There was a time when wild horses were a common sight in North America. The elegant animals could be seen galloping across the West or grazing in Midwestern prairies. But the places that wild horses call home have dwindled to a just a handful—which is what makes Assateague Island such a special place. The remote island between Virginia and Maryland is home to over 300 wild horses. Experts believe that they are descendants of domesticated horses brought to the island over 400 years ago. Today the horses are self-sufficient and live in harmony with other wildlife species on the island.
Assateague Island straddles the Virginia-Maryland border and is home to long sandy beaches, native species of birds, and 300 protected wild horses.
Because Assateague’s horses descended from of domestic animals, these “wild” horses are more technically classified as feral horses.
And after centuries of surviving the remote islands tough environment, the horses have become truly unique.
The horses live herds of two to 12 horses per group with herds in Virginia and Maryland separated by a fence along the state border.
Visitors to the island are warned against feeding the horses since processed human food can easily make the horses sick.
The horses eat marsh and sand dune grasses, bayberry twigs, rosehips, and persimmons.
The National Park Service and Fish & Wildlife Service make sure the horses’ habitat is kept safe.
Every July, they round up 150 horses and guide them across the Assateague Channel onto Chincoteague Island. The horses are auctioned off and sold to protect Assateague Island from over-population. The horses that are sold are said to adjust easily to domestic life.
Locals cherish the horses so much that they even appear in children’s artwork!
If you’re lucky enough to visit the island, please respect the horses and their environment so that they survive for many generations to come!
Share if you agree these rare wild horses are simply beautiful!
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