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.