Wild horses splash through a shallow body of water; lush green trees fill the background.

Wild Horses

Wild horses that roam public lands in California are occasionally rounded up as part of wildlife and land management practices.


  • October 2018

    In October 2018, the United States Forest Service began a roundup of wild horses in California and announced a new policy that it might put some of the collected horses up for unconditional sale after 90 days, in potential violation of California law.

    The For­est Ser­vice, in the first phase of the auc­tion of the wild hors­es, will pri­or­i­tize the adop­tion of wild hors­es by mem­bers of the pub­lic in com­pli­ance with Cal­i­for­nia law that pro­hibits the pos­ses­sion or sale of hors­es with the intent of using them for human con­sump­tion. How­ev­er, in the sec­ond auc­tion phase, after Jan­u­ary 10, 2019, the For­est Ser­vice will not con­di­tion the sale of the col­lect­ed wild hors­es on com­pli­ance with the con­di­tions imposed by Cal­i­for­nia law.

  • November 2018

    In November 2018, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sent a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, who oversees the Forest Service, objecting to this policy change. The letter noted the unconditional sale of the wild horses in the second phase may violate California law, and is inconsistent with restrictions that Congress has imposed on the Department of Interior stating that wild horses cannot be sold for processing into commercial products. Attorney General Becerra urged that buyers in both phases of the auction process be required to declare their compliance with the requirements imposed by California law.

  • May 2019

    As of May 2019, the Forest Service had at least temporarily suspended its proposal to sell — without conditions — wild horses rounded up in California. The suspension was in response to a lawsuit challenging the Forest Service’s plan.

  • March 2020

    In March 2020, advocacy groups dropped their lawsuit against the Forest Service after Congress included provisions in its Interior-EPA funding bill for fiscal year 2020 that prohibited the agency from selling horses removed from California’s Modoc National Forest without limitations preventing their possible slaughter.