The Wild Horses of the Namib


The wild horses of Namibia have captured the imaginations of countless authors, photographers and wildlife enthusiasts. They can be found in the south west region of Namibia and they are truly a sight to behold.

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Horses up ahead!

(image courtesy of Wild Horses of the Namib)

Wild horses: the myths and the truth

The wild horses of Namibia have been wrapped in mystery for many years. With various travellers, zoologists and historians trying to trace their origins for the last 100 years. As a result of the mystery several different stories have developed, and it is only recently that the truth about these animal’s introduction in to the wild has become known.

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Horses on the outskirts of the Namib
.
(image courtesy of Wild Horses and Mustangs)

There are many origin stories for these wild horses, some suggesting these horses were abandoned by German stud farmers, others claim that the horses survived a shipwreck and made their way into the interior of the country. But these popular theories have been recently dismissed and disproven and historians and zoologists now have the answer to the question of where these mysterious beasts came from.

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Where do the horses come from?

It was 1914, and German and South African troops were doing battle across what was then called South West Africa. The German forces had begun retreating from the 10 000 strong South African battalion who were well armed and well equipped with over 6000 horses.

The South Africans had set up a semi-permanent camp in the Namib around a dug well to provide water to the troops and their horses. It was this camp that the retreating Germans decided to disrupt in order to try and delay the advancing South African troops.

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Dueling horses.
(image courtesy of the Namibian)

A German military report makes the following observation: “In the morning of March 27, the tireless flight lieutenant Fiedler flew to Garub and successfully dropped bombs on the enemy camp amidst 1700 grazing cavalry horses causing great confusion.”

The bombs that were dropped would have scattered some of the horses and many of those animals would not have been recovered as the South African troops quickly pulled up stakes and pursued the German forces shortly after the bombs fell.

The horses that fled into the wild during these World War I skirmishes were supplemented by other escaped horses from stud farms around the region. Based on photographic evidence, a former mayor of Luderitz, Emil Kreplin, had been breeding workhorses just south of Aus in Kubub, and that some of these horses escaped the farm and eventually joined with the other horses who had made it into the wild in the region.

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The wild horses of Namibia are sociable animals that tend to stick together.
(image courtesy of the Namibian)

The horses would have likely congregated around the region's mountains as there are many natural watering holes that can be found at the foot of the mountains.

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Foal and mother in the harsh environment
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(image courtesy of African Bush Bird Tours)

 

How do they survive?

After diamonds were discovered at the nearby Kolmanskop in 1908 the German colonial authority decided to demarcate a massive area of land that was off-limits for anyone without the proper clearance. As a result of this the horses, who mostly escaped to the wild between 1914 and 1930, were able to live in a small area of land that was relatively free from humans.

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 These horses live in extreme conditions

The horses were also able to drink from the watering hole that the South African army had made and were thus able to stay hydrated in the parching desert heat.

Then, in 1986, the mining company who had the rights to mine the area for diamonds turned over the land on which the horses were living, previously called Diamond Restricted Area 2, to the Namibian government for inclusion in the Namib Naukluft Park.

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The horses are now free to roam large tracts of land free from human interaction

 

What is the best way to get to the horses?

If you want to see these majestic beasts your best chance will be heading to the small town of Garub. The little town of Garub is 20km west of Aus which is the main town in the region.

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Horses investigating our parked car on the B4 toward Garub.

A small observation deck has been built inbetween Garub and Aus that visitors can use to look out on to a watering hole that has been constructed for the horses. Horses, gemsbok (oryx) and ostriches often frequent this oasis and seeing all three in the same space is truly a magical experience!

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Oryx, ostriches and wild horses all drinking from the watering hole.

This shelter is easy to find as it is just off the B4, 20km outside Aus, and is well sign posted.

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The lookout point is sign posted once you turn off the B4.
(image courtesy of Wild horses and Mustangs)

If you want to stay in Aus for a few nights then look out for our post all about Aus and the things you can do there whilst visiting this hidden gem of Namibia’s southern region.

 

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Wild horses at sunset.
(image courtesy of Cheryl Korff, via Panoramio)

 

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