Off the coast of Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada lies a horse lover's dream - an island that’s home to about 500 feral horses that run free of gates, fences and, for the most part, people.
Sable Island only ever has five permanent human residents, meaning that the horses outnumber them 100 to one. The horses are the descendants of horses that the British seized during the 18th-Century expulsion of the Acadian people (French colonists of the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island).
The horses on the crescent-shaped island, which lies some 190 miles (300 km) off the Canadian coast, live off freshwater ponds and marram (a type of grass). They are also known to dig into the island’s sand to get to the water beneath.
During the relatively short time since they were set free on Sable Island in the 1760s, they actually evolved and developed distinct genetic traits. Sadly, they nearly didn’t make it through to the present day, because the Canadian government proposed culling them in 1959, with the pretext of “saving” them from the island’s harsh and unforgiving environment.
Another argument that has been proposed for their expulsion from the island is the possibility of their interference with native species of seals and birds, however biologists have argued that due to their presence on the island for hundreds of years, they are now integrated into and important for its ecosystem.
It was the intervention of Canadian children with good old-fashioned letter writing that saved these magnificent beasts from exile – they successfully petitioned the-then Canadian prime minister to pass a law to ensure that the horses received protected status.
Thankfully, the horse population is stronger, happier and healthier than ever, and is likely to remain that way thanks to Sable Island receiving protection by Parks Canada. In fact, visitors have only recently been allowed on the island, at a cost over $2,000 for a nine-day expedition.
If you’re a horse lover and want to come and see these horses for yourself, then you should know that the journey to Sable Island is both long and costly. Canadian authorities also try to keep the number of visitors down, and this is due to the fragile state of its ecosystem.
Take a look at the Sable Island horses in their unique habitat right here:
Content and Image Source (unless otherwise stated): The Plaid Zebra