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All rights reserved. Parker Flannery, a close friend of mine, proposed that we drop out of school, adopt wild horses, and attempt to traverse the Continental Divide Trail. Being 20 years old and in way over our heads, we adopted the biggest, stoutest, and most dominant horses they had available. The trip completely changed my life. Being from Texas, where there is virtually no public land, I was blown away by the sheer size and majesty of our vast public lands in the American West. I was equally as amazed—and shocked—at the plight of the wild horses and burros. In there were nearly 31, wild horses and burros in government holding facilities and 37, in the wild—in an area that supposedly had enough forage for only 27, horses. Numbers have grown steadily since then. Wanting to find homes for the horses in the government holding pens, I gathered three friends and planned to do another long ride to promote wild horse adoptions—this time going all the way from Mexico to Canada through the most backcountry route left in the American West. To raise awareness, we created a documentary, Unbranded.
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Carefully, Dr Ovidiu Rosu aims his gun through the tilted window of his truck. There is no obstacle between him and the mare grazing on the sparse vegetation of the German Fields in the Danube Delta. A sea of purple coloured grasses that almost resemble corals in the sea stretches until the horizon in any direction. Getting to this point is quite the journey: After making it passed the clogged highway that circles around Rumania's capitol Bukarest it takes another four hours of driving towards the Eastern borders of the country. The roads are becoming emptier and emptier the further we approach our destination. Finally we reach the port town of Tulcea, from which we have to take a boat to cross the Danube river, as Letea and its surrounding municipalities are not connected to Romania's road network. As the shores of the Danube Delta pass by left and right we further leave behind civilisation with every minute that passes. After setting anchor in Letea we get to gaze at our home for the next couple of days for the first time: a place without hotels, restaurants, shops and almost without tourists. As the wild horses, in search for food, enter the forest and gnaw on the rare and protected trees and vegetation, it was decided that they pose a risk for the highly protected area. In , the local population was offered a reward for every horse they catch, which lead to mares and stallions being captured using brutal methods.
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Assateague's wild horses are well known, even to many people who have never been to the island. The "wild" horses on Assateague are actually feral animals, meaning that they are descendants of domestic animals that have reverted to a wild state. Horses tough enough to survive the scorching heat, abundant mosquitoes, stormy weather and poor quality food found on this remote, windswept barrier island have formed a unique wild horse society. Enjoy their beauty from a distance, and you can help make sure these extraordinary wild horses will continue to thrive on Assateague Island. Local folklore describes the Assateague horses as survivors of a shipwreck off the Virginia coast. While this dramatic tale of struggle and survival is popular, there are no records yet that confirm it. The most plausible explanation is that they are the descendants of horses that were brought to barrier islands like Assateague in the late 17th century by mainland owners to avoid fencing laws and taxation of livestock. The horses are split into two main herds, one on the Virginia side and one on the Maryland side of Assateague. These herds have divided themselves into bands of two to twelve animals and each band occupies a home range. The National Park Service manages the Maryland herd.

For most people , the idea of wild horses conjures up images of proud mustangs galloping across the American prairie. Yet the last truly wild horses disappeared from North America at the end of the last ice age, about 12, years ago. In fact, there are no wild horses left in the world today. Experts believe that horses were domesticated around BC in the Eurasian steppes, a vast temperate region of grasslands and savannas stretching from modern-day Bulgaria to Mongolia.

As people traveled and traded across the world, they took their pack animals with them. But while these horses are not truly wild in biological terms, they are certainly wild in attitude. And for many of us, they embody the essence of freedom. Today, free-ranging horses can be found on every continent except Antarctica.

Here are the best places to see them in the wild. Horses first returned to the Americas with the Spanish. In summer, they can be seen grazing throughout the park. Photo: Gary C. The horses are relatively easy to find on the East Pryor Mountain and in the desert lowlands.

For the best chance of spotting them, keep your eyes peeled while driving along Highway 37 in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. The best places to spot them are the watering holes east of Reno. If you are driving through the area, keep an eye out for the horses along Route Between 80 and horses live among the 36, acres of plateaus and canyons in Little Book Cliffs in Colorado. The best way to find them is by hiking or horseback riding through the rugged terrain.

Across the border in Canada , free-ranging horses can be found in the Rocky Mountains in Alberta. Romanticized by novels and movies, the brumby, as the free-ranging horse is known in Australia , is a contentious issue for the government, the wildlife conservationalists, and the Australian public. Like the mustang, the brumby originated from domestic horses brought to Australia by the European settlers. But in the absence of natural predators and other large grazing animals to compete with, brumby population grew unchecked. The challenge for Australian National Parks is to find the balance between the heritage value of the horses and the damage they cause to the environment.

The alpine wilderness of Kosciuszko National Park is home to anywhere between 4, and 8, horses that can be seen grazing throughout the park. The park has several hiking trails that provide a good opportunity for spotting the brumbies, especially from the higher viewpoints. One of the most unusual environments to see horses in Australia is the arid Outback. In stark contrast to Australia, free-ranging horses are welcomed in Europe. The last naturally occurring populations of free-ranging primitive European horse are found in Portugal , where they are protected by law despite the uncertainty of their origins.

In recent years, captive-bred Konik horses have been reintroduced in many European countries as part of Rewilding Europe initiative. The Konik horse, also known as the Polish primitive horse, looks more like an ancient cave painting than a modern-day thoroughbred.

It is a short, stocky animal with a small head and thick mane, close in appearance to the Tarpan, the extinct native wild horse of the Eurasian steppes. Poland is the birthplace of the Konik captive breeding program. Photo: T. The reintroduction of Konik horses in Oostvaardersplassen Nature Reserve in the Netherlands has been a bittersweet success.

The population grew rapidly from the 18 individuals released in to hundreds of individuals today. Unfortunately, the booming population has exceeded the carrying capacity of the relatively small reserve, and many horses died of starvation during a hard winter last year.

The Eastern Rhodope mountains in south Bulgaria are home to about 70 reintroduced horses. Some of the best places to see them are Byala Reka and Studen Kladenets. The last wild mare was trapped in to bolster the genome of the captive population. Perhaps the most unusual patch of wild horse habitat is the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone , where the horses were reintroduced in a nature reserve before the infamous nuclear disaster in Originally, horses arrived in Japan with nomads from Mongolia, and the modern-day, semi-wild populations trace their roots to these domesticated founders.

The origin of the Namib Desert horse is unclear, but one of the more interesting theories attributes it to a shipwrecked cargo ship that was carrying thoroughbreds to Australia. Unlike most free-ranging horses today, Namib Desert horses look like well-bred riding horses.

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