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.
Trending Videos View All Videos. Faka'apa'apa Apr 22, In Her Shoes: India Mar 7, Sponsored Find yourself again: A solo road trip in Idaho Jul 9, Top Countries. United States. Puerto Rico. Top Cities View All Destinations. Buenos Aires. Dallas-Fort Worth. Mexico City. Trending Countries. Trending Cities. Travel Map. About Matador. Matador Trips Newsletter Contribute. More like this. Outdoor The 7 best horseback-riding experiences in South America. Wildlife Trip Planning. What did you think of this story?
Trending Now. The tallest, spikiest, and most colorful cactuses you can see in the Southwest. The most underrated, crowd-free national monuments in the West. The most beautiful and emptiest state parks in New England. We think you might also like. News Wombats are the heroes of the Australian fires, sheltering animals in their burrows Jan 15, Eben Diskin. Travel Greece is open to travelers, and it may be your best summer option Jun 8, Maria Iotova.
Outdoor 8 experiences you need to have in Hawaii, no matter what island you visit Mar 5, Aryana Azari. Entertainment Check out these 7 dinner theaters for the best old-fashioned entertainment in the US Jan 7, Eben Diskin. Culture 5 former Olympic villages you can still visit today Mar 12, Bonnie Culbertson.