New DNA Testing Program Hopes to Unlock the True Lineage of Corolla’s Wild Horses

A wild horse family tree is in the works.  

Corolla Wild Horse
Photo: Facebook/Corolla Wild Horse Fund

After centuries of mystery, scientists are closer than ever to determining the true lineage of the wild horses that roam the beaches of Corolla, North Carolina.

Historians believe that the herds of wild horses that reside on the Outer Banks are the descendants of domesticated horses brought over by Spanish explorers during the Colonial era. While their exact origin might never be known, the Corolla Wild Horse Fund has launched a DNA project to trace the bloodlines of the 100 or so horses in the Corolla area.

Herd manager Meg Puckett announced on Facebook last week that the organization has begun collecting DNA samples from the previously wild mustangs at the rescue farm as well as 10 wild horses via dart. The goal of the project is to create family trees “charting all of the relationships among the wild horses ... through many different generations.”

“The DNA samples will allow us to determine without a doubt exactly what the family line looks like,” Puckett explained.

“The results do also give us information on breeds most highly represented in each horse, and eventually we would like to be able to learn more about both Spanish and other ancestry but that’s a bit down the road,” Puckett told McClatchy News.

“Right now, we’ve just thrown the net out. As we drag it in, we’ll learn more and more about what we’ve ‘caught.’ We are recording the percentage of Spanish, American, and European blood in each horse. Spanish is highest in all of them, obviously,” she said.

There is also a chance that the DNA tests unearth a bit of drama within the herd.

“Relationships have been tracked by CWHF for many years, based on observations,” Puckett explained on Facebook. “But stallions with foals aren’t always necessarily the father of that foal, and often there are other stallions in and out of the harem throughout the year. The DNA samples will allow us to determine without a doubt exactly what the family line looks like.”

*Grabs popcorn*

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