CURRENT FAST FACTS
- The best way to view the wild horses is with the staff of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. Unless you are very experienced in driving in deep, loose sand, driving on the beach and behind the dunes can be treacherous. Click here for tour information.
- STAY AT LEAST 50 FEET AWAY (6 CAR LENGTHS) IT’S THE LAW IN CURRITUCK COUNTY.
Click here to read the wild horse ordinance.
- 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.
Descended from the best breeding stock that the royal farms of Spain had to offer, the Colonial Spanish Mustangs now roaming the northernmost Outer Banks used to live an isolated life among the sea oat covered dunes. This hardy breed had to quickly adapt to a very specialized diet of coarse salt grass, sea oats, panic grass, acorns and persimmons found in five main habitat areas. For nearly 500 years, areas of dune grass, dry grassland, wet grassland, tidal fresh water marsh, and maritime forest have provided food and shelter. The horses have learned to “graze high” in order to help limit their intake of sand and as time went on, continue to adapt to new plants introduced by the actions of a growing number of humans. The Currituck Sound (a fresh water estuarine system) has provided a constant source of water, as does numerous ponds, puddles, and manmade canals.
When the area around Nags Head was discovered as a vacation destination in the 1800’s and development began in earnest, the horses’ lives were changed forever. Wild horses were pushed further and further to the north and south of Nags Head. In 1926, there were 5,000 wild horses all up and down the Outer Banks. Today, there are less than 130 North of Corolla and between 120 and 130 on Shackleford Banks.
The paved road stopped near the Sanderling in Duck until 1985. Once RT 12 was paved and extended to Corolla, wild horses began to get hit by cars. In 1995, the remaining 20 horses were moved even further north to the beaches accessible only by 4 –wheel drive. They are contained between two sound-to-sea fences that are 11 miles apart. The total area accessible to the wild horses is 7,544 acres. It is NOT a dedicated horse sanctuary. Nearly 70% of the land is privately owned, is 20.9% built out, and there are 3,150 platted lots.