Where To Find The Last Of The Wild Horses
 By Winniefield Park   •   19th Jun 2013   •   3,761 views   •   0 comments
Where To Find The Last Of The Wild Horses

Once upon a time, wild horses roamed the grassy plains of Asia, the Americas and areas of Europe. For the most part, they were small stocky, hardy, almost pony-like animals. Over time, they disappeared from the Americas, leaving only their fossilized remains as evidence of their existence. There are a few theories as to why this may have happened. Were they hunted to extinction or did a disease wipe them out? Experts speculate that horses in North America, like woolly mammoths in Europe were killed off by hunters. There is evidence however, that North American horses crossed a land bridge to northern Asia, and continued to exist there.

Any wild horses that live in the USA and Canada now are actually feral horses. These horses are descendants of domestic horses that were brought by Europeans. Domestic horses either escaped or were set free and reproduced. As these horses had to endure the rigors of wild life, foraging for sometime sparse food and avoiding predators, they physically adapted by becoming smaller, hardier, with larger feet and shorter legs. By nature, they are also more suspicious of humans. In a way, reverse evolution has occurred, reverting them to a more primitive state.

Most herds of wild horses in North America and many in Europe and Asia are feral horses. Here are a few places wild and feral horses live in relative freedom.

The North American Mustang
Mustangs, which are feral horses, live in bands from Texas, north to British Columbia. Some herds are managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Some of these horses carry the genetics of the Spanish horses that first set hoof in the Americas centuries ago.

The Australian Brumby
Like the Mustang, the Brumby herds of Australia trace their ancestry to the first horses European settlers brought to that continent. They can be a mix of Timor Ponies, Arabians, Thoroughbreds, draft and pony breeds. Similar to Mustang herds, they are managed and occasionally ‘mustered’ to reduce the herd size. The mustered horses are then adopted as working or pleasure horses.

East Coast Feral Populations
Most well known of these wild horse bands are the Sable Island and Assateague Island Ponies. These ponies are descendants of shipwreck survivors. There are other small populations in Shackelford Banks off of North Carolina’s outer banks and on Cumberland Island off the coast of Georgia. These horses have thrived despite the very challenging environment they live in.

The last true purebred Tarpan may have died in 1909. Tarpans were hunted into extinction by humans, and may be the horses depicted in cave paintings drawn by primitive man. Tarpan herds roamed northern Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, and western Russia. Because the Tarpan is the ancestor of several European pony breeds, an attempt has been made to recreate the Tarpan by breeding horses carrying similar genetics. The offspring of this project, although called the Modern Tarpan, are not purebreds. Neanderthal Park in Germany features a small herd in a protected environment in addition to several other ancient animal breeds and types.

The Konik horses live in protected freedom in several European countries. Konik is the Polish word for pony. Although they look like a Tarpan, with a dun-colored coat, dorsal stripes, and stocky build, they are not thought to be related

Asian Wild Horse
Perhaps the most well known true wild horse is the Przewalskii horse. Russian Captain Nikolai Mikailovich Przewalskii discovered this small, hardy horse as he traveled through the wilderness valleys of Mongolia. They closely resemble the Tarpan. Przewalskii’s horse almost became extinct, but through a careful conservation effort, about three hundred of these horses roam free in a protected national park in the Mongolian steppes.
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