Tourists are being warned to keep their distance from wild horses who are battling for territory and mares on the North Carolina coast.
Known as “stallion wars,” the battle happens every year as herds of roughly 100 wild horses at each end of North Carolina’s Outer Banks fight without regard for who or what may be in their way. Humans aren’t their target, but tourists are being told to keep their distance so they aren’t caught in the path of the horses as they “kick, bite and slam each other.”
“Please be aware that this time of year in particular, wild stallions on Shackleford are battling it out for mares, for territory, and for herd dominance,” the Foundation for Shackleford Horses wrote in a Facebook post.
“Things can escalate quickly and without warning. You may be walking along the beach, enjoying horse watching, and oblivious to fact that, just beyond the dune, a stallion is also watching the harem, waiting for his opportunity to gallop over the dune and into the midst of the harem, confront the herd stallion and steal his mares. If you aren’t paying attention, you, your children or your dog could be caught in the fray and potentially injured.”
The post says the battles are “deadly serious, so the public is encouraged to be on-guard when in stallion territory this time of year. Spectators are told to keep a distance of at least 50-feet and make sure they aren’t positioned between a stallion and a mare or a mare and her foal.
“Always pay attention to your surroundings, particularly noting other horses or herds in the distance and never turn your back on a stallion,” the post reads.
The wild horses are thought to be the descendants of shipwrecked mustangs from the 16th century. Explorers from the early 1500’s landed on the Outer Banks and are thought to have lost vessels of livestock. In the centuries since, they have thrived on a diet of sea oats, coastal grasses, acorns, persimmons, and other area vegetation.
Numerous photos and videos of the warring stallions can be found online and show the brute strength of the animals. See a clip of warring stallions in the video below.