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Am J Vet Res. 1984 May;45(5):991-5.

Reproduction in feral horses: an eight-year study.


The reproductive rate and foal survival of the free-ranging ponies on Assateague Island National Seashore were studied for 8 years, 1975 to 1982. Most (52%) of the 86 foals were born in May, 13% were born in April, 22.6% in June, 10.4% in July, and less than 1% in August and September. The mean foaling rate was 57.1 +/- 3.9% and the survival rate was 88.3 +/- 3.6%. Forty-eight colts and 55 fillies were born (sex ratio 53% female). Mares less than 3 years old did not foal and the foaling rate of 3-year-old mares was only 23%, that of 4-year-old mares was 46%, that of 5-year-old mares was 53%, and 6-year-old mares was 69%. The relatively poor reproduction rate was believed to be a consequence of the stress of lactating while carrying a foal when forage quality on the island was low. The hypothesis was supported by the higher reproductive rate (74.4 +/- 2.4%) of the ponies in the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on the southern part of the island. Their foals are weaned and sold in July each year. Despite the low reproductive rate on Assateague Island National Seashore , the number of ponies increased from 43 to 80, a 90% increase in the 8-year period or greater than 10%/yr. There were 24 deaths and 8 dispersals from the study area.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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