly gained more than 200 signatures. 

A UK first

Kirk Petrakis said he was heartened by the support Patrick's campaign received. "People are saying Patrick will do better than the Mayor of London," he told the Daily Express. "Patrick will go and see anybody but you've got real politicians who are sitting on the fence, or lying to your face at the moment." 

Patrick is not the first animal to lead a city. A black labrador retriever named Bosco Ramos was mayor of Sunol, California, from 1981 to 1994, according to Atlas Obscura. Stubbs the cat stayed in office even longer, serving as mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska, for 20 years, according to CNN. The town of Omena, Michigan, has only elected animals as mayor for the past 10 years as a special fundraiser for the Omena Historical Society, as All That's Interesting reported. In 2018, a cat named Sweet Tart beat out 13 dogs, a peacock, another cat, and a goat. The town of Fair Haven, Vermont, also uses animal elections as a fundraiser, according to the Associated Press. The most recent victor was a baby goat named Elsa, elected in May 2022. But Patrick's victory is unique in Great Britain, Petrakis said. "It's been done in a few states in the USA before, but never in the U.K. so it would be a first here for an animal to be mayor," he told the Daily Express. 

A stable scandal

Surprisingly, Patrick's term has not been without controversy. Because of his popularity at the Drum Inn, agricultural organization volunteers built Patrick an "interaction pen" in the pub's garden, The Washington Post reported. This was a place where Cockington residents would know they could visit Patrick and was especially important for people with mental or physical illnesses who needed his therapy-pony services, Kirk Petrakis said. However, less than two weeks after his anointment ceremony, someone complained to the local council about the pen, and it was taken down. The Torbay Council told the pub it would need to get the right permission to host the pen, something the pub wasn't prepared to pay for (via Newsweek)

Some townspeople suspect the complaint was motivated by political jealousy. "I'm pretty certain it's all about Patrick becoming mayor, it's someone who doesn't like that," area man Leon Butler told The Times of London (via Newsweek). Member of Parliament Kevin Foster, who attended Patrick's swearing-in, thought the council had failed to read the room. "The move to make Patrick 'mayor' was meant as a lighthearted and humorous way to promote Cockington Village to tourists," Foster told The Washington Post. "Yet the over-the-top reaction of Torbay Council in response to one complaint is the real joke." But for Hannah Petrakis, the incident was no laughing matter. "I was in tears because it wasn't just a pen, it's what it represented," she told the Daily Mail. "All we wanted was to help people."