The Wild Spanish Mustangs are unique to Corolla and Currituck counties, and you won’t find them in any other part of the world.
The only remaining wild herd left in the world, these horses are a must-see when visiting the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The wild horses were originally brought here in the 1500s on Spanish ships. The shallow nature of the coast off of Corolla and the unpredictable sandbars have caused the area to be known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic, and caused many a shipwreck. It is believed that the horses survived such occasions to swim to shore, making a new home for themselves, and they’ve been here ever since.
Whether roaming the sand-streets or enjoying the fine sea mist on the shores of Corolla, these horses are free to wander as they please. They stroll through neighborhoods and yards, pausing to nibble a bite of grass, sea oats, live oak tree leaves or persimmons.
Their legs are short, their bodies stocky and their fur fluffier than domesticated horses. Locals and visitors alike steer clear, out of respect and concern for their protection. Their diets are narrow and their health precarious; the slightest contact with humans can be lethal for the horses. This is why it is so important to never get closer than 50 feet from one of these beautiful creatures.
Although mild in personality, these horses are entirely untamed, and can be quite territorial. Stallions regularly break into battle over mares, food and resources, and visitors are well-advised to keep a healthy distance for fear of spooking one. Although smaller than most horses, they are still extremely strong, and protective of their fellows.
The best time to view these living artifacts is spring, from mid April to the end of May. This is the off-season, meaning that the beaches are less crowded, and it’s also the mating season of the horses.
Whether your stay is a day, a weekend or a month, make time to visit the 4×4 beaches and see if you can spot some wild horses. Better yet, take a wild horse tour or visit the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, whose mission is to protect and preserve the herd, and also educate visitors and residents on their history.