Corolla wild horses grazing on beach grass. Direclty related to Colonial Spanish Mustangs, they have adjusted to their environment.

One of the iconic images of Corolla are the Spanish Mustangs that roam the Carova area of the the Currituck Banks. Majestic reminders of the history of the area, there are 100 or perhaps 110 horses left in the herd.

There is a lot of mystery surrounding them and not much is known about them. There are some facts we do know; here are three of them.

The Herd Was Once Much Larger

In 1926 National Geographic came to the Outer Banks to report on a wild and remote part of the United States. The article’s author estimated between 5000-6000 wild horses roamed the area from the Virginia State Line to Oregon Inlet. When the National Park Service established Cape Hatteras National Seashore the horses were considered a nuisance and they offered a bounty on them. That, loss of habitat and fatal accidents with cars decimated their numbers.

There Are No Spanish Mustangs Left in Spain

Seems strange since there are clear records indicating the Wild Mustangs that are part of the Americas came from Spain, but careless breeding and a lack of appreciation for the horse and its virtues left no true Spanish Mustangs in Spain.

The Corolla Wild Horses are mostly Spanish Mustangs—we say mostly because there was some cross breeding with other breeds. Genetic testing and physical characteristics, though, have shown clear evidence that they are directly related to Spanish Mustangs.

Betsy Dowdy Rode a Spanish Mustang

The tale of Betsey Dowdy is an undocumented but often retold tale of a young girl who overheard her father and friends talking about a British force advancing toward Great Bridge—a causeway and bridge over a swamp in what is now Chesapeake.

Hearing that the Colonial forces would be overwhelmed, she leapt upon her horse, Black Bess, and rode off into the frigid December night. Swimming across the Currituck Sound and crossing numerous streams and two rivers, she made the 50 mile trip to Hertford by daybreak.

The militia arrived too late for the Battle of Great Bridge, but their reinforcements stopped British plans to attack again.

Every tale told about Betsy Dowdy’s ride describes the horse as a “Banker Horse”—another name for what is now called the Colonial Spanish Mustangs.