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 descendants 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 the horses to live as wild as possible, so no water or food is provided for 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 younger stallions that have not yet gathered their own harems.
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 domesticated 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.
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Thought For The Day – Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment. – Benjamin Franklin