Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Abaco Barb

 During the time of the Spanish exploration of the New World, many Caribbean islands were used for the sole purpose of breeding cavalry, work, and saddle horses. Some researchers believe that not all of horses made it to the chosen destinations and were shipwrecked on the island of Abaco, located in the Bahamas, while others think that horses were taken there by a Cuban logging company in the late 1800s and later abandoned for some reason or another. Either way, the horses have remained there for perhaps over a century, untainted by human influence.

 Throughout the centuries, they have adapted well to the climate, finding both protection and forage in lush pine forests. With no natural predators, they multiplied almost exponentially and began to thrive, becoming a large herd, probably 200 hundred strong, that roamed pine forests and beaches, the sea wind in their face. They were free. Yet all that changed during the twentieth century. People began settling on Great Abaco, the main island of the group, and took advantage all natural resources. That included the feral equines.

 During the '60s, a road, stretching from one end of Abaco to the other, was made. Often, people would chase horses down the road until it collapsed from exhaustion or was roped by a man waiting at the side of the road. Legends about the horses and there tragic endings began to arise.

  Things became even worse for the horses when a young child climbed upon the back of one of the horses, getting killed as the equine bolted in fright. A bloodbath followed. Villagers, angry at the death of the child, slaughtered over a hundred horses, leaving only three horses, which were taken to a cattle farm by other residents, alive. once their numbers increased to 12, they were released. Thirty years later, in 1992, their numbers increased to a small band of thirty-five horses. But that didn't last. By '97, the number soon plummeted to seventeen, with many dying from pesticides, lack of medical attention, and mortal wounds inflicted by both humans and dogs alike.

 After hurricane Floyd, the horses returned to the farm. Yet something was not right. Four years passed, and not a single horse was born. One organization---Wild Horses of Abaco Preservation Society(WHOA)---has been working hard since 1992 to save the rare, endangered breed by publicizing their dilemma. In 2004, WHOA brought the remaining horses to Treasure Cay, Abaco, where a large piece of land given to them by the Bahamian Government was used as a sanctuary. Today, only five horses remain, and there have been no reproductions since 1998. WHOA plans on sending the horses to a University in the US to see why they are not reproducing. For the time being, WHOA runs on private donations, yet it is running out of funds.
Abaco Barbs are the world's most endangered breed.

 In 2002, scientists tested the DNA, finding that the native horses were related to the original stock of Barbs brought to America from the Barbary coast.  The breed was therefore named "Abaco Barb" and was added to the Horses of the Americas registry.

 Abaco Barbs stand 13.2 to 14.2 hands high, and are small, sturdy, and compact with strong legs and white patches underneath their bodies. Their hooves were once tough, yet pesticide have weakened them. Because they have had so long to adapt, they are nimble, surefooted, and have a lot of endurance.

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