the wild horses of sable island
dr. phil mcloughlin
Airing March 1, 2019
Sable Island is a small, narrow strip of land off the coast of Nova Scotia, renowned for its history of countless shipwrecks and for the 550 horses who roam its 26 rugged miles.
Considered by biologists to be home to one of the last herds of completely wild horses, Sable Island is a treasure trove for “population ecologist” Dr. Phil McLoughlin and his team from the University of Saskatchewan’s Department of Biology.
The horses’ biological and ecological isolation makes them ideal for better understanding the surprising relationship between these horses and migratory seals, the effects of habitat selection on a limited gene pool, and even determining how such isolated populations somehow have developed antibiotic resistance – despite never having been given antibiotics, veterinary care, or handled in any way.
Not only is Dr. McLoughlin’s study of these horses important from a scientific perspective, however, but it also has the potential to provide meaningful data with broad-reaching uses within the horse world: from the potential genetic challenges of closed stud books like the Thoroughbred’s to helping owners ensure their horses’ well-being.