The domesticated horses are protected from their natural predators or enemies by their owners but wild horses can be at risk to be attacked by predator wild animals like bears, coyotes, and pumas, etc.
However, in America, the term wild horse is used incorrectly. At present Mongolian horses and Mustangs are considered wild horses. But in North America, the untamed successors of the domesticated horses imported from Europe are termed as wild horses because they roam freely in herds in West America’s dedicated ranges for long.
Wild horses in America have a few natural predators because they are not native to this country. For this reason, some of the large species of carnivorous animals usually attack wild horses whenever they get an opportunity.
The biggest threat for wild horses in America may include mountain lions and wolves but injured or young horses can also be attacked by feral dogs, packs of coyotes and alligators, etc. The information provided in this write-up will help you to know about the natural predators of wild horses as well as how do horses protect themselves.
Natural predators for wild horses
Most of the large predators for the wild horses are a threat to Mustang horses in America as they attack them as they get an opportunity. These natural predators include:
Mountain lions, cougars, found in mountainous countryside, forests full of evergreen shrubs and trees, swamps, tropical lowland forests, dry bush country, grassland, and other similar area are the biggest predators for wild horses. Being solo hunters with athletic built these predators surprise their prey after stalking them and attack them even by taking long-distance leaps or running behind their prey. They can attack even if their prey is many times larger than them.
Puma is one of the mountain lions which are the natural predator for wild horses as they can manage to go close enough to its prey without being detected.
Both of these predators hunt their prey in their territory instead of interfering with other’s territory. They usually prefer to attack their prey in rocky mountains where they can get the advantage of height and move silently. But they can hunt wild horses even in grasslands and open plains.
Though Wolves from 80 to 100 pounds can survive in various environments, they are usually found in mountain regions and dense forests. They strategically hunt in packs. While searching for food they cover long distances on land. They used to hunt deer, elk, and other similar animals freely before the arrival of European settlers in North America. Thought these predators are skilled, social, and intelligent hunters still they attack sick, injured, and weak animals in packs to get food for all.
But wolves had to move to the lower United States as the European settlers moved towards the west due to their fight with the owners of cattle farms. Today most of the grey wolves are found in Alaska and Canada. For this reason, they became predators for wild horses. They attack wild horses in pack whenever they get an opportunity.
Other predators for wild horses
Apart from mountain lions and wolves, there are several other opportunistic natural predators for wild horses like:
- Coyotes: Though they are smaller than wolves and mainly prey on small animals like rabbits, squirrels, and birds still they can attack wild horses if they get an opportunity. Being clever hunters they hunt in a pack and never try to fight unless they are sure about their win. A pack of starving coyotes can go around an injured or young horse and attack on it otherwise a wild horse is too large and frightful for their health.
- Bears: Grizzly bears with up to 800 pounds weight are the only opportunistic carnivorous in the US. Usually, they prefer easier hunts but if they get an opportunity they can prey on wild horses also. Normally they do not chase a healthy horse as after hunting it they need a lot of energy to move their prey. They generally try to attack domestic cattle or solitary horses.
- Packs of Feral Dogs: A pack of feral dogs can occasionally be troublesome for domestic livestock and cattle as by nature they are more aggressive and bold than coyotes and wolves. They usually chase a herd of wild horses and some of them can get injured or die by chance.
- Alligators: Mostly they eat small mammals, birds, and fish but they can also attack cows and horses if they get an opportunity. Though when they are in the water they can hunt more effectively but horses are also very clever as they normally avoid taking a long bath or swimming in water infested with alligators.
How horses protect themselves
Though wild horses have several natural predators but they can also protect themselves by using various types of tools like:
- Monocular vision: Horses can easily see the tricky predators around them due to the monocular vision of their eyes they have on the sides of their head to provide them a view of the wider landscape on either side. But they cannot see behind them even if they get a view of almost 340-350 degrees.
- Fast run: While moving horses can dash away easily from the predators with the help of their long legs. Even a newborn healthy horse can start running after a few hours of its birth. But they can be defeated by most of the predators in short distance runs.
- Sharp teeth: The teeth of horses change constantly with time. Usually, they have flat teeth to chew grass but they can break the skin and even bones of a person due to their strong bite.
- Strong hooves: Being made of keratin, the hooves of a horse are as tough as the nails in the fingers of a human. They use their feet to protect them from any kind of damage with the help of this strong substance on their feet. It can be a painful experience for a predator if it attacks from the rear at a wrong angle.
- Herd advantage: It will be safer for wild horses to move in a group of friends than alone as predators usually attack lonely, weak, and injured horses. Healthy horses in a herd can easily get rid of predators.