Banker Ponies Protected Since 1998

Wild horses on the Shackleford Banks. Image from Zach Frailey.On August 13, 1998, President Bill Clinton signed the Shackleford Banks Wild Horses Protection Act.

The act, which amends the 1966 law that created the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, directed the National Park Service to partner with a local non-profit, Foundation for Shackleford Horses, Inc. to manage the herd of wild horses located on the uninhabited 9-mile long island east of Morehead City between Beaufort Inlet and Cape Lookout.

The banker ponies, as they are often called, are small horses believed to have been descended from Spanish mustangs abandoned in the area about 400 years ago. Some have also tried to link the horses’ ancestry to Ponce de León or the Lost Colony, though their exact lineage is lost to history.

The 1998 act provides for a target range for the herd of between 110 and 130 horses. When the herd exceeds that target, a round up is held and excess healthy horses are adopted to out to different places around the country.

The seashore, in conjunction with the foundation, is charged with the management of the herd for its own protection and health, as well as that of the natural resources of the seashore.

The Shackleford Banks herd is one of four herds of wild horses that can be found up and down the Outer Banks.

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