Last Updated on March 1, 2022 by Allison Price
Most people are familiar with horses as the calm, well-trained breeds that we see in stables. They are fed hay, grain and other mineral-rich feeds. Did you know horses can also live in the wild? That’s right!
Horses can live in harmony with the natural ecosystem. Wild horses, unlike other tamed breeds of horses, mostly eat grass, twigs and leaves. Sometimes, even tree bark.
Are you curious to learn more about the question “Where does a horse reside?” Follow us as we explore the horse’s natural habitat.
Table of Contents [ hide]
- Wild Horses at a Glance
- What is Wild Horse Habitat’s Terrain, Climate and Likeness?
- What do wild horses eat and drink?
- Are Wild Horses Predators?
- How are wild horses adapted to their natural habitat?
- The Current Situation of the Natural Horse Habitat in the United States
- The Takeaway
Wild Horses at a Glance
Wild horses are also called stray horses or mayangs. They are descendants of the Spanish mustangs and Indian ponies. “Mustang” is derived from the Spanish word “mesteno”, which means wild or stray.
The majority of Mustangs live in bands. Each band consists of a lead stallion, usually aged five years or older, a leading mare and a few other mares.
The main task of the stallion is to protect the band against predators and attacks, so it stays close to the back of herd.
On the other side, the dominant mare remains at the front and leads the group on its journeys. It will guide the herd in its travels, showing them where to sleep, eat and drink as well as digging for mineral licks. This video shows the wild horse’s life in its natural habitat.
What is Wild Horse Habitat’s Terrain and Climate Like?
Horses that live in the wild can survive in harsh conditions. They must live in arid and semiarid plains, prairies and prairies, as well as deserts and badlands. They travel from one place to the next in search of shelter, vegetation, water, and food.
Horses will eat desert grasses and vegetation in this habitat such as bluegrass, wheatgrass and Utah juniper.
Wild horses love to graze in steep terrain and low-level areas. They can be found on isolated plateaus or foothills as well as on steep, moderate to steep slopes. The animals’ solid bodies and strong feet allow them to withstand a variety of terrains and surfaces.
What about the climate?
Plains, badlands and deserts are subject to hot, dry summers and cold winters. There is very little rainfall in the spring. Extreme drought is possible due to these atmospheric conditions.
Horses live in grasslands and prairies that are almost deserted. There is very little plant life and little vegetation. This ecosystem doesn’t receive more than 40 inches of rain per year. This ecosystem has fewer water sources which means that horses don’t have enough food to survive.
What do wild horses eat and drink?
Wild horses live primarily on grass. You will find wild horses eating roughage leaves, twigs and tree bark in areas where grass is scarce. An adult mustang can consume six to seven pounds of plant food per day.
Wild horses will drink water from springs, lakes or streams, as well as water pools. They will visit this place two to three times per day to quench thirst and search for natural mineral deposits.
Horses, however, will not infringe on the water source’s area like other grazing animals. Instead, they will drink and continue their journey. Horses will go to a water source once every four to five days if the temperature is not too high, and then return to higher ground.
Wild horses are able to sense moisture and will quickly find water sources after a rain. They will drink, then return to a higher place to shelter.
Wild horses can be found camping close to water sources during the dry seasons of spring, fall and summer.
Are Wild Horses Predators?
Yes. They are prey to wolves, mountain lions and black bears. Wild horses are less likely to be attacked than deer, gazelles and other small grazing animals. Their survival rate is over 90% and most herds are increasing by 20-25 percent every year.
You may be wondering why horses are not being threatened by natural predators, like other grazing animals.
For example, wolves are too small to be able to kill mature horses. Mountain lions, black bears and other predators of horses are left as the main ones.
These two can attack and kill full-grown wild horses, but they don’t run fast enough to catch or bring down a horse.
They watch wild horses at a distance, waiting for injured or newborn horses. These predators are attracted to herds of aging horses.
How are wild horses adapted to their natural habitat?
1. They can tolerate low-nutritional foods
Wild horses are herbivores. This means that they eat only grass and grains. Because they live in semi-arid regions, their access to grazing land is limited and the ones that are available grow low nutritionally valuable vegetation.
There is often very little vegetation, especially during dry, hot seasons. Wild horses, however, have learned to survive on low-quality and scarce food.
2. Living in herds offers more protection
Wild horses live in herds that have one dominant stallion, as we mentioned earlier. The stallion provides protection but the wild horses are also protected from predators by living in herds.
Young males who don’t need their mothers’ attention but aren’t yet old enough to breed live with their mothers in the herd.
These males attract fillies from other groups once they are four- or five years old. They are then taken out of their mothers’ herds and made stallions. This protects the mares.
3. They know how to get water
Mustangs can keep their bodies hydrated even in harsh environments.
They will chew on spiky cactuses in hot and dry seasons to get water. When cold winters cover springs and rivers with ice, mustangs will gently break through these water sources, without risking their lives by sinking into it.https://239b671da61f036a5b5da977593ef77e.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
4. Newborns Are Camouflaged
Wild mustangs share their habitat with mountain lions, bears, wolves and bears. They are constantly looking for young, weak foals. Wild horses are born with a sandy color to ensure safety.
They are quick and agile. Within minutes of being born, they can stand up and be running in a matter of hours.
Current Situation of The Natural Horse Habitat in The United States
Today’s wild horses are facing problems that their predecessors were not. They are restricted from roaming freely.
For example, in countries like the United States, the government has created a restricted grazing area that mustangs can share with livestock and other grazing wild animal like gazelle, deer, and antelope.
Given the increasing population of wild horses, there is an ever-growing need for forage. Therefore, the controlled grazing area is not the best for animals who need to be healthy.
With monitored roaming areas, many predators that used to threaten wild horses have been eliminated. The Bureau of Land Management estimates that there are thousands of babies born each year in these fields.
This may ensure the survival of wild horses. However, today’s herds have become overpopulated due to fewer predators and a high rate of births.
The Bureau of Land Management takes thousands of horses out of the zone controlled each year and makes them available for adoption by private owners. This prevents overpopulation and ensures sufficient food for wild horses and other animals.
What has this done for the holding facilities?
The Bureau of Land Management maintained over 45, 000 mustangs at these facilities as of 2013. Although the horses were removed from their range, they have not yet been domesticated. According to some reports, there are actually more mustangs at holding facilities than in the grazing areas.
Horses don’t live as domesticated animals, contrary to popular belief. Some horses live in the wild in semi-arid or arid environments. These horses are able to adapt to their environment to not only find food and water, but also to defend themselves against predators.
However, most countries have established controlled grazing areas for horses in order to control overpopulation and eradicate predators.