To be wild, or not to be wild. Is this really a question? Wild horses are extinct for a long time, but equines rewilder the nature. Even if there may be no true wild horses anymore, we have many free horses on this planet. I want to share their story, document their lives and their impact in rewildering and grazing projects. There is a surprisingly high number of breeds, traditions, projects and regions with free roaming horses in Europe and worldwide.
Feral horses are free-roaming horses with domesticated ancestors, but mostly untouched by humans and often managed as wildlife. The term wild horses is more popular than feral horses, in German it’s “Wildpferd” and in French “Cheval sauvage / féral”. Typical feral breeds are the Mustang or at some places the Konik.
Semi-feral horses are owned and bred according to their breeding standards and are organised in societies, but are also allowed to roam free and graze in an area often deeply connected with the breed itself. Many owners visit their herds regularly and the nature of semi-feral horses is curious and interested, but also often shy. Typical semi-feral horses are Fell Ponies or Camargue Horses.
A wild stud contains domestic or semi-feral horses that are bred in freedom and not in barns. The herds spend the season with selected stallions or all year round, or the mares and foals are left free roaming. In German it is called “Wildbahngestüt” and the French term is “Haras sauvage”. Typical horse breeds are “forest bred” New Forest Ponies or “moor bred” Exmoor Ponies or Nonius horses in the Hungarian Puszta.
In many rural places exists the tradition of releasing domestic horses and ponies into the nature for the season to graze on vast areas. This concept is popular for raising youngstock of any breed or to give working horses a summer off. They often share their pastures with other livestock animals as cattle or goats. Typical for a seasonal freedom is the alpine Almsommer with Haflinger Horses.
Takhi / Przewalski
The only one true wild (never domesticated) equine in the world today is the Przewalski horse, also known by its indigenous name Takhi. Although the genetic base relies only on 27 specimen that were kept in Zoos, the Takhi nowadays repopulates the steppes in Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan.Learn more
There is a surprisingly high number of breeds, traditions, projects and regions with free roaming horses in Europe and worldwide. Many populations are at risk and therefore have a high intersection with Forgotten Horses. The breed gallery will updated continuously.
Preserve equine wildlife
Wild horses have fascinated humans for ages and everybody who has experienced free roaming herds adds this to the list of the best wildlife experiences.
For me it is a mixture of research, observation of social behaviour and natural experiences that fascinates me. To simplify the matter of “wild horses” vs. “semi-feral” and “seasonal free but domestic”, I use the term Free Horses or Wildlings for my photographic project.
Unfortunately almost all breeds and populations of Free Horses are at risk and endangered and have therefore a high intersection with my project Forgotten Horses.
An incomplete and unofficial list of Free Horses
I created a list of Free Horses and Wildlings and sorted them according to my personal categories of wilderness. All types of Free Horses can have domesticated representatives and the borders between feral and semi-feral or semi-feral and seasonal or partly free are floating and can change with local breeders and projects.
Please don’t hesitate to write me if you want to support me in my mission, know addresses, breeders or contacts of any of the listed breeds or if you have knowledge about other breeds which I haven’t listed.
*italic breeds are horses I photographed and are in my archive. Prints and licenses can be purchased.
Abaco Wild Horse
Ainos Pony / Kefalonia Horse
Alberta Mountain Horse / Alberta Wildie
Assateague / Chincoteague Pony
Coffin Bay Brumby
Cumberland Island Horse
Delft Island Horse
Elegesi Qiyus Wild Horse / Cayuse
Kundudo Horse / Qundudo
Letea Forest Horse / Danube Delta Horse
Livno Mountain Horse
Marquesas Island Horse
Namib Desert Horse
Sable Island Horse
Serbian mountain pony
Welsh Mountain Pony
Bosnian Mountain Pony
Caballo de Monte del Pais Vasco / Basque mountain horse
Dartmoor Hill Pony
Euskal Herriko Mendiko Zald
Hucul / Carpathian
New Forest Pony
Pyrénées catalanes / Cavall Pirenenc Catalá / CPC
Färöe Island Pony
Freiberger / Franches-Montagnes
Kisber Felver / Kisbéri
Do you own a free roaming herd?
Do you own a free roaming herd of the list above, volunteer for a trust or have access and location data to Free Horses? Or do you ride and train a horse that could represent its breed? I would love to portrait your horses as part of my Free Horses project. Let’s set up a session to capture the breed in various contexts.
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