Australia’s Wild Horses And Their Remarkable Story Of Survival | Horse: In The Wild | Real Wild

Take a canter into the world of wild horses and learn just what life is like for a horse in the open plains of Australia.

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australia's wild horses newcomers to this ancient land facing formidable predators living among extraordinary neighbours species that have occupied this continent for tens of thousands of years.

Abandoned by those who first brought them here they forged their own way of life over hundreds of years they bred into a hardy stock able to survive in the driest deserts and withstand the fiercest alpine.

Winters theirs is a remarkable story of survival against the arts and against the elements australia the flattest continent on the planet yet from its eroded surface rise the.

Australian alps known as the snowy mountains they are rugged and wind-swept buffeted by snowstorms in winter and scorching in summer yet remarkably they are home to the rare and endangered pack hunters great mobs of hopping herbivores.

And australia's wild horses relatively recent arrivals that face an uncertain future it's early spring in the alps the last of the winter snows are melting releasing almost 10 000 billion liters of fresh water into the valleys below.

The alps national park covers 6900 square kilometres yet it is only one percent of the entire continent its highest peak would barely reach the foothills of america's rocky mountains this 15 strong snowy plains band is led.

By the dominant stallion the lead mayor has recently given birth to a healthy chestnut fall she's an experienced mother and hers was the first fall of the season the band is one of a dozen or more that make up the thousand strong population of horses.

That roam these snowy peaks released from nearby farms and allowed to run wild they now live a knife-edge existence the thawing snow feeds clear streams that the horses follow to fresh pastures which are also hunting grounds for venomous red belly black snakes.

In spring males travel widely in search of a mate when they encounter rivals combat ensues immune to each other's venom it's a contest of strength and will the loser abandons prime waterside territory and its resident females.

The streams are the playground of platypus also venomous perhaps the most bizarre of australia's unique animals it's a mammal that lays eggs fights using its venomous spur and hunts blind its sensitive fleshy bill detects minute electrical currents in the muscles of crustaceans.

Hatching from creek beds the platypus closest relative is the echidna this hearty survivor is able to endure the searing summers then slip into a torpid state to sleep out of the alps deep winters it thrives on australia's abundant.

Termites and relies on an armor of spines to ward off predators echidnas rip into termite mounds with powerful clawed legs their snout then detects electrical signals within insects bodies and a long sticky tongue does the rest like wild horses the mobs of grey.

Kangaroos prefer the lush foothills in spring as do the predators that hunt them rising above it all australia's largest eagle the wedge-tailed glides on thermals and surveys the mountains with its razor-sharp vision for quarry dead or alive.

like domestic horses their wild relatives fall in the spring after an 11 month pregnancy while the band grazes in the open a heavily pregnant mare retreats to the wooded hillsides her waters break.

With her fall in birth position she enters hours of labour hmm it's a boy the new fall begins breathing in seconds.

While the steep slopes provide shelter they also pose an extra challenge for the newborn foal alone dingo won't risk its mother's powerful kick despite a rough and tumble start to life the fall struggles to its feet.

The gangly legs he is born with will remain the same length throughout his life this is a species born to run his senses too are already acute he becomes acquainted with his mother's scent and seeks out his first meal within the first hours of its life a.

Newborn fall is able to run safe in the company of the herd even from the hungry dingo pack they prefer to hunt the grey kangaroos stimulated by the flourish of fresh grass the roos are also in reproductive overdrive.

While the horse's breeding is cyclical the ruse breed in response to available pastures males lean back on their strong tails using them as the stabilizer kickboxing with their hind legs and grappling with their front paws.

males compete for mating rights in these boxing bouts most fights are between equally sized males honing their technique for future more serious bouts challenging the alpha male for the top.

Position kangaroos are marsupials they give birth to a pea-sized joey which crawls up into the pouch where the remainder of its development takes place when grass is plentiful and nutritious.

Kangaroos can put their breeding into overdrive very quickly they can have a newborn attached to one teat consuming a fat rich milk a young at foot suckling its own low-fat formula from the other nipple and a newly conceived embryo waiting for space in the pouch.

To become available they never stray far from the pouch with dingo stalking the hills the pack is gathering for a hunt and the roos are in their sights good a wedge-tailed eagle surveys the dingo spoils.

although they're full the pack is in no mood to share its meal with this winged hunter the eagle looks for its own prey while it would struggle to take down an adult kangaroo the eagle routinely targets joey's.

slower and smaller the rabbit is the easier kill like horses rabbits are relatively recent arrivals to australia numbers swell in the good times providing a constant source of food for the eagles and dingoes with easy prey around foals are not on.

Any predator's menu along with well-watered pastures and short winters the lack of predators has enabled the horses to thrive here in the mountains these wild horses are fast highly mobile and built to navigate the rugged slopes of the alps they descend from sturdy farm horses.

horses were first introduced into australia in 1788 and used for farming and transport with increasing mechanization horses were no longer needed the farm gates were opened and the horses were free to fend for themselves.

