- Virginia Johnson
Wild Horses of the World, written by Moira C. Harris and with photographs by Bob Langrish, is a beautiful coffee table book that looks at dozens of types of wild horses around the world. Though all but one example, the Przewalski horse from Mongolia, are really more feral than truly wild, these horses have been roaming free for so many centuries and sometimes millennia that they have established their own identities, which are often interlinked with the history and culture surrounding them. Whether abandoned by explorers or left to freely roam by farmers until needed, the newly-wild horses quickly adapted to the natural herd behavioral patterns that protected them. Without human interference, only the hardiest of the lot could survive.
Some types discussed, such as the Chincoteague ponies and the various groups of American mustangs, are rather well-known, but this book looks at many examples throughout the world. There are the beautiful gray Camargue horses of South-eastern France that roam the saltwater marshes of the Rhône delta. Possibly descended from the long-extinct Solutré horses that roamed the region at least 17,000 years ago, the Camargue rather resemble extremely hardy versions of Lipizzaner horses still maintained for the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. As with most horses that run free, every so often they will be rounded up and some will return to the civilized world. In the Camargue’s case, they can be seen in dressage events, endurance racing and are used to herd the local feral black bulls that are rounded up for bullfighting.
This volume is also keenly aware of the herds’ precarious status in a world that is growing increasingly crowded. For example, the Banker horse on the Outer Banks of North Carolina faced problems when major development took their normal grazing areas and new roads led to fatalities. The herds have since been moved to more protected areas. But modern advances have helped in some regard as modern medicine has proven that the Banker horses, unlike many other wild horses, are indeed purebred from Iberian lines akin to the Paso Fino. Like the Paso Fino, they are gaited—which means they have more four-beat gaits than the normal horse. These extra gaits are a genetic inheritance and another sign of their unique history.
The beautiful color photographs add liveliness to the text and make this book an excellent choice for readers of most ages.