Wild Horses


The coast is always close on Easter Island, and waves get up a good head of steam before crashing in. Drive out of Hanga Roa, the only town, and horses graze along the shore. They're self-sufficient and unfettered by fences. With the surf pounding behind them they make you feel free, too.

Sourpusses say they should be culled, environmentalists and preservationists, mostly. Those people say their hooves do more environmental damage than human feet.

Some Rapanui keep horses domestically and none of the horses, even the ones out on the coast, are wild, strictly speaking. They all belong to somebody, and they’re branded. But since there’s nowhere for them to go, they go where they will.

They sustain themselves and they look hardy enough, but you wish that with ownership came responsibility. Water is hard to come by for humans and animals alike, but no one provides for watering the “wild” ones.

They told me that if a horse dies on its own, more often than not its owner is nowhere to be found and it will decay where it drops. Everyone who passes will endure the flies and the smell.

There’s a curious driving habit on the island: Traffic maintains the center of the road, moving right only for oncoming cars. It’s because if you accidentally hit and kill a horse, shortly comes the profiteering outrage of the bereaved owner.

“They’re not valuable until you kill one. Then you might as well have murdered the king.”



More photos here.

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