The weaker animals were weeded out by natural selection and the hardier individuals bred the resilient horses that roam the mountains today but australia's wild horses are not universally appreciated their persistent grazing and hard hooves.

Damage the fragile alpine ecosystem and the endemic species that have long occupied these landscapes these alpine meadows evolve without ever having been trot upon by heavy hard hooved mammals the alpine bogs support delicate.

Sphagnum moss that holds moisture all year round as much as 10 to 20 times their dry weight and within these islands of moisture one of the world's rarest amphibians clings to its existence less than three centimeters long the corroboree frogs are only found above the tree line in the alps.

The frog generates its own toxic skin secretion to ward off predators but it's defenseless against habitat destruction at night another rare alpine creature at risk from the horse's hooves emerges in spring the mountain pygmy possum.

Gorges on seeds and berries but for the coldest six months of the year it hibernates the only marsupial to truly do so should the blanket of snow that insulates the warm air beneath be penetrated by hooves.

The delicate possum is unable to survive the cold above the tree line in the alpine zone plant life has but a brief flowering season they carpet hilltops with an explosion of blooms with only four months of suitable warmth a year.

The flourish is fleeting this delicate collection of life forms can't cope with the heavy tread and large appetites of the horses the threat they pose to these and other unique australian environments stirs a controversial crusade to drive the horses from the mountains all together.

In such inaccessible terrain the most effective way to control wild horse numbers is from the air hundreds are shot every year too much public outcry from horse lovers these wild horses known locally as brumbies.

Don't just roam the landscapes of australia they run free in many australians imaginations their lives romanticized by writers and poets so this season's falls are now one month old.

And their mothers are ready to breed again males pester females for the right to mate the lead stallion has been all the mayor's preferred partner for four years but his reign is constantly being tested by subordinate males deposed stallions and young colts form.

Bachelor bands like this one lingering close to the breeding herd every so often a bachelor male tries his chances the lead stallion drives them off when he can but they are many and the mayors are interested.

This aspiring young casanova takes advantage of the dominant male's attention being elsewhere ultimately it's the female who makes the choice this mayor selects the opportunistic bachelor she may even run off to mate with him.

For a few days and then return to the herd the dominant mayor's fall is the progeny of one of those matings in this way the females control the genetic diversity in their bands and reduce the risk of inbreeding horses use scent for their most important social networking.

The smell of the female's urine reveals her reproductive readiness and status the dung and urine of the males communicates dominance and marks out the home range horses curl their lips and flare their nostrils behavior known as fleming to inhale more scent.

Particles deep into their nasal passages where millions of fine hairs analyze chemical scent in a vast wooded environment where the band's paths rarely cross the scent of dung and urine reveals details of social status gender readiness to mate and even establishes the individual's.

Identity as summer progresses the alps explode with life some 2000 million bogong moths stream into the highlands escaping the fierce summer heat of the plains to seek refuge in the cool crevices of the granite boulders.

Every year they embark on a summer migration from their birthplace thousands of kilometers further north flying up to two kilometers high up to 15 000 moths per square meter will pack themselves on the walls of caves the moths come here not to breed or feed.

But simply to rest returning to the plains in the summer the moths oil-laden bodies are a rich temporary food source for mountain pygmy possums with water and grass plentiful the horses range far.

And wide across the mountains it's an opportunity to assess the status of the neighbouring bands and make a new deposit on strategically placed stallion dung piles these pungent signposts are placed in the open for passersby to interpret they're not just digested grass but.

Contain a complex mix of volatile hormones and may even guide newcomers to a water source hmm curious the dominant mayor's foal stops to investigate a distraction that sees him momentarily.

Separated from the herd and his mother while their calls help them relocate each other their smell affirms their bond in traveling these great distances they create compacted tracks on their regular routes.

Their hard hooves dig into the thin layer of vegetation that holds the topsoil in place causing erosion in the gullies and around watering holes and their manure can foul pristine streams when summer temperatures soar horses need to drink at least 30 liters a day.

And lactating mares perhaps twice that much the foals that are still suckling need to drink less water and can laze away the hours in the sun locating reliable watering holes is critical it's knowledge often held by the.

Dominant mayor she pours at the water testing the depth and substrate and calling off in the process pouring stirs up minerals from the stream bottom mixing it with the water they drink replacing vital trace elements missing.

From the alpine grasses the effects of stirring up and fouling water holes and wetlands has consequences far beyond the alps themselves not only does alpine vegetation hold and release water it filters it and regulates a steady.

Flow throughout the year platypus nest in burrows where the entrance is underwater but the burrow proper is above the water line floods can drown adults and their young and the turbulence affects their food.

Supply of small crustaceans the rocali 2 makes its home and feeds and streams fed and filtered by the alpine wetlands australia is the driest inhabited continent on earth which is why having a regular and reliable supply of quality water is essential for the survival of its.

Inhabitants horses are heavy animals far heavier and hard-hooved than any other living thing in the mountains to protect waterways grazing cattle were removed from the alps in the 1950s but the horses remained defended by those charmed by their presence.

while the grey kangaroos nibble efficiently on the blades of alpine grass horses rip up the grasses roots and all the horses need to graze for some 11 to 15 hours a day to consume the 1.5 percent of their body.

