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4 Fascinating Facts About Wild Outer Banks Horses

February 09, 2021

Follow the Sun is an original oil painting of the wild horses on the Outer Banks beach by artist, Alice Ann Dobbin.

By Chelsea Reed

Also known as “Banker ponies,” the wild horses of the Outer Banks are among the most precious treasures of North Carolina’s coastal habitat. This special population of wild horses once roamed beaches from Ocracoke to Corolla until paved roads were established. Though their territory today is restricted to Carova, they can still be seen roaming in their natural habitat through guided local tours at a 50 foot distance. There is nothing quite like encountering these majestic creatures!

Do you know these fun facts about the Banker ponies? Test your knowledge and find out as you enjoy paintings by animal-loving artists.

Fact #1: They Are Descended from Spanish War Horses

Island Heir is an original oil painting of a Corolla wild horse by artist, Alice Ann Dobbin

There is solid evidence that the Banker ponies are direct descendants of Spanish mustangs that were brought to the New World by Conquistadors in the 16th century. These mustangs were bred for the conditions of war with calm temperaments, hardy stock, and graceful form. It is said that the Banker ponies might even be descended from the horses of Spanish kings! This makes them one of the most unique wild horse breeds in the United States.

Fact #2: They Eat Beach Grass and Drink Saltwater

As the shipwrecked Spanish mustangs adapted to a new way of life, their hardy descendants acquired the remarkable ability to live off the sandy Outer Banks beach climate. Banker ponies eat a native diet of beach grass, and they drink salt water. That’s why their abdomens are slightly extended, this is normal. It’s not a good idea to feed anything to wild Banker ponies, as the foreign treats can harm them. 

Fact #3: North Carolina Made Them the Official State Horse Breed

In 2010, the North Carolina General Assembly designated the Colonial Spanish Mustang breed as the official State Horse. The designation was the fruit of numerous responses by the Corolla Wild Horse Fund and other local Outer Banks organizations. 

Fact #4: Jockey’s Ridge is Named After Them

The first instance of the name appeared in a 1753 land grant to John Campbell, when it was referred to as “Jockey’s Hill.” According to old stories passed down, Outer Banks locals used to capture the wild horses and race with them across the iconic sand dune a long time ago. Spectators would watch the racers and place their bets on who would win!

You can see these beauties and other animals up close and personal through the remarkable artwork at Seaside Art Gallery’s Animals In Art Show. For a limited time, a portion of the sales is donated to help animals in need. The show is fully viewable at the Gallery and online. 

Chelsea Reed is a copywriter who writes online content, articles, blogs, and websites from her base in North Carolina


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