The survival of horses has been tightly linked with human activity. Humans have driven their extinction across their native range, and today the only truly native wild horse population is a tiny reintroduced herd in Mongolia, originating from a few horses kept in a zoo. Wild horses have however also flourished where they have escaped domestication, both in their native and introduced ranges.
Several studies from around the globe document the importance of large predators in limiting feral horse densities, particularly through predation on foal. Mountain lions and wolves are effective horse-predators, as are dingoes. In the presence of large predators wild horse populations tend to be strikingly stable. Under these conditions wild horses perform a variety of important ecological functions, such as maintaining a mosaic of habitat types, reducing fire, improving soil fertility, and benefiting plants by pruning and dispersing seeds.
By Arian Wallach