Weight needed to remain healthy they're also highly selective leaving unpalatable grass species and effectively changing the vegetation structure of the alpine meadows they graze compared to horses grey kangaroos are much more efficient at digesting.

Australia's low nutrient grasses the roots extract more energy and trace elements from what is available while the horses are in a constant search for rarer high nutrient fodder female ruse with young at foot don't travel far until the young are strong enough to keep up with the mob.

Big male rows range further afield to find enough suitable pastures to sustain their larger body size just as kangaroos and other native wildlife are adapted to thrive on local vegetation so the alpine plants cope with hot days and drying summer winds.

leaves are often small thick and leathery or rolled hairs on the leaves minimize evaporation by restricting air circulation across the surface.

But the greatest summer threat to the australian bush and its inhabitants is fire in 2002 lightning strike during a drought set off 114 small fires here in the high country.

Causing a massive conflagration that consumed the hillsides bushfire is an inevitable force in this australian landscape the corroboree frogs in their moist enclaves are relatively safe as are the pygmy possums above the tree line within their maze of granite boulders.

the hardy echidna digs itself deep into the moist soil a wombat retreats to the cool of its deep burrow where it's safe from the fire and the scorching heat.

With the fire front advancing from all directions and with nowhere to hide thousands of horses became trapped and half the population perished in the aftermath of summer fires recovery is surprisingly swift the echidna can resurrect itself from its fireproof tomb.

And get straight back to foraging for ants and termites that also survive underground the wombat 2 can return to browsing relying on subterranean roots until grass shoots appear and just as the landscape recovers from the scorching winter creeps in.

As temperatures drop on the mountain peaks the locals soak up the last of the warm rays skinks flatten their bodies to maximize the surface area for sun baking the red-bellied black snakes feast on what they can find around the streams as the day shorten they are most active.

In the mornings shuttling between sunny and shady spots they're able to move heat around different parts of their body as needed their rate of heating up in the morning is more rapid than the rate of cooling in the evening.

Enabling them to remain active for as long as possible eventually when the temperatures are too cold for any activity they retreat to a state of dormancy for the winter by the time the first snow storms arrive.

All the snakes corroboree frogs and pygmy possums are dormant and only the hardy dingo wombat and echidna can be seen out braving the elements while these smaller mammals can seek shelter in hollows and dens when conditions are extreme.

The horses are forced to endure even the most severe conditions in the open but they evolved in the grasslands of eurasia where winters are often colder than this as the days shorten their coats grow longer and thicker less daylight causes the horse's body to.

Produce more of the hormone melatonin which stimulates coat growth the horses are well equipped to dig through the snow so most of australia's eucalypt trees are adapted to survive heat.

And drought these hardy snow gums have flexible branches able to bend under the weight of the snow rather than snap they can withstand temperatures as low as -5 degrees and reduce their optimum temperature for photosynthesis.

During the winter months while the horses stay higher up the mountains for the start of winter the kangaroos retreat to the valleys below where grasses are still accessible eventually hunger forces the horses to leave the high alps and retreat below the snow line.

For more than 100 years this has been the time of the brumby run farmers and stockmen take to their steeds head to the mountains and round up wild horses many ride in the footsteps of their forebears on horses they have caught in previous seasons.

And broken in so the sure-footedness of the horses and the horsemanship of the riders ensures access to even the steepest and most rugged slopes.

Eventually the bushmen drive the horses out of the hills and down to the flats where they follow the river back to the stockyards the vast majority of horses avoid the roundup but local authorities committed to reducing the impact on the alpine environment.

Also capture horses in winter they use sweet and pungent molasses to lure brumbies out of their mountain horns because of damage caused to alpine australia most of these horses will be killed their meat used as pet food the enthusiasts of the brumby run have.

Other plans for the horses they've captured the herds lead stallion is among them along with some other members of the herd he has been brought to a local farm under the care of an experienced horse breaker the stallion's strong features and regal nature made him a prime target for the.

Horsemen horse and human take time to get to know each other many horse breakers prefer to work with a horse that has never been handled before giving both horse and trainer a fresh start these wild mountain horses are quick.

Learners some are able to be written after just eight hours of handling those that have this intimate contact with the wild horse speak of their intelligence loyalty and spirit some will be sold as riding school or pony club horses.

For the stallion five years as alpha breeding male was an impressive reign and his genes will live on in the mountains through his falls spring returns to the alps the snow has thawed revealing sweet new.

Grasses the kangaroos and the horses return to the hillsides and their favorite pastures with the black stallion out of the picture the band has a new alpha male a young chestnut stallion from one of.

The bachelor bands is getting to know the mayors the lead mayor succumbs to his charms but she is carrying the captured stallion's fall so for this season he is gone but will not be forgotten every year the regal wild horses that.

Roam this fragile environment spark controversy and passionate debate the horses here face an uncertain future but they have made

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