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The Spanish Mustang is a horse breed of historical importance. They descend from horses introduced from Spain during the early conquest of the Americas beginning with the arrival of the Conquistadors in the 15th century. They are a type that today is mostly or wholly now extinct in Spain. The wild horses of North Carolina’s Outer Banks have become an icon and part of America’s heritage. The Shackleford and Corolla herds are registered Colonial Spanish Mustangs. Their small numbers have placed them on the critical breed list of the American Livestock Breed Conservancy and the Equus Survival Trust. Both national groups work to save endangered breeds of livestock. The next category is extinction.

The wild horses have survived more than four centuries of hurricanes, fierce winter nor’easters, and swarms of biting insects. Graced with a strong, inner sense of self-preservation, the horses enjoy a rich and distinguished history. 

The Outer Banks consist of a series of bar-rier islands made entirely of sand. They

stretch 175 miles south from the Virginia border to Cape Lookout National Seashore. Once a hideout for pirates, the area now attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists. 

According to National Geographic, five to six thousand wild horses lived up and down the state’s coast as recently as 1926. Now, only about 220 remain. A herd of one hundred wild horses lives on the north beaches of Corolla, in Currituck County. The others live on Shackleford Banks—part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore—in Carteret County.

Three main theories exist as to how the horses ended up in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. One states that as ships wrecked and sunk, the strongest horses aboard may have swum to the barrier islands. Another is that as some ships hit dangerous sandbars, they could no longer float. Excess weight had to be pushed overboard, including animals. The third is that they were left behind when a colony was abandoned due to disputes with American Indians or devastating illnesses.

The English word "mustang" comes from the Mexican Spanish word mestengo, derived from Spanish mesteño, meaning "stray livestock animal". The Spanish word in turn may possibly originate from the Latin expression animalia mixta (mixed beasts), referring to beasts of uncertain ownership, which were distributed in shepherd councils, known as mestas in medieval Spain. Amestengo was any animal distributed in those councils, and by extension any feral animal.

An Endangered Breed of livestock ... with possible Extinction

Mother & Daughter , Shackleford Banks

Ponies and Shorebirds taken on Rachel Carson Reserve

All images copyright Scott Taylor, All Rights Reserved.

Scott Taylor, Scott Taylor Photography Tel: 252-241-0163  email: staylor@clis.com

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