Wild, Wild Horses

The Famous Wild Horses of Eminence

According to the locals there, wild horses have been roaming the hills of Shannon County for more than 100 years. No one knows exactly the origin of these horses, but it is believed that their ancestors were domesticated horses who were set free during the Great Depression, by farmers who could not afford to feed them. And so they lived, reproduced, and died on land that is a part of the Mark Twain National Forest.

The Missouri Wild Horse League, founded in 1992, oversees the management of the four herds.

The 30 or so horses, found mostly on lands of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways (surrounding the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers) may look like domesticated horses, but it is important to remember that they are wild. They will kick, bite, and throw their head without warning. Therefore, it is recommended to view the horses from a minimum of 40 feet (tabout school bus length) and avoid the temptation to feed or pet them. It is for their safety. We can enjoy them from a distance to respect their wildness.

They make for beautiful photos, as the work of Photographer Holly Ross ( portrays. She suggests using a telephoto lens to get that “up close” feel.

“Many feel they want to get close to the horses, which endangers all,” she says. “Remember, too, that there are ticks, mosquitos, gnats (lots), mountain lions, bear, wild boar, copperheads, and rattlesnakes that share this habitat.”

She says the best times for viewing the horses are sunrise and just before sunset.

She also points out that the roads to the fields where these horses are often found are not paved (unless you are viewing the Round Springs/Echo Bluff herd) and are not always in good shape. The road to Klepzig Mill, for instance, is a road that has large rocks and deep ruts in the one lane road, making it the most difficult to traverse.

For those who want to learn more about the horses and how to find them, contact Jim Smith at Cross Country Trail Rides in Eminence and/or follow the Missouri Wild Horse League on Facebook. The League conducts periodic roundups when the herds reach the federally mandated fifty animals. These horses, after being vet-checked and, if necessary, gelded, are adopted to horse lovers through Jim at CCTR.

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