What are the Differences between a Feral or Wild Horse

In movies and books the wild horse is portrayed as a majestic and untameable beast. Understanding just what is a wild horse is tricky. In North America many of these horses are referred to as Mustangs, in Australia they are called Brumbies. It is incorrect to assume any horse running loose is indeed a wild horse, Mustang, Brumby, or otherwise. In fact they may be what is referred to correctly as feral horses.

In North America, horses once roamed wild but went extinct long ago. They were reintroduced with the arrival of the Spanish and other settlers. Through ship wrecks, escapes, and abandonment, many of these horses began a wild existence. Since most colts were not gelded, they eventually reproduced with the mares and within a few generations time, herds of wild horses were once again roaming North America.

Today we can classify actual wild horses as any horse born into the wild. Wild horses have never known the comfort of a stall, never had a halter on their heads, or felt the touch of a mans hand, they are truly wild. Feral horses, on the other hand, are those animals who had owners and were either turned loose, abandoned, or escaped.

Feral horses often join up with herds of wild horses, or may form herds their own. Natural survival instincts develop, and may lend a hand in making them hard to catch. Herd mentalities form, as horse will spook, it will send the whole herd running.

A feral horse can be distinguished by the presence of a brand or tattoo. A gelded horse clearly did not get its start in the wild. Horses who have only recently gone feral may still have hole marks on their hooves from shoeing or a hint of where a bridle path had been cut.

For anyone considering owning a former wild or feral horse there are some considerations. First of all it is generally not appropriate, and in some cases illegal, to go out and catch any horse you wish to keep. This is not entirely as easy as on the movies either. Adoption programs are in place for people wishing to acquire a wild horse, and if one wishes to get a feral horse checks must be made to ensure the horse does not have an owner wanting it back.

Upon acquiring either some noted differences will stand out too. Most likely the feral horse may have been stabled at one time or another, and was probably halter broke. In any case the feral horse is going to be more comfortable with people than a wild one, assuming of course the feral horse had not been abused. A wild horse will not be comfortable being confined or restrained. It might even view dogs as a threat. It will need total training from halter training to learning how to have its hooves picked up. It may be nervous around lots of people and easily frightened.

All in all anyone with time and patience may find that these horses can form wonderful lifelong bonds. From a wild beginning, or a feral existence, gentle training is the key to success.