It’s a mare’s world
According to a 2020 annual report by National Parks Service officials with Cape Lookout National Seashore and the Foundation for Shackleford Horses, the majority of the wild horses that roam the thin, eight-mile island are female.
The report states that of the 117 horses that called the barrier island home in 2020, 62% were female and 38% were male.
“Part of the reason that there are more females is that some females are living longer,” the report explains. “Contraception has been linked to increased longevity among treated females.”
Males are also known to fight—sometimes even to the death—over both territory and mares during breeding season.
All that shakes out in favor of the females. Despite the herd’s average lifespan of 11, the island currently boasts two 27-year-old mares.
Cape Lookout National Seashore and the Foundation for Shackleford Horses also emphasized the two most important parts of protecting the wild horses: public education and maintaining distance.
As such, Cape Lookout National Seashore offers visitors a number of educational opportunities. Middle-school students can learn more about the wild horses by taking part in the Junior Ranger Activity: Wild Horse Protector. For the older set, the volunteer Pony Patrol is a good way to get involved with protecting these national treasures. Members serve as ambassadors for the wild horses by “helping the public enjoy the horses safely and in appropriate ways.”