Frequently Asked Questions



Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Outer Banks Wild Horses?
The Outer Banks Wild Horses are a group of feral Spanish mustangs that live in several islands of the Outer Banks and just south of the Virginia border. Many believe these horses are the descendants of shipwrecked horses from hundreds of years ago.

Where are the Outer Banks Wild Horses?
Three herds of the Outer Banks Wild Horses live on the multiple islands that are in between the town of Beaufort and Cedar Island, North Carolina. These islands are mostly private with no residents and visible on horseback rides through Cedar Island is very remote and isolated.

Are the Outer Banks Wild Horses on the beach?
The Outer Banks Wild Horses are often spotted along the beach, walking by the oceanfront. They can also sporadically appear in the sand dunes and wooded neighborhoods in the Cedar Island area.

How can you see the Outer Banks Wild Horses?
Visitors who head to the 4WD beaches north of Outer Banks may encounter the Outer Banks Wild Horses along the beach, in the dunes, or quiet residential neighborhoods. There are also several tours that frequent areas where the wild horses roam, and which utilize 4WD Jeeps and other vehicles to find the horses.

Are there tours to see the Outer Banks Wild Horses?
A number of 4WD tours to see the Outer Banks Wild Horses are available, which include privately owned businesses based in Outer Banks, as well as seasonal tours that are offered by the Outer Banks Wild Horse Fund and Museum.

Where did the Outer Banks Wild Horses come from?
The Outer Banks Wild Horses are thought to be the descendants of shipwrecked or deposited Spanish mustangs from the 16th century. 1500s explorers, such as Lucas Vasquez de Allyon, in 1521, and Richard Greenville in the 1580s may have landed on the northern Currituck Banks and / or lost vessels or livestock in the northern Outer Banks area.

How long have the Outer Banks Wild Horses been on the Outer Banks?
The Outer Banks Wild Horses are believed to have landed on the Outer Banks in the 16th century and may have arrived as early as 1521 via an expedition led by Lucas Vasquez de Allyon.

Where can you find wild horses on the Outer Banks?
The Outer Banks Wild Horses reside in the northernmost beaches of the Outer Banks, in the 4WD area that's just north of Outer Banks. Wild horses, also known as Wild Ponies, are also found on Ocracoke Island, and can be viewed at the Ocracoke Pony Pen just south of the Hatteras / Ocracoke ferry docks.

Are the Outer Banks Wild Horses descendants of shipwrecks?
The Outer Banks Wild Horses are most likely the descendants of shipwrecks from 16th-century explorers. Recent DNA testing has shown that the herd does share genetics with Spanish mustangs, which were common passengers on exploratory vessels in the 1500s.

Can you pet the Outer Banks Wild Horses?
It is illegal to approach, touch, or pet the Outer Banks Wild horses. Visitors must remain at least 50 feet away from the wild horses.

Can you feed the Outer Banks Wild Horses?
It is illegal to feed the Outer Banks Wild Horses, and doing so can be dangerous to their health. When these feral horses ingest apples, carrots, lettuce, or other non-local foods, they can develop colic and digestion problems.

What do the Outer Banks Wild Horses eat?
The Outer Banks Wild Horses have been eating a native diet of sea oats, coastal grasses, acorns, persimmons, and other area vegetation for hundreds of years.

Can you take photos of the Outer Banks Wild Horses?
Visitors are free to take photos of the Outer Banks Wild Horses, provided that they stay at least 50 feet away from the horses at all times.

What should you do is you see a Outer Banks Wild Horse?
Visitors should keep a safe distance from the Outer Banks Wild Horses if they encounter them on the beach. Though they look docile, these horses are inherently feral and should not interact with humans.

Do Outer Banks Wild Horses show up at vacation homes?
Vacationers at Carova and 4WD beach area vacation homes regularly report seeing the Outer Banks Wild Horses in their backyards or neighborhoods, especially in quiet locations.

Are there vacation homes near the Outer Banks Wild Horses?
The Carova area has a wide array of vacation rental homes along the beaches and in the wooded sound side region, where the Outer Banks Wild Horses regularly make appearances.

Can you adopt a Outer Banks Wild Horse?
While visitors can't physically adopt and / or take home one of the Outer Banks Wild Horses, they can sponsor a horse through the Outer Banks Wild Horse Fund and Museum, which is a local organization that supports the horses.

How many Outer Banks Wild Horses are there?
There are approximately 100 Outer Banks Wild Horses on the northern Outer Banks. This count is determined every fall by helicopter surveillance in the northern Outer Banks and Carova areas.

How do you help support the Outer Banks Wild Horses?
Horse fans can help support the Outer Banks Wild Horses via the Outer Banks Wild Horse Fund and Museum, a local organization that helps support and tend to the local herd. The Outer Banks Wild Horse Fund accepts donations and offers special programs, including wild horse tours, and "adopt a horse" initiatives.

Is there a museum about the Outer Banks Wild Horses?
Visitors can find out more about the Outer Banks Wild Horses with a visit to the Outer Banks Wild Horse Fund's Museum, conveniently located in the heart of Outer Banks.

How do you find out more about the Outer Banks Wild Horses?
Visitors can learn more about the Outer Banks Wild Horses via the Outer Banks Wild Horse Fund. This local organization has a museum in Outer Banks and a website with in-depth information about the Outer Banks Wild Horses. In addition, educational tours are available through the Outer Banks Wilde Horse Fund and privately owned tour companies.

How are Outer Banks Wild Horses different from regular horses?
The Outer Banks Wild Horses, which are descendants of Spanish colonial mustangs, have a few distinguishing characteristics. Their tails are low and set on a sloping croup, their faces are narrow, and their ears curl at the tip. They are also narrow throughout the chest and have five lumbar vertebrae as opposed to six, which is much more common in modern American domestic breeds.

Who takes care of the Outer Banks Wild Horses?
The Outer Banks Wild Horses are not owned by any individual or organization. Still, they are supported by the Outer Banks Wild Horse Fund, whose mission is to protect, conserve, and responsibly manage the horses that roam freely on the northern Currituck Banks.

Why do the Outer Banks Wild Horses travel in groups?
The Outer Banks Wild Horses are territorial and stick to areas that they know and are close to where they were born. Within the herd, there are often male leaders that form their own individual "families" of horses, which in turn appear in groups along the shoreline.

How far do the Outer Banks Wild Horses roam?

The Outer Banks Wild Horses stick to the northern beaches of the Currituck Banks, where there are no paved roads and little development. Within this miles-long area, they may travel anywhere from 15-25 miles per day.