Nov 132009

While you might picture the wide open spaces out West when you think about wild horses, you really don’t have to venture any further than the Outer Banks of North Carolina to see some of these beautiful creatures living wild and free.

Shackleford Banks, an island located three miles from the mainland in Cape Lookout National Seashore, is home to about 100 wild horses that are the descendents of animals abandoned by the Spanish in the 1600s, and others that escaped shipwrecks in the treacherous waters along the coast.

Popular with tourists and beloved by the local people, the National Park Service, which administers the island, wants Wild Horse 3 webthe horses to live as wild as possible, so no water or food is provide them. The horses graze on natural grasses and get fresh water from small ponds and pools on the island.

The horses live in small harems, which are controlled by a mature alpha stallion, and in scattered bachelor bands of Shackleford horseyounger stallions that have not yet gathered their own harem.

As with all wild animals, interaction with human beings is harmful to the horses, and it is illegal for visitors to the island to feed or disturb them. One must keep in mind that though they may look like domestic horses, they are still wild animals, and can be dangerous to people who get too close. The horses are capable of biting and kicking when they feel endangered. One must be careful not to get between a mare and her colt, or two stallions that are fighting.

With no natural predators on Shackleford Banks, to keep their population in balance, the National Park Service occasionally rounds up some members of the herd and offers them to the public for adoption. Because of their natural beauty and intelligence, the horses are very popular with their adoptive owners.

Access to Shackleford Banks is by private boat, or by several privately owned passenger ferries that operate from Beaufort and Harkers Island. There are no facilities on the island, but visitors can bring their own tents and provisions, and camp overnight for up to fourteen days.

Thought For The Day – It was all so different before everything changed.

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Nick Russell

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  4 Responses to “Wild Horses Of Shackleford”

  1. Very Interesting!! Did you guys go there Nick? I sure would love to see more pictures of the horses……

  2. If you’ll be near Wilmington as you head south, the Battleship USS North Carolina is worth a stop. Particularly interesting is to learn how the great ship was moved to its new port. The city of Wilmington had some neat things to visit also, including the federal building used as a backdrop for the series Matlock.

  3. Nick, great post. We had that experience for three months last year at Assateague Island National Seashore run by the NPS in Ocean City, Maryland. We were there as camphosts. That was a real experience.

  4. I thought we had already been everywhere along the coast but we haven’t been there! Thanks for the tip, Nick. Next time down that way we will stop to see this. We have been to Assateague, but would sure like to see this island, too. I think we’ll leave the tent in the RV bay, though!


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