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Beloved wild horse Hazel who ‘babysat’ foals on North Carolina coast found dead in 110-degree heat

Beloved wild horse named Hazel who ‘babysat’ young foals on North Carolina coast is found dead in 110-degree heat

  • Hazel was believed to be in her late 20s and possibly 30, according to a local horse fund
  • She often ‘babysat’ other horses, and is believed to have had many foals herself
  • Hazel had no injury or illness, but the heat may have contributed to her death
  • She roamed the coastal barrier islands as part of a 100-horse herd
  • It’s believed that colonial shipwrecks led to the Spanish Mustang descendants roaming the area for hundreds of years 

A horse who was known in the Outer Banks region of North Carolina as an ‘honorary grandmother’ to younger horses has died amid triple-degree temperatures.

The horse named Hazel was well into her 20s, and perhaps even 30, according to a Sunday afternoon Facebook post by the Corolla Wild Horse Fund announcing her death. 

The average lifespan of a horse is 25 to 30 years, according to WebMD.com

Hazel is believed to have been close to 30, the upper end of an average horse’s lifespan

Hazel, second from right, was part of a herd of 100 horses who roam the Outer Banks region of North Carolina

Hazel, second from right, was part of a herd of 100 horses who roam the Outer Banks region of North Carolina

‘Hazel lived and died as every wild horse should – free, and on her own terms,’ the fund said.

Hazel showed no signs of trauma, injury or illness, though the National Weather Service recorded a heat index of as high as 110 degrees in some areas of the Outer Banks on July 30. 

‘We had noticed that she’d been slowing down some lately. The heat has been really hard on the older horses,’ the fund said.

The horses are descendants of Spanish Mustangs possibly brought ashore after shipwrecks

The horses are descendants of Spanish Mustangs possibly brought ashore after shipwrecks

Hazel was part of about 100 horses in the Corolla herd who roam the area freely.

They have adapted to eat sea oats, coastal grass, persimmons, acorns and other vegetation native to the islands.   

‘She seemed to enjoy her role as honorary grandmother to the foals, and could be seen babysitting while their moms grazed and rested,’ the fund said.

‘We have identified several offspring and relatives of Hazel’s, and expect to find more as we continue to collect DNA samples from the herd.’  

The Outer Banks consist of more than 100 miles of shoreline and small towns spread across barrier islands on the northeastern edge of North Carolina.

The wild horses in the area are descendants of Spanish Mustangs, and several theories abound regarding their origins, according to the Outer Banks Visitor’s Guide.

A number of ‘local experts’ believe they were washed ashore by Spanish or English shipwrecks in the 1500s.

It is illegal to feed the horses or to come within 50 feet of them, according to the guide. 

Comments mourning Hazel's death poured in

Comments mourning Hazel’s death poured in

Those who knew her chimed in with memories and condolences on Facebook.

‘She was beautiful – I think we saw her last week,’ one person said.

Many were happy that she lived outside of captivity.

‘Glad you were able to spend your life roaming free on the beaches,’ another person wrote. 

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