The Rolling Stones may be the first thing to come to your mind when you think of wild horses, their hit song resonates around the world but perhaps never more than ever with the real wild horses of the American National Parks system. Horses originated in North America over 55 million years ago and in some areas of the states today they’re considered a pest. Most wild horses today can be found in the state of Nevada but many roam the National Parks, and below is a list of the most well-known spots for getting closer to these animals.
Assateague Island, National Seashore
Assateague Island isn’t the easiest place for wild horses to live, with an enormous mosquito population, stormy weather and burning heat, the feral collection of horses do very well to survive. The population on Assateague have separated themselves into two herds, one on the Virginia side of the island and one on the Maryland state line side. They are well looked after but should not be considered tame, many visitors are injured each year when they get too close to these wild and unpredictable animals.
Theodore Roosevelt, North Dakota
The modern day horse was extinct in America 10,000 years ago but was reintroduced by the Spanish in the 16th century, escaped horses became known as ‘mustangs’ from the Spanish for wild, and also as feral, as they came from domesticated stock. The wild horses of Theodore Roosevelt National park were at one point in danger of being removed as they were considered a pest by ranch owners, however they were recognised as part of the history of the park in the 1970s and now a herd of between 70-110 animals exist for tourists to experience the wild open range ranching era of Theodore Roosevelt.
Wyoming is home to the America’s second-largest wild horse population (behind Nevada); the best place to spot them in Yellowstone is in the Red Desert region. East of Cody the McCullough peaks are said to be home to a group of mustang descendants of Buffalo Bill’s horses, although arguably the most famous herd is the Pryor Mountain herd, seen in Wyoming and Montana.
Bighorn Canyon, Montana, Wyoming
A mixture of European, Asian and Arabian horses roam in the Pryor Mountains, a quarter of which is inside the Bighorn Canyon Recreation Area. Unusual features of the Spanish bands of these wild horses are dorsal stripes on the back and zebra strikes on the legs. The herd is protected but also controlled so every so often when the herd gets to a certain size, they are rounded up and checked for disease, those who carry the most are put up for an adoption program and the wild west lives on in this area of America.
Cape Lookout, North Carolina
Shackleford Banks is the southern-most barrier island of Cape Lookout National Seashore and home to over 110 wild horses, its 9 miles contains many unique habitats of the barrier islands which the horses have made their home.
In 1971 horses gained feral protection in the United States and now there are many places to see them especially in the American National Park areas, they represent the American Wild West and a heritage which extends the country itself and should be kept protected.
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Morgan Quarter is a horse enthusiast living in Essex, England. Her passion for wild horses began on holiday in Wales, and now she travels all over the world to find them, including Mongolia reserves and United States tours to national parks which protect horses.