To be wild, or not to be wild. Is this really a question? Wild horses are extinct for a long time, but there are many small populations of equines, that actually live feral or free in a certain area or for a certain amount of time. There may be no true wild horses anymore, but there are many free equines on this planet. I want to share their story and document the lifes and habitats of these wildlings.
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. 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.
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. Modern studies show that the Takhi might be descendants of the Botai horses returned to the wild 5000 years ago.
Learn more about the wildlings I have met and photographed. The breed gallery will updated continuously. Many populations are at risk and therefore have a high intersection with Forgotten Horses.
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 all 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 free are flowing.
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.