Cumberland Island horses WE

Species: Equus caballus


Country: United States of America

Region/Province/Range: Georgia – Cumberland Island

Population type: Feral

Estimated Population size: about 170 horses (2010)

Management Authority: Cumberland Island National Seashore  National Park Service

Management Practices: Yearly Population Census

Details of Population

Horses have been on Cumberland Island at least since the 1700s. The current population however is likely the result of breeding with post-1900 introductions to the island. Genetic analysis has revealed that the horses on Cumberland Island resemble several current domestic breeds. (Goodloe et al, 1991)

This population is considered feral, free-ranging and unmanaged, with no supplementary feeding or veterinary care.

The park conducts a census every spring to monitor the population. Based on data from the last 12 years, the herd appears to be stable at approximately 175 animals. From 186 horses tallied in 1986, the population grew to about 220 horses in 1990. However, in 1991, 18% of the herd, about 40 horses, died as a result of an outbreak of eastern equine encephalitis. The latest census (2010) accounted for 121 horses. However, it generally considered that a further 50 horses where not accounted for in the 2010 census, and adding these would take the population to about 170 individuals.

Structure and demographics

Cumberland horses live in typical Harem formations and multi-stallion bands (n=37), all female groups (n=2) and a number of bachelor groups (Goodloe 1991). The mares to stallions ratio was 0.6 females:1.0 males (Goodloe 1991; Goodloe et al, 2000). Average multi-stallion band size was 4.6 horses. Up to 32% of the Cumberland Island Population was comprised of Sub-adults. 54% of stallions travelled in bachelor groups (Goodloe 1991; Goodloe et al, 2000)..

Issues worth noting and needed actions

Not applicable.

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Contact details
Add links to media files:


Goodloe, R. B. (1991) Immunocontraception, genetic management, and demography of feral horses on four eastern U.S. barrier islands. Ph.D. Thesis, Univ. Georgia, Athens. 150Pp

Goodloe, R. B. et al. (1991) Genetic Variation and its management applications in Eastern U.S. feral horses. J. Wildl. Manage. 55(3)

Goodloe, R.B., Warren, R.J., Osborn, D.A., and Hall, C. (2000) Population characteristics of feral horses on Cumberland Island and their management implications. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 64: 114-121.

Turner, M.G. (1987) Effects of grazing by feral horses, clipping, trampling, and burning on a Georgia salt marsh. Estuaries and Coasts, 10: 54-60.

Turner, M.G. (1988) Simulation and management implications of feral horse grazing on Cumberland Island, Georgia. J. Range Manage. 41:441- 447.

Further reading:

Position Paper: Wetland Impacts from Feral Horses, Cumberland Island National Shoreline

Wild Horses in a Georgia Wilderness? Cumberland Island National Seashore Completes Annual Count

Feral animals on Cumberland Island

Horses Gone Wild

2 thoughts on “Cumberland Island horses WE

  1. “The mares to stallions ratio was 0.6 females:1.0 males” – What is the value of expressing this data like this? Does this mean that about 70% of the horses of the horses in the entire herd are male? Or does it mean that within the bands, there are almost always two males for every female?

    • The values are for male to female ratios of the whole island population. Band composition is harem or multi-stallion type, surplus males wandering in temporal assemblages.

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