Abaco Wild Horses are very unique and beautiful. They run wild on
Abaco a sparsely settled island in the Bahamas, although unfortunately
they were hunted to near extinction in the 1960s when Edison Key
and Morton Sawyer started a cattle operation, and at the end of
the slaughter only three remained. One was a paint stallion named
Castle, and a bay mare named Liz with her filly Jingo. The Abaco
Wild horses have a strong link to Spanish ancestors, and it has
often been speculated that these horses are Spanish Barbs. The horses
that reside on Abaco today live in the area of Bahama Star Farm.
These horses have stayed in a more confined area since Hurricane
Floyd, because their regular trails were blocked by fallen trees.
Because of the limited grazing area and rich vegetation on the farm,
this has led to many problems. A great number of the horses have
laminitis, and many are obese because of the foliage and the little
exercise area they have. None of the new foals have survived and
very few have been born since Hurricane Floyd. There are only sixteen
on these horses left now and an emergency wild horse preserve has
been formed to help this breed.
Abaco Island has been home to these
wild horses for centuries, and during the American Revolution many
British loyalists moved to the Caribbean Islands. Sometimes, such
as in their dwelling on Great Abaco Island, their settlements didn't
flourish and very few horses were left in their wake. Several decades
later, loggers cleared many of the Caribbean pines that covered
the island, and horses were destroyed also.
Once the Abaco Wild Horses were a large
herd, perhaps 200 strong. There were pinto, bay, and roan horses
running free through thousands of acres of forest. Until the year
1998 their origins remained unclear, but then it was determined
that when the British loyalists left the island after their failed
colonization attempts, the horses were turned loose and left behind.
More horses may have been contributed from the logging operations
that went on. When the logging company cut itself into oblivion,
the horses were abandoned. The DNA testing done on these horses
showed that they are 99% pure, having been untampered with for over
250 years. It is rather surprising that those domesticated horses
survived, because whether viewed by air or sea, the island does
not appear to be suitable horse country. And survive these
horses did, as they had been bred to do. In fact, they flourished.
They were of sturdy stock, with compact bodies and strong legs.
They had long, flowing manes and tails that made the quite beautiful.
Even in the worst droughts the water surrounding the island and
feeding the springs provided the horses with water. The horses had
ample room to roam and plenty of fodder on which to graze, and they
grew quite sleek. Occasionally a horse or two was lost to people
from the outer islands who captured a few for work at the sugar
When hunters began frequenting the island
in the 1960s, the hunters' dogs would often chase the horses instead
of the boars they showed up to kill, and just as often the horses
would trample the dogs in self defense. In turn, the hunters began
to shoot the horses.
By 1997 the herd dropped from a refurbished
30 to a measly 16. In 1998 with the arrival and survival of four
fillies, the herd number was increased to 21.
January 2011 Update on the Abaco Wild Horses:
The Abaco Horses are in deep, deep trouble. They currently have only three
mares in a preserve, and two stallions outside. In 1999 reproduction stopped
after a hurricane forced the horses to stay full time on the nearby farm,
exposed to herbicides, pesticides and synthetic fertilizer. They grew obese and
developed hoof problems, reproduction stopped. The then government gave the
horses a preserve. Unfortunately, the government changed and while the preserve
still exists, literal criminal neglect by the government, has brought the once
healthy herd of 35 individuals down to 5. For 7 years applications for a
permit to practice by a world class vet specializing in restoring endangered
populations, (who would work pro bono) were ‘lost.’ Promises made in July of
2010 to the vet have not been honored, she cannot work without the minimal
facilities promised. They soon hope to start a major campaign publicizing these
facts. With each passing day we are closer to losing this precious resource
HERE to solve a quiz about the Abaco Wild Horse breed.
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