Wild Horses of
the Outer Banks
Outer Banks of North Carolina is one of very few places in America
where wild mustangs still roam free, stubbornly surviving in this
once remote coastal environment. Descended from spanish mustangs which
arrived close to 500 years ago, these hardy, tenacious wild horses
have lived here since the earliest explorers and shipwrecks. In previous
centuries there were thousands of these wild mustangs roaming the
full length of the Outer Banks, from Shackleford Banks, all along
Core Banks, Ocracoke, Hatteras, and on northward beyond Corolla on
Currituck Banks. With the protected status now afforded to them, they
should remain free to live as their ancestors have for centuries.
They continue to capture the imagination of many people, especially
The Wild Shackleford Ponies -
group of these wild horses roams freely on Shackleford Banks, near
Cape Lookout (see Coastal Guide Map). This
barrier island serves to isolate them, as it has for hundreds of years.
The island and its 100+ wild horses, also called the Shackleford ponies
for their small stature, are under the protection of the National
Park Service, but visitors may come to watch and photograph these
horses. Shackleford Banks is accessed from Beaufort and Harker's Island
by Park Service approved private passenger ferries, or by private
photos at left and above right were grazing near the eastern-most
tip of the island. Shackleford is about 9 miles long, and a half mile
wide, so hiking around the island to photograph or view these horses
is not a major effort for anyone used to such outdoor activity. They
can usually be seen on the eastern tip of the island, directly across
from the Cape Lookout Lighthouse, as in the upper photo. For more
details and lots of photos of the wild horses on Shackleford Banks,
The Wild Horses of Rachel Carson Reserve, Beaufort-
western tip of Shackleford Banks is near Beaufort where another group
of horses lives on an island across from the Beaufort downtown waterfront.
The island is part of the Rachel Carson Reserve. These horses can
often be seen from the Beaufort waterfront boardwalk. Ferry rides
will take visitors across to the island to walk about and see the
horses there. Group boat tours and private charter tours are available
as well. For more details and lots of photos of the wild horses on
Rachel Carson Reserve, visit www.NCWildHorses.com.
Ocracoke Ponies -
far more easily accessed herd is located on the north end of Ocracoke
Island, where about twenty "banker ponies", as they are called on
Ocracoke, are maintained and watched over by the National Park Service.
Ocracoke herd is kept within a fenced area covering up to 180 acres,
and a corral is located next to Highway 12 south of the Hatteras ferry
landing. With parking space for visitors, you can stop and see some
of these ponies very easily, assuming some of the "ponies"
happen to be near the parking area. The corral is double fenced, with
space between, so you will not be able to actually reach or pet these
animals. A viewing stand is next to the fence where you can get high
over the fence for a better look.
Corolla's Wild Horses -
horses can also be found north of Corolla (see Coastal
Guide Map). Here they roam freely, where they can be seen if you
have a 4WD to make the trip up the beach to the Carova area near the
Virginia border. Visitors without a 4WD vehicle can take advantage
of guided tours to see the wild mustangs.