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About the Horses
The Shackleford Banks wild horses are a unique historic and cultural legacy.

Historical research and genetics testing indicates that these wild horses descended from a core group of the old type of Spanish horses. One genetic factor, the blood variant Q-ac, is believed to be contributed by the Spanish horses of 400 years ago. This genetic marker has been found in only descendents of those Spanish horses. Easily lost through genetic drift, Q-ac has been documented in the Puerto Rican Paso Finos, the isolated mustang population of Montana's Pryor Mountains, and the horses of Shackleford Banks.

The wild horses of Shackleford Banks are of great interest to the scientific community as well as to the average citizen. An international expert of equine behavior, D. I. Rubenstein, PhD, Chairman, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University, and his graduate students have been studying and documenting the social behavior of these wild horses for nearly two decades. The territorial behavior exhibited in the Shackleford herds is not know to occur in the equine populations anywhere else in the world. Dr. Rubenstein has kept a genealogy on the horses based on the dams of each succeeding generation of foals (matrilineages).

Equine genetics experts, at the University of Kentucky, Virginia Tech, and the University of California at Davis, believe in the importance of assuring the long-term survival of this unique, hardy group of wild North Carolina Banker horses.

Lennon, an "Alpha" male
(herd stallion)



"Spirit" Spring 1996

The Early English Colonist had Spanish Horses

Late 1400's: Columbus brought the first Iberian (Spanish) horse to the island of Hispaniola and started breeding ranches to supply the conquistadors with mounts for their explorations. The soldier-explorers usually rode stallions but Columbus made certain that mares were included whenever a ship was coming to the New World.

Early 1500s: Lucas Vasques de Ayllon attempted to settle the mid-Atlantic coast. Of the 500 colonists brought from Hispaniola, only 150 souls survived to catch a passing ship back home. The 89 to 100 horses brought by the colonists were abandoned when the colony failed.

Late 1500s: Sir Richard Grenville traded for supplies and animals with the Spanish in Hispaniola and brought horses up the Carolina coast to the English colony at Roanoke. His ship, the Tiger, grounded in an inlet through what is now know as North Core Banks, and had to be careened (rolled over on her side) for repairs. Livestock, including horses, would have either been cast overboard or released.

There are mentions in records spanning the years between then and now of these Banker horses. These descriptions of their size, toughness, temperament, etc., have varied little over the generations and could be easily be used to describe the Spanish stock from whence they came. There are oral histories and traditions handed down faithfully from one generation to another of the coastal people ..."The horses have always been here. They swam ashore off sinking ships".

You can find a more detailed historical time line HERE.


Copyright 2004-2005

A North Carolina Non-profit Corporation
Mailing Address: FSH, Inc., 306 Golden Farm Road, Beaufort, NC 28516
Telephone (252) 728-6308 Fax (252) 728-639

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