Wild Horses of the Namib
They roam the sparsely vegetated plains of the Namib Desert in small groups: the Wild Horses.
Over the decades they have conquered the desert as their habitat. They come to drink from the trough at Garub, some 20 km west of Aus. From a hide you can watch the horses and take pictures.
A Symbol of Unlimited Freedom
The mysterious origins of the Wild Horses are part of their allure, but it is not the real issue. Rather, we are fascinated because the horses have gained the freedom to live according to their own natural ways. They have broken free from their man-given role of stud, show-jumper or hobby-companion. They have rediscovered their natural behaviour and their own social systems.
Origin of the Desert Horses:
There have been several theories proposed over the years as to the origin of the wild horses. The two most likely stem from the period between 1915 and 1925. During World War One, Union of South Africa troops were stationed at Garub. Reports from the time make reference to 10.000 soldiers with 6 000 horses who pitched camp on the dusty expanse at the edge of the Namib Desert.
The German forces had set up a stronghold in the hills at Aus, 25km to the east. The base comprised a series of entrenchments, supply routes, a radio mast and housed two planes, which bombed the Union camp intermittently. The last attack was on the 27 March 1915 to mask the Germans’ retreat, scattering the Union horses. It is thought that the Union forces might not have had sufficient time to catch all the dispersed animals before advancing on the retreating Germans, although some soldiers would have remained at the camp after the troops moved off.
Another more probable theory appears to be the missing puzzle piece as to the origin of the horses that formed the core of the wild horse population. Emil Kreplin, who was the mayor of Lüderitz from 1909 to 1914, had a stud farm at Kubub, south of Aus. Here, Kreplin bred workhorses for the mines and racehorses for the flourishing town of Lüderitz that had boomed in the diamond rush sparked in 1908. In photographic evidence of the Kubub stud horses, unearthed by hobby-historian Walter Rusch, there are remarkable similarities in conformation and characteristic markings between the Kubub horses and the present-day wild horses showing traces of Hackney, Trakehner and Shagya Arab breeds.
Kreplin was interred in the Union of South Africa during the hostilities and later lost his fortune in the depression years in Europe. It is assumed that during or after the war the horses, ownerless and not contained by fences, would have begun to scatter, leaving the overgrazed Kubub area in search of better grazing and following the scattered rainfall. They would have eventually made their way to the permanent water source at Garub, becoming wilder over time and linking up with any remaining Union horses and any other abandoned horses in the area.