Marsh Tacky horses were once the most common horse in the swampy and marshy Low Country. Believed to have been brought to South Carolina by Spanish explorers in the 1500’s as “drop offs,” they were used for riding, pulling, and everything else that horsepower had to offer. Herds were kept and managed on islands such as our very own Hilton Head, and feral herds were rounded up whenever there was a need.
It was feared that the breed had become extinct during the 1980’s and 1990’s, though this was found to be incorrect and there are an estimated 150 pure Marsh Tacky horses left.
Because Marsh Tacky horses are sturdy, thoughtful, well-balanced, gentle, fearless, and strong, they were popular as working animals in the field. Likewise, they were often used for hunting and herding cattle.
“Tacky” is derived from the English word for “cheap” or “common,” but Marsh Tacky horses were anything but this in the eyes of the Gullah community and culture following the Civil War. Oral history states that freed slaves of Hilton Head Island were each given 40 acres and a Marsh Tacky. These equine prizes were used for everything from delivering mail to bringing people to church.
Do you want to learn more?
The Marsh Tacky Horse Exhibition and Show is this Sunday, February 24, from noon to 3 PM at 231 Beach City Road. Admission for ages 6 and up is $5, and children 5 and under are free with a canned good. This is a hands on experience that showcases the very horse that played an integral part in the survival of the Gullah people on Hilton Head Island. See you Sunday!