On July 23, 2015, Nunki, the last of Abaco’s famous wild horses, passed away. Nunki was a twenty year old mare and the last of a special breed of horse referred to as the Abaco Spanish Colonial, or ‘Abaco Barbary Horses’ by the Horse of the Americas Registry.
For over twenty years the Abaco horses were managed by Milanne “Mimi” Rehor and the Wild Horses of Abaco (WHOA) Preservation Society. A woman, and group, who were undeniably dedicated to the Abaco horses until the end.
According to WHOA, “Six decades ago there were 200 or more wild horses on Great Abaco Island, Bahamas. These horses were the time-capsuled descendants of the horses that Christopher Columbus brought with him to the New World, at the end of the 15th Century.
“They lived independently and undisturbed until man disrupted the balance. All but three were slaughtered in the early 1960s.
“They came back to 35 animals by the mid 1990s. But a hurricane pushed the horses out of their now destroyed forest habitat, where they had thrived for so long, into a lush and toxic citrus plantation that was hurricane-damaged and littered with chemicals, destroyed buildings, too-rich pastures, and poisonous plants.”
WHOA had for some time been attempting to fundraise and garner support to harvest Nunki’s eggs and implant it with the sperm of a stallion sharing similar genes to that of the Spanish Colonial. It was hoped this could save the species.
Unfortunately, since Nunki’s passing, eggs have not been retrieved. However, WHOA has announced intentions to clone the rare breed of horse. “We remain determined to continue our work to restore the herd,” they said in a Facebook post, “We will continue to work towards the return of the herd, and with Nunki’s DNA that is still possible!”
The exact origins of the Abaco horses remain a subject of some controversy. While genetic testing has indicated the uniqueness of the Abaco Spanish Colonial, whether they’re presence in Abaco is the direct result of horses abandoned by Columbus and the Conquistadors is challenged.
Dave Ralph, local historian, recalls a conversation he once had with the late Leonard Thompson who claims to have seen horses, which were used by Abaco logging companies in the early twentieth century, released from a camp and set to the wild in the late 1920s. The question then becomes where did the logging companies secure the horses from? Were the horses on Abaco since the 1500s? Or were they brought in during the 1900s from a place like Cuba which was a Spanish colony and had similar breeds of horse?
Hard records remain murky on the subject prior to the 1920s. However, regardless of these beautiful creatures’ origins or genetics, they were undeniably special to Abaco and The Bahamas. And with Nunki’s passing, so too does another bit of Abaco’s history.