Human Ecology

, Volume 39, Issue 5, pp 613–625 | Cite as

The “Wild” or “Feral” Distraction: Effects of Cultural Understandings on Management Controversy Over Free-Ranging Horses (Equus ferus caballus)

  • Jonaki Bhattacharyya
  • D. Scott Slocombe
  • Stephen D. Murphy


Use of the terms “wild” and “feral” characterizes ongoing debate over management of free-ranging horses. However, the focus on terminology tends to obscure complex differences in meanings and cultural perception. Examining a case study in the Chilcotin region of British Columbia, we explore how the terms “wild” and “feral” distract from the underlying issues at stake in management of horses and the landscape: different ways of valuing, understanding, and relating to land and animals. To be effective in the long term, and to avoid an unwitting continuation of outdated culturally biased land management practices, future decisions regarding management of lands and free-roaming horses in the Chilcotin would benefit from an integrated process informed by both ecological and socio-cultural information.


Wild Feral Free-ranging horses Cultural values Landscape management British Columbia 



The authors would like to acknowledge generous support from members of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation, all the Tsilhqot’in Nations, and other residents in the Nemiah Valley, for allowing and facilitating research within their communities and territory, and for their warm hospitality towards the primary researcher during her visits. Field research was made possible by in-kind support from Friends of Nemaiah Valley (FONV), Valhalla Wilderness Society, British Columbia Ministry of Forests and Range, Woodward and Company, as well as numerous individual volunteers. The research was supported by financial contributions from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the Ontario Ministry of Colleges Training and Universities, the Wilburforce Foundation, The University of Waterloo, FONV, Valhalla Wilderness Society, The Vancouver Foundation, and from individual private donors. Thanks to Pam Schaus for her map, and to anonymous reviewers for their contributions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonaki Bhattacharyya
    • 1
  • D. Scott Slocombe
    • 2
  • Stephen D. Murphy
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Planning, Faculty of EnvironmentUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada
  2. 2.Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Faculty of ArtsWilfred Laurier UniversityWaterlooCanada
  3. 3.Department of Environment and Resource Studies, Faculty of EnvironmentUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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