Exmoor Ponies WE

This entry of the Exmoor ponies was filed by Sue McGeever of the Exmoor Pony Society, and the pictures were kindly facilitated by Tricia Gibson.

Species: Equus caballus

Subspecies/Breed/Type Exmoor

Country: United Kingdom

Region/Province/Range: Exmoor National Park

Population type: Semi-feral / Free-ranging

Estimated Population size: about 500 registered horses (2015)

Management Authority: Exmoor Pony Society

Images from Tricia Gibson

Details of Population

The Exmoor National Park is home to the registered Exmoor pony – one of Britain’s rare native breed recognised by the Rare Breed Survival Trust (Watchlist, Category 2 Endangered).  The Exmoor Pony Society manages the horses, and was formed in 1921 with the specific aim of ensuring that this rare native breed continues to run free on Exmoor and continues to exhibit all the traits and characteristics of its ancestors.The semi-feral herds of ponies run out all year round.  There are currently twenty herds running out on Exmoor.

Structure and demographics

There are approximately 500 ponies registered into the semi-feral herds.  There are approximately 20 stallions and 480 mares and female young-stock with the age ranging from foals to 30 plus years of age.

There are in total twenty herds belong to different moorland herd owners and these run out on different sections of Exmoor. Some herds are on single herd commons and other herds share commons with one or two other herds.  Not all of the herds are breeding herds.

Issues worth noting and needed actions

The population of registered Exmoor ponies is believed to be secure.

Further reading

Visit the Exmoor Pony Society website: Exmoor Pony Society

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Tornquist feral horses WE

Atlas entry registered by Dr. Alberto Scorolli, based on work and research carried out with the feral horses at  Ernesto Tornquist Provincial Park (website).

Country: Argentina                                                                                                          Region/Province/Range: Ernesto Tornquist Provincial Park (ETPP) – Buenos Aires

Species: Equus caballus             Subspecies/Breed/Type: Feral Creole

Estimated Population size: +/- 400 horses (2014)

Management Authority:  Ernesto Tornquist Provincial Park (ETPP)

Management Practices: Population Management Strategy is urgently needed


Ernesto Tornquist Provincial Park (ETPP) is located in the south of the Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina, between 38 º 00’- 38º 07’S and 61º 52’- 62º 03’W.  This natural reserve was established in 1938 and covers 67 Km2 of hilly grassland with heights ranging between 450 and 1175 m above sea level. The climate is temperate and humid (Burgos 1968) with a mean annual rainfall of 800 mm. Rains fall mainly in spring with a second peak in autumn. Snowfalls are occasional and, in general, light. The typical vegetation is grassland steppe dominated by species of the genera Stipa and Piptochaetium (Cabrera 1976; Frangi and Bottino 1995).
This Natural Protected Area is very important for biodiversity conservation as it includes many endemic plant and animal species (Kristensen and Frangi 1995). In 1942 a small group between 5-10 horses, which became feral, were introduced to ETPP. In 1995, their descendants, 450 horses, occupied a fenced-off sector of approximately 20 Km2 (Scorolli 2007). These horses were of Creole breed, like all other feral horse populations in Argentina. This breed has originated from Spanish and Andalusian horses, of essentially African barb ancestry, brought to South America by the colonizers during the XVI century (Cabrera, 1945).

Structure and demographics

Currently approximately 40 harem-bands, most single stallion H-Bands. Population size in year 2014 400 feral horses, sex ratio 1:1. adult+sub-adult+yearling: foals (7:1).

Issues worth noting and needed actions

Current density 20 horses/km2, in year 2001-2002 population was food-limited, approaching carrying capacity and reaching 35 horses/km2 (annual mortality more than 80 horses/year).
In 2014 after a massive fire in January and a exceptionally rainy year (highest in decades) the body condition is good and the demographic potential to increase is also high!!
A Population Management Strategy is urgently needed in order to reduce current population size to appropriate levels that preclude high mortality by starvation and environmental impact in a natural protected area created by its grassland biodiversity unusual value.
There is a conflict between government authorities and some horse protection groups that see management as unacceptable.

Bibliography and Further reading

Scorolli, A.L., A.C. Lopez Cazorla and L.A. Tejera. 2006. Unusual mass mortality of feral horses during a violent rainstorm in Parque Provincial Tornquist, Argentina. Mastozoología Neotropical 13: 255-258.
Scorolli, A.L. 2009. Feral horse management in Argentina. In 10th. International Mammalogical Congress. Mendoza, Argentina.
Scorolli A.L. y López Cazorla. 2010a. Demography of feral horses (Equus caballus): a long-term study in Tornquist Park, Argentina. Wildlife Research 37: 207-214.
Scorolli, A. and A. Lopez Cazorla. 2010b. Feral horse social stability in Tornquist Park, Argentina. Mastozoología Neotropical 17 (2): 391-396.
Scorolli, A.L. 2012. Feral horse demography and management in Tornquist Park, Argentina.  International Wild Equid Conference. VetMedUni, Viena.
Scorolli, A.L. 2012. Feral horse body condition: a useful tool for population management?. International Wild Equid Conference. VetMedUni, Viena.
About potential environmental impact
de Villalobos, A.E. and S.M. Zalba. 2010. Continuous feral horses grazing and grazing exclusion in mountain pampean grasslands in Argentina. Acta Oecologica 36: 514-519.
de Villalobos, A.E., S.M. Zalba and D.V. Peláez. 2011. Pinus halepensis invasion in mountain pampean grassland: Effects of feral horses grazing on seedling establishment. Environmental Research 111: 953-959.
Loydi, A. and S.M. Zalba. 2009. Feral horses dung piles as invasion windows in natural grasslands. Plant Ecology 201: 471-480.
Loidy, A. and R.A. Distel. 2010. Diversidad florística bajo diferentes intensidades de pastoreo por grandes herbívoros en pastizales serranos del Sistema de Ventania, Buenos Aires. Ecología Austral 20: 281-291.
Loidy, A., R.A. Distel and S.M. Zalba. 2010. Large herbivore grazing and non-native plant invasions in montane grasslands of central Argentina. Natural Areas Journal, 30(2): 148-155.
Zalba S.M. and N. Cozzani. 2004. The impact of feral horses on grassland bird communities in Argentina. Animal Conservation 7: 35-44.

