Corolla Wild Horses
Living on the islands of North Carolina's Outer Banks the Corolla Wild Horses are small, hardy, and have a docile temperament. Descended from domesticated Spanish horses and possibly brought to the Americas in the 16th century, the ancestral foundation bloodstock may have become feral after surviving shipwrecks or being abandoned on the islands by one of the exploratory expeditions. Thousands of them once roamed the length of the Outer Banks of North Carolina but now their numbers have dwindled to about 140 strong and occupies more than 7,500 acres of narrow land that stretches from the end of Highway 12 in Corolla to the Virginia border, 11 miles north. Lacking natural predators, and trapped by fences that jut into the choppy Atlantic, the herd is becoming so inbred that its advocates fear a genetic collapse in mere generations. These supporters are leading a campaign to save the Corolla herd, and they have powerful allies in Congress. In February, the House passed a bill that would sustain the herd at about 120 and allow the importing of new mares from Shackleford for an introduction of fresh genes. Visitors to the Outer Banks 4WD area are able to view the horses by driving along the beach or taking a guided tour of the area. The best way to view the horses is with a guided tour. Driving on the deep loose sand can be dangerous at times. Facts • STAY AT LEAST 50 FEET AWAY (6 CAR LENGTHS) IT’S THE LAW IN CURRITUCK COUNTY. DO NOT FEED. Besides being illegal, feeding a wild horse puts it at great risk for agonizing and sometimes fatal colic. Wild horses that begin to approach people as a result of being fed must be captured and permanently removed from the beach because they have become a threat to human safety. • The wild horses of Corolla are registered Colonial Spanish Mustangs and are horses not ponies. Other breeds have been introduced into the pony herds in Chincoteague and Assateague. They are ponies not horses. • The Corolla Wild Horse Fund does not auction horses. The Fund rescues, rehabilitates, and finds loving adoptive homes for horses removed for the treatment of life threatening illnesses or injuries, or those that have begun to approach people as a result of being illegally fed. • Once a wild horse has been removed from the beach and exposed to domestic horses while receiving treatment, it can never return. It could possibly carry back a disease for which the wild horses have no immunity. • There are 24 to 25 harems in the Corolla herd. A harem is the family of a stallion generally consisting of one to four mares and possibly a yearling colt or filly. • Stallions that are either too young, too old, or not aggressive enough to have their own harem, travel together in groups called bachelor stallions. • Each harem has a home territory that they inhabit most of their lives. • The Corolla wild horses usually live into their late teens. • A herd count is conducted annually by helicopter and compared to the Herd Manager’s field notes. • Over seventy percent of the harems are consistently found living on private land. • Our wild horses have learned to tolerate the presence of humans. They see thousands every week but they are WILD ANIMALS and unpredictable. You can easily be bitten, kicked, or find yourself in the midst of a stallion battle. • It is especially important to keep a respectful distance when foals are present. Getting too close disrupts their opportunity to nurse or nap. • PLEASE DON’T CLIMB ON THE DUNES. It’s against the law and every step breaks them down further. They are our only protection from the fury of the ocean during hurricanes and nor’easters.