Are There Still Wild Horses?

Kaela Schraer, DVM
Written by:
Published: July 18, 2022
Are There Still Wild Horses?

There is evidence that horses were first domesticated about 6000 years ago. Since then, horses have become very close partners with humans. They have been used in roles including farming, travel, war, entertainment, sport, and even simply as pets. The population of truly wild horses has decreased significantly over time. Our close relationships with these beautiful and powerful animals make the idea of horses in the wild that much more fascinating.

Are There Still Wild Horses in the World?

Most of the horses found in the wild around the world are actually feral horses. These are horses that are descended from horses that were domesticated at some point in history. Feral horses can be found all around the world. This includes:

  • American Mustangs

  • Brumby horses of Australia

  • Namib Desert horses of Africa

  • Misaki-Uma horses of Japan

  • Cimmaron in South America

  • Camargue horses in France

The only truly wild horses with no domesticated ancestors left in the world are Przewalski’s horses.

Are There Any Wild Horses Left in the United States?

All the horses that live in the wild in the United States are feral horses. Many are believed to be descended from horses originally brought over with Spanish explorers in the 1400s and 1500s. Those that escaped during expeditions or were purposely left behind thrived in the lush natural environment. Some of the better known populations include the Mustangs that range the American west and the Chincoteague ponies that live off the coast of Maryland and Virginia.

Przewalski's Horse

Przewalski’s horses were first discovered in the late 1800s in Mongolia and named after the Russian explorer N.M. Przhevalsky. In the last century, these wild horses have become endangered due to human interference and climate change. Conservationists in partnership with zoos have strived to increase the population through breeding and reintroduction programs in recent decades.

Additionally, the Mongolian government has listed Przewalski’s horses as a protected species. With only one group of truly wild horses left in the world, there is good reason to protect and preserve these unique animals.

References

  1. Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. Encyclopedia Britannica. Przewalski’s horse. 2020.
  2. Smithsonian's National Zoo. Przewalski's Horse. 2021.

Featured Image: iStock.com/loflo69


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