Roaming in the Mongolian steppes, you may find herds of Przewalski’s horses, the one remaining species of wild horse. Other horses commonly considered wild, like mustangs, are actually feral horses - escaped domestic horses. There are also several groups of semi-feral horses, such as Dartmoor ponies, that live mostly independently but with some human intervention.
In this post, we describe different types of wild, feral, and semi-feral horses.
This endangered horse has a dun coat with a pale belly and white muzzle, a dark stripe along its spine, dark lower legs with zebra-like stripes, a dark mane and tail, and no forelock. Pronounced “Shuh-val-ski’s” horse, this short, stocky equine has a large head and thick neck.
Although these hardy horses became extinct in the wild in the 1960s, they were bred in captivity and reintroduced into Mongolia. They live in groups of mares and foals with a single dominant stallion. Younger males live in separate bachelor groups.
This prehistoric wild horse roamed in southern France and Spain and east to central Russia and is depicted in cave paintings in France and Spain. Wild tarpans died out in the 19th century, and the last captive animal died in Russia in 1909.
Ill-tempered tarpans had a long, shaggy coat. In the 20th century, the Heck brothers in Germany combined several breeds to try to recreate the tarpan’s genetic combination.
These descendants of Spanish horses brought to the Americas were often bred with other breeds, including American Quarter Horses and draft horses, leading to horses with a variety of colours and patterns, including bay, sorrel, black, and palomino. They’re generally medium-sized, hardy, and sure-footed with stocky legs.
Mustangs live in small herds in the grasslands of the western United States. Although there are far fewer mustangs than there used to be, their population increases rapidly enough that the American Bureau of Land Management is working to adopt some of them out.
These feral horses escaped from horses brought to Australia by European settlers. With different breeds including Thoroughbred, Arabian, and Australian Draught in their ancestry, they don’t have a consistent appearance.
Hardy, intelligent, athletic brumbies are well-adapted to Australian wetlands, forests, rocky ranges, and tropical grasslands. In fact, with a population of at least 400,000 animals, they’re known to damage vegetation and cause problems for cattle farming, leading to control efforts ranging from fencing to culling.
Dartmoor and Exmoor Ponies
In 2 different English moorlands roam Dartmoor and Exmoor ponies, owned by either private individuals or national park authorities. Both breeds have a thick, woolly lower coat and an oily top coat that snow slides off, plus a coarse mane and tail. Both types of ponies were used historically in mining.
Exmoor ponies are related genetically to the Przewalski’s horse and nearly went extinct in 1946. They’re rounded up annually to establish ownership and apply tags or other marks. Both Exmoor and Dartmoor ponies are down to several hundred animals grazing in the UK, with other ponies in other parts of the world.
This ancient, greyish-white horse breed lives in southern France, grazing in saltmarshes. The animals roam freely but are gathered annually for counting and branding. They’re often used on ranches or for guided rides for tourists.
Do you have a favourite out of these wild, feral, and semi-feral horses? Let us know in the comments!
Hello, My name is Shelby Gatti, and I am the owner of Shelby Ranch. I love being able to share my passion for animals with you and your family. At Shelby Ranch you can expect a ton of family adventure from horseback riding to mechanical bull riding & axe throwing.