“Butts to the Wind” Helps Horses Survive Dorian

Horses turn their butts toward hurricanes to weather storms


September 13, 2019 

How wild horses on the Outer Banks Survive Hurricanes

It appears that all of the wild horses on the Outer Banks survived Hurricane Dorian. And the folks at the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, which manages the herd, says the horses survived using a technique they’ve perfected over hundreds of years. “They hunker down with butts to the wind,” said Meg Puckett, who manages the herd for the fund. “They go to higher ground and huddle together under the sturdy live oak trees to ride it out.

The “butts to the wind” huddle works to stabilize the horses against the powerful storm gusts. “It’s one of the few times were see a lot of the different harems come together,” adds Puckett. It appears that as soon as the horses begin to sense a change in air pressure with the approaching storm, they begin grouping together.

The best known of the herds (each with about 100 horses) live on Corolla and the Shackleford Banks. Both herds have nonprofits dedicated to their care. The Wild Horse fund has a farm in Corolla in which it stockpiled extra hay and grain and filled troughs with water. They also had ID tags braided into the manes of each horse. Puckett rode out the storm at the farm on Corolla with the horses that were there. The farm didn’t appear to suffer any major damage. The Fund also reports the horses at the Rachel Carson Reserve and at Ocracoke were all safe.

“The wild horses are better equipped to handle a hurricane than most of us humans on the Outer Banks,” Puckett told OBXToday.com. “The horses have a kind of “institutional knowledge” about what to do. Remember, they’ve been doing this for 500 years.” Historians believe the wild horses descend from stock brought to the New World centuries ago by explorers, including mustangs that swam from shipwrecks on the Outer Banks.

—Frank Graff 

 Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on Sci NC, a broadcast and online science series.