Cumberland Island Horse

Cumberland Island National Seashore is a beautiful and historic place, and the island is known for its wild horses, which can be seen roaming the beaches and forests.

If you’re interested in visiting this enchanting place, or in learning more about the horses that live there, read on!

Cumberland Island Horse Breed Info

Here are some of the key things you need to know about the Cumberland Island horse:

Height (size) Average 15.0 hands high
Colors Solid colors
Country of Origin United States of America (Georgia)
Common Uses They are a tourist attraction on the island

Cumberland Island Horse Facts & Information (Breed Profile)

Cumberland Island, which encompasses 9,800 acres of protected wilderness land, is the biggest and most southern barrier island off the coast of Georgia.

However, Cumberland Island’s wild horses are among its most distinctive features.

Although there is little proof, some horses were likely transported to Cumberland when Spanish missions were established in the late 1500s.

One of the first written records of equines on Cumberland Island dates back to 1742 – while fighting the English for the control of Fort St. Andrews on Cumberland’s northern end, the Spanish discovered “fifty to sixty horses in a corral within the fort”.

By the end of the 1700s, landowners on Cumberland reported that there was an estimated herd of 200 domestic horses and several mules that were maintained as free-ranging livestock on the island.

At the beginning of the 1800s, there were multiple plantations in operation on the island, and people relied heavily on horses for a variety of purposes, including transportation, work, and recreation.

As a result of the unrest that occurred both during and after the Civil War, the majority of the island’s horses were either sold or relocated.

In the 1880s, when the Carnegie family moved to Cumberland, they took horses with them so that they could use them for pulling carriages, riding, hunting, and other leisure activities.

In the 1900s, new horses were brought to the island as free-ranging livestock.

Throughout the 1900s, the island’s horse population grew and diversified as new stock was brought in and some horses were removed from the island.

From the 1940s through the 1960s, property owners on Cumberland handled horses as free-ranging livestock.

The horses on the island had turned wild by the time the park was founded in 1972.

Today, the horses on the island are unmanaged, and the average lifespan is 9 – 10 years.

Horses on the island are let to roam freely and may live for up to nine or ten years without any intervention.

High parasite loads, stress associated with drought, old age, natural accidents, and the possible presence of West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis are some of the known causes of death.

According to a study done by experts from ORNL (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) in 1988, the presence of wild horses is significantly decreasing plant supplies, damaging the island’s ecosystem, and its unique environment like dunes and marshes.

Due to the potential for environmental degradation, it was suggested that the population of feral horses be kept between 49 and 73 at most.

According to assessments conducted by the National Park Service, the population of wild horses on the island is now estimated to be between 100 and 200.

The National Park Service proposed many options for dealing with the herd, including the use of contraceptives to reduce the population, fencing in bands of horses in a certain area of the island, and culling them.

Genetic research carried out on the island’s population in 1991 by the University of Georgia and the University of Kentucky revealed that Cumberland’s horses are closely related to the Tennessee Walking Horses, Quarter Horses, Arabians, and Paso Fino breeds.

If you’re interested in learning more about this fascinating breed, keep reading!

Alternative Names



They have wild instincts and may see island visitors as ‘intruders’, and hence a threat

Physical Characteristics

They have a similar build as the American Mustang, and are overall sturdy in build, with long backs and long legs.

Their hooves are normally somewhat worn down by the rock surfaces and crushed shells that are found on the island.


Solid colors

Height (size)

Average 15.0 hands high






Around 880 lbs (400 kg)

Blood Type


Common Uses

They are a tourist attraction on the island


They are prone to parasitic infections and diseases, and excessive intake of sand causes digestive issues like abdominal distention and colic

Popular Traits

Feral horses


Grasses, sedges, sea oats, cordgrass

Country of Origin

United States of America (Georgia)


Arabian, Paso Fino, Tennessee Walking Horse, American Quarter Horse