Sabucedo horses WE

We would like to thank Ivan Sanmartin Eirin and the Asociación Rapa das Bestas for filing this entry.


Species: Equus caballus


The horses of Sabucedo, like many horses in the Galician hills are of pony type. It has been proposed that some of these horses may actually be a subspecies of wild horse, Equus ferus atlanticus (Barcena, 2011). However these claims are pending DNA testing.

Country: Spain

Region/Province/Range: Mountains around Sabucedo, Estrada, Cuntis, Moranha, Campo Lameiro, Cerdedo, Forcarei, all of which are in the province of Pontevedra

Population type: Semi-feral

Estimated Population size: about 400 horses (2015)

Management Authority: Private association: Asociación Rapa das Bestas de Sabucedo

Management Practices: Yearly round.ups – Micro-chipping – Ear clipping – Parasite control – removal of foals

Images by Victor Ros

Details of Population:

The horses running freely around Sabucedo have been doing so since at least the 16th century when, according to legend, some horses were set free in the mountains as an offering to St. Lorenzo to protect the people from a plague. Since then, horses are rounded up and driven down to the town of Sabucedo for the annual Rapa das bestas (shearing of the beasts) festival. During the ‘Rapa’, horses manes and tails are sheared, ears clipped, and some horses are removed from the herd to keep the population number at bay.

Structure and demographics

Approximately 300 mares, their offspring (n=85) and 15 stallions live freely in the mountains surrounding the town of Sabucedo. Given the mare-stallion ratio, it is customary to find all mare groups wandering the hills with their young.

Issues worth noting and needed actions

These horses are not afforded any legal protection and are allegedly under threat from encroaching cow ranchers.

Help us improve our Wild Equus – Atlas entries!

The WE Atlas depends on your support and encourages you to add to, revise, or edit our Atlas entries. When editing or adding facts to an entry, please provide references to a reliable source so others may verify them.

For contributing images, audio or video files, please send us links to the files. Please ensure media files linked to this form are your own.The copyrights to all media will remain yours. By sending media links to Wild Equus Organization will have the right to use media solely on this website.

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Affiliative (af)

A review of literature on the social behaviour of horses is likely to lead many to think equine society is governed solely by the establishment of social hierarchies, usually based on the outcomes of social conflict or competition, commonly referred to as agonistic behaviour.

The description of animal societies is mainly based on agonistic classifications, in which cooperation and affiliative behaviour were overshadowed by the competition-aggression-reconciliation paradigm generally emphasized by many writers.

Affiliative interactions [af] refer to the activities between two or more (dyadic, triadic, poliadic) individuals within a social group with the function of developing, maintaining or enhancing social bonds. {Equus Ethogram Project}

Affiliative is from Medieval Latin; affiliatus, past participle of affiliare to adopt as a son, from Latin ad- + filius son

konik stallions mutual grooming

Indeed, agonistic and affiliative behaviour are inextricably intertwined (Price & Sloman, 1993) in the complexity of social interactions, making it a laborious task to filter away the units of behaviour neatly into separate compartments for either one type of interaction, or the other.

Social interactions lay on a behavioural continuum, a continuous stream of movements  (Fentress, 1990; MacNulty et al, 2007) or spectrums of behavior (Abrantes, 2011):

“The distinction between any two behaviour is a matter of function; the borderline separating one category from the other is a matter of observational skill, contextual parameters and convention; the way we understand it all is a matter of definition.” (Abrantes, 2011)

For instance, in the ‘Agonistic ethogram of the equid bachelor band’ published by McDonnell & Haviland (1994), agonistic encounters were considered based on their intensity, running or flowing across a spectrum from “very quiet affiliative behaviour to serious aggression” (McDonnell & Haviland, 1994).

In this Equus Ethogram Project, affiliative interactions will be classified separately from agonistic ones, at least when at all possible. A host of authors have extracted units of agonistic behaviours from the interwoven fabric of equine social interactions, so it should be likewise possible to extract those other units of behaviour which promote group cohesion: affiliative behaviours.


The results of a growing body of research on free-living mammals suggests that affiliative social interactions, those enhancing social bonds, have important fitness consequences for individuals ( Swedell, 2002; Weidt et al, 2007; Silk et al. 2003, 2010; Cameron et al. 2009; Frere et al. 2010; Wey & Blumstein 2012) engaged in them.

In horses as in most social mammals, affiliative interactions are usually described by mutual grooming, play and group resting. This ethogram considers including more subtle forms of affiliative behaviour, such as the frequency or duration one individual is found sharing close proximity with others as an indication of their level of bonding (Hinde 1976; Garai 1992; Kleindorfer &Wasser 2004).

This Equus Ethogram Project is an on-going work, and the general framework, or particular sections and pages will be updated as new light is shed or brought to our knowledge.