Kaimanawa are wild horses from New Zealand. The first horses
arrived in New Zealand in 1814, and mobs of feral horses were reported as early
as the 1870s. The principal (and only remaining) herds became established in the
North Island’s Central Plateau, where they became known in general as the “Kaimanawa
Because of increasing concern by the public for their supposed
declining numbers, a Committee, under the umbrella of the Forest Service, was formed
in 1978 to look after the horses’ interests, and a protected area was established
Subsequently, the Department of Conservation raised questions
regarding the impact of the horses on the environment in the area, noting that the
major threat to native plants and habitats within the wild horses’ range was the
horses themselves. A culling program aroused great public opposition.
The Department also carried out research that showed that the
animals were not a distinct breed but were the result of many different genetic
influences. There was no genetic evidence of special relationships with breeds such
as the Exmoor pony as had been suggested by those supporting the herds’ retention.
(While the Kaimanawa horses are listed by the Food and Agricultural Organization
(FAO) in its register of “biologically unique equines” (as recommended originally
by the ‘Wild Horse Committee’), their inclusion is currently being reviewed on the
grounds that they do not actually fit the criteria for inclusion.)
The Department of Conservation currently holds an annual muster
of Kaimanawa horses to maintain numbers in the wild at a manageable level, and captured
horses are made available for domestication.
For some years there has been strong public interest in this
feral breed, and groups (such as the Kaimanawa Wild Horse Welfare Trust) have been
formed to promote their preservation and protection, both in the wild and under
domestication. A ‘Kaimanawa Consortium’, which includes representatives of these
groups, plus bodies such as the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)
and local iwi (Maori people), has also been formed to communicate support for the
welfare of the horses to the New Zealand Government.
A breed register is being kept for domesticated Kaimanawa horses
and they have become increasingly represented in the show ring.
Content and Photo Source: New Zealand Rare Breeds (www.rarebreeds.co.nz