Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 23

Tips for seeing
Cumberland's horses

COURTESY CUMBERLAND ISLAND NATIONAL SEASHORE

The island's horses are feral, meaning
that they have had little or no interaction with people. Here are some tips for
safe viewing:
* Stay at least 50 to 100 feet from the
horses. They can move quickly and
may kick, bite or charge humans.
* If a horse changes what it's doing,
take this as a sign that you are too
close. Back away slowly to give it
plenty of room, and put a barrier,
such as a tree or picnic table,
between you.
* Do not feed the horses. They survive
on the vegetation that grows
naturally on the island.
* Avoid making any sudden movements or loud noises that could
startle the horses.

ISTOCK.COM / CSFOTOIMAGES

Top: The island's grasslands provide open
spaces that allow the horses to roam freely.
Left: The horses' diet is similar to that of
deer, consisting of sea oats, Spanish moss,
acorns and native grasses.

remaining 5 percent of the island.
"The National Park Service serves as the steward of
Cumberland Island, but the horses are free-range," she says.
"We do not feed them or interact with them in any way, contrary
to what some people think. They have roamed here on their
own for many years. They receive no help or care from the park
service or from area residents. That's what makes them a unique
part of the island. They have learned to survive in this harsh
environment."
The University of Georgia in Athens, in partnership with
the University of Kentucky in Lexington, conducted a study
of the horses' DNA in 1991. Researchers found that the herd
carried genes from modern domestic breeds, including quarter
horses, Tennessee walking horses and Paso Finos.

A colorful history
A historical account from 1742 reports that when the Span-

ish and British battled at Fort Andrews
on the north end of the island, 50 or 60
horses were found in a corral at the fort.
Most likely, these animals were released
after the battle and roamed free.
"However, we have no direct link today to these horses from the 18th century
or to their survival," Hamilton-Anderson
says. "As settlers came to Cumberland
Island in the late 1700s and early 1800s as
recipients of land grants from the British
Crown, they brought domestic livestock,
including horses, to help support agricultural activities, such as
growing rice and cotton."
A more likely source of the island's horse herd is the
Carnegie family, which built the iconic Dungeness mansion in
1884. The mansion burned in 1959, but its ruins still stand.
"At one time the Carnegies were said to have owned
90 percent of the island," Hamilton-Anderson says. "They and
other landowners brought livestock for hunting, recreation and
transportation, including pulling carriages."
It's said that as many as 50 horses were kept at Dungeness
during that time.
"As landowners left the island in the mid-1900s, the horses
were released to roam on their own," she says. "Most likely, the
current population are descendants of those horses left between
1925 and 1972. Through an annual census of the horses, we've
found that the herd is maintaining numbers between 130 and
160 animals."
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Georgia Magazine - October 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - October 2020

Contents
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - Intro
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - Cover1
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - Cover2
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - Contents
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 4
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 5
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 6
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 7
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 8
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 9
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 10
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 11
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Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 14
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Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 16
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 17
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 18
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Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 38
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - Cover3
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - Cover4
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