Wild (Feral) Horse
Equus caballus

Other names: Mustang

Habitat: Remote areas of the western United States where grasses and other grazing plants are available. Isolated herds are found on some of the barrier islands along the Atlantic coast.

Description: Mustangs are descendants of domesticated horses that have escaped or been released into the wild. Horses are large, powerful herbivores that vary in color, size, and mass.

Spotting them: During the summer, wild horses can be observed feeding on grasses and forbs in prairies and meadows. During the winter, they browse on saltbush, sagebrush, and other small shrubs. Throughout the West, wild horses compete with cattle for edible vegetation. Horses live in harems consisting of a single male with mares and their foals. As the young males reach maturity, the resident stallion drives them from the group. These males form “bachelor” groups until they are able to establish a harem of their own. Mares give birth to one colt (very rarely 2) during the spring. They have twins on very rare occasions.

Discussion: Although accurate population figures are difficult to obtain because of the remoteness and rugged nature of the land where the mustangs live, the number of wild horses has been estimated between 30,000 and 45,000. In some places wild horses are overgrazing their ranges. The Bureau of Land Management rounds up excess horses and makes them available for adoption.

Fire improves the habitats where wild horses live by enhancing the growth of grasses and forbs. Wild horses are generally able to escape from wildland fires although they have been killed in hot, fast-moving fires.