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Corolla’s wild stallions fight over territority — in full view of summer beach crowds

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Corolla

In 2015, Jeff Merten of Glen Allen was on the Outer Banks of North Carolina in Corolla when he captured this image of the island’s wild horses while he was out in a four-wheel-drive area. He said lots of groups of horses were on the beach near the water trying to escape from the mayflies.

Surprising Facts About US Beaches. 1. New Smyrna Beach near Daytona, Florida, has the most shark attacks in the world, There have been at least 320 confirmed shark attacks since 1882. 1. New Smyrna Beach near Daytona, Florida, has the most shark attacks in the world, There have been at least 320 confirmed shark attacks since 1882. 2. You need to sign a waiver before visiting San Miguel Island off the coast of Southern California, It was once used as a bombing range by the U.S. Navy, so there is a possibility of running into unexploded land mines. 2. You need to sign a waiver before visiting San Miguel Island off the coast of Southern California, It was once used as a bombing range by the U.S. Navy, so there is a possibility of running into unexploded land mines. 2. You need to sign a waiver before visiting San Miguel Island off the coast of Southern California, It was once used as a bombing range by the U.S. Navy, so there is a possibility of running into unexploded land mines. 3. Wild horses roam the shores of Assateague Island National Seashore south of Ocean City, They also run free on the beaches of Cumberland Island National Lakeshore in Georgia. 4. Myrtle Beach in South Carolina is America's most-visited beach, More than 19 million people visit per year. 5. Olympic National Park in Washington contains ancient petroglyphs. , The petroglyphs date back to roughly 10,000 to 14,000 BC. 5. Olympic National Park in Washington contains ancient petroglyphs. , The petroglyphs date back to roughly 10,000 to 14,000 BC. 6. A beach bar called the Flora-Bama Lounge straddles two states, Florida and Alabama. , The legendary honky-tonk bar has five stages of live music, frozen cocktails and events such as the Mullet Toss fish-throwing contest. 6. A beach bar called the Flora-Bama Lounge straddles two states, Florida and Alabama. , The legendary honky-tonk bar has five stages of live music, frozen cocktails and events such as the Mullet Toss fish-throwing contest

Corolla wild horse stallions are sparring with each other in front of awed summer beach crowds.

They rear up high on their back legs and strike with front hooves, in some cases just a few feet away from beachgoers and their folding chairs, canopies and coolers.

Social media posts in recent weeks show video and photos of stallions fighting next to the surf. Others record them chasing defeated foes down the beach with manes and tails flowing.

The videos attract much attention; typically, a few thousand “like” the posts and several hundred comment. Most say seeing wild stallions battle is one of the most thrilling spectacles they have ever seen.

“Absolutely awesome,” wrote one follower.

But what causes these magnificent creatures to come to blows — and why now?

Stallions fight all year, but summer is when more people are on the Currituck County beaches and watch the drama first hand, said Meg Puckett, manager of the her for the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.

“They will reestablish their boundaries,” she said. “Most of it is for show. It’s very rarely catastrophic.”

No Corolla stallion has died from a fight, she said.

Roughly 100 wild horses live on an 11-mile stretch of the Outer Banks north of Corolla. The horses divide themselves into harems of mares and foals led by a stallion. Each harem roams an area with loosely defined boundaries.

Stallions typically fight over territory and occasionally over a mare, Puckett said. About half the horses are male, so the competition is stiff to lead a group, she said.

Fighting can get unpredictable and dangerous to people nearby. Puckett recommends people keep at least 50 feet away.

Horse fight using different tactics.

They typically take on an adversary by striking with their front hoofs, biting their opponent’s neck or kicking with their back legs. Most stallions have scars on their bodies from brawls. Some are missing the tips of their ears, Puckett said.

“It’s amazing the scars they have,” she said. “It can get rough.”

At times, a young stallion challenges a veteran without a fight, Puckett said. It’s a form of psychological warfare.

Recently, a young buck followed the harem of an older stallion for months, watching and waiting. The elderly horse tried to keep his mares away from him, but it was no use. The challenger was always close by. The threat of a fight caused the old timer to lose weight and his health declined, Puckett said.

Finally, he gave up his mares to the younger horse. Afterward, he recovered, regained the weight and is doing well, Puckett said.

A stallion named Rambler leads a harem of about 10 mares in an area not far from Corolla. He is often seen by visitors to the beach.

Next to his territory, Acorn leads another large harem. Their clashes are more brotherly quarrels, Puckett said.

“It’s natural behavior that indicates a healthy herd,” she said. “Give them their space.”

Jeff Hampton, 757-446-2090, jeff.hampton@pilotonline.com

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