Officials Forced To Euthanize Assateague’s Oldest Stallion

Officials Forced To Euthanize Assateague’s Oldest Stallion
Officials Forced

ASSATEAGUE — Assateague Island National Seashore’s famed wild horse population lost its patriarch this week when Sham, the known oldest stallion ever to live on Assateague at nearly 25 years, was humanely euthanized on Monday due to his steadily declining condition.

Also known by his official alpha-numeric code N2BHP, Sham’s health had declined in recent months to the point he would not likely have survived another harsh winter on the barrier island, or possibly not even this fall, according to the Assateague Island Alliance (AIA), the friends group of the Assateague Island National Seashore that provides support for 100 or so famed wild horses on the Maryland side of the barrier island.

According to the AIA, Sham began to decline noticeably in the last month. He was a little thin during the summer, which isn’t surprising because of his age, but he was still able to keep the mares in his band away from other stallions up until just a few weeks ago.

However, in his weakened condition in recent weeks, Sham finally lost his mares to another stallion and was injured in the process. Sham also had severe infections on both sides of his face, according to the AIA. Over the weekend, park staff received several reports about Sham’s condition and recent injuries. It is believed most of the injuries were sustained during the recent and apparently intense fight with another stallion.

An AINS horse biologist located Sham on Monday to document and observe his condition and was reportedly alarmed at his rapid weight loss and the extent of the infections. Given his advanced age, weight change, extensive injuries and approaching winter season, AINS officials did not feel comfortable Sham would recover on his own without undue pain and suffering and the decision was made to euthanize the animal.

The famed horses on Assateague are wild animals and as such are generally left alone in their respective life cycles with little interaction from AINS officials. For example, a sick or injured wild horse would not typically be given medical attention or veterinary care.

The horses are treated as wildlife and AINS officials would not typically put one of them down just for being thin or injured as they often rebound from such conditions, but in Sham’s case, the combination of extreme old age, emaciated condition and infection meant he was on his way out soon and the only humane thing to do was to peacefully euthanize the slowly dying old stallion. According to the AIA, there was no way Sham was going to survive another winter, and the horse would likely not have made it through the rest of October.

While the oldest stallion ever on Assateague was peacefully euthanized on Monday, Sham’s legacy lives on at the barrier island. Both of his sons, Fonzi and Delegate’s Pride, are also successful harem stallions on Assateague. Sham also has two daughters, Bella Boo and the unnamed mare N6BIRUY, neither of which have foaled yet, although they are now untreated with the Park Service’s contraceptive program and can birth foals in the future. In addition, Johnny’s Star and Giggles are most likely Sham’s grand-daughters, although their lineage will be confirmed after the current batch of genetic samples have been processed.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.