The Wild Horses of the Outer Banks

by Jul 30, 2023North Carolina

A Corolla Wild Mustang Stands On The Beach With Waves Behind.

Wild horses of the Outer Banks of North Carolina can be seen near Corolla in the north or Shackleford Banks near Beaufort in the south. Enjoy this gallery of wild horse photos.

Seeing the wild horses of the Outer Banks in North Carolina is a breathtaking experience. Backlit by a morning or late afternoon sun, swimming between marshy islands, or galloping through shallow water, these protected Spanish mustangs have come to represent wildness and freedom.

While no one knows for certain how these horses first arrived in the Outer Banks, equine geneticists have established a direct link to colonial Spanish horses dating back to the conquistador, making them a truly important part of U.S. history and cultural heritage. Of course, since English explorers also used Spanish horses, it is possible some of the lineage also connects to English colonies and shipwrecks.

Though the horses are frequently referred to as “wild” they are also technically “feral.” By definition, wild means an animal lives on its own without assistance or interference from humans. Feral means an animal was once domesticated or its ancestors were once domesticated. Both terms are true when referring to the Spanish horses in the Outer Banks.

Frequently referred to as Banker Horses or Banker Ponies (so named because they are from the Outer Banks of North Carolina), these Spanish wild horses are small but very powerful, standing 11 to 13 hands tall when fully grown (a “hand” equals 4 inches).

There are two significant and protected herds of Spanish wild horses located at opposite ends of the Outer Banks. And both herds offer decidedly different viewing opportunities. The Corolla Wild Horse Fund has managed and protected one herd at the north end since 1989. The wild horse viewing here is along the beach and from vehicles. Organized tours typically depart from the nearby town of Corolla. Read our story on wild horse tours in Corolla to learn more.

Toward the southern end of the Outer Banks, near the town of Beaufort, one finds the Shackleford Banks. Here, the viewing requires a boat to get you out to the horses from the mainland. There are a variety of tour options, including self-guided explorations, which you can learn about in our Shackleford Banks wild horses story. A non-profit group, the Foundation for Shackleford Horses, works closely with the National Park Service to ensure the protection of the wild horses in the Shackleford Banks.

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1 Comment

  1. Patricia Lynn Greenhaw

    I love those Horseyies there related to my Wild Mustang


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