Feral Horse Equus caballus Linnaeus, 1758Non-native    Synonyms: Assateague Pony, Domestic Horse.
Kingdom Animalia   >   Phylum Chordata   >   Class Mammalia   >   Order Perissodactyla   >   Family Equidae   >   Genus Equus   

Status:

The horses are present only on Assateague Island. According to the National Park Service's brochure The Wild Horses of Assateague Island, the horses are descendants of domesticated animals brought to the island more than 300 years ago."Horses tough enough to survive the scorching heat, abundant insects, stormy weather and poor-quality food found on this windswept barrier island have formed a unique wild horse society."

Many consider the population to be a negative influence on island biodiversity.

Description:

During hundreds of years of adaptation to a low-quality diet, the horses have become shorter. Genetically they are considered horses, even though they are now pony size.

Where to find:

In the spring, many of the horses live in the marshes close to new plant growth and the less-salty water that spring rains bring. In the summer, the horses escape the mosquitoes and flies of the marsh by spending more time on the beach and in the surf. In the fall, they move back to the marshes, with their still-abundant grasses. In the winter the horses prefer to browse in shrub thickets.

Relationships:

The horses graze mainly on abundant but nutrient-poor Smooth Cordgrass (formerly called Saltmarsh Cordgrass), Saltmeadow Cordgrass (formerly called Saltmeadow Hay), and Beach Grass.

There are 319 records in the project database.

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Feral Horse in Worcester Co., Maryland (5/13/2011). (c) Bill Hubick, all rights reserved. Photo by Bill Hubick. (MBP list)

A Feral Horse in Worcester Co., Maryland (3/2/2012). Photo by Jared Satchell. (MBP list)

A Feral Horse on Assateague Island, Worcester Co., Maryland (12/10/2014). Photo by Mike Burchett. (MBP list)

Feral Horses on Assateague Island, Worcester Co., Maryland (12/10/2014). Photo by Mike Burchett. (MBP list)

Feral Horse in Worcester Co., Maryland (11/6/2020). (c) Hans Holbrook, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by Hans Holbrook. (MBP list)

Feral Horses in Worcester Co., Maryland (6/23/2016). Photo by Mike Burchett. (MBP list)

Feral Horse in Worcester Co., Maryland (6/13/2017). (c) Chen Zhi, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by Chen Zhi via iNaturalist. (MBP list)

Feral Horse in Worcester Co., Maryland (7/2/2022). (c) fioritim, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by fioritim via iNaturalist. (MBP list)

Feral Horse in Worcester Co., Maryland (6/24/2011). (c) Cricket Raspet, some rights reserved (CC BY). Photo by Cricket Raspet via iNaturalist. (MBP list)

Feral Horses in Worcester Co., Maryland (5/13/2016). Photo by Mike Burchett. (MBP list)

Feral Horse in Worcester Co., Maryland (3/8/2021). (c) tomfeild, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by Tom Feild. (MBP list)

Feral Horse in Worcester Co., Maryland (3/8/2021). (c) tomfeild, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by Tom Feild. (MBP list)

Feral Horse in Worcester Co., Maryland (9/23/2022). (c) cjb42, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by cjb42 via iNaturalist. (MBP list)

Feral Horse in Worcester Co., Maryland (7/30/2023). (c) Cindi Fitzgerald, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by cin579 via iNaturalist. (MBP list)


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