RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina lawmakers agree that the horses living wild along the Outer Banks are a symbol of the state.
By an unanimous vote in the House the General Assembly gave final approval Wednesday on a bill naming the colonial Spanish mustang as the official state horse.
Students at a Currituck County elementary school helped make it happen, said Karen McCalpin with the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.
"I’m so grateful to the school districts. It wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t gotten so excited. They’ve seen the power of taking an idea, working together and now seeing what’s happened," she told WVEC.com.
The horses are a major tourist attraction.
Two herds of about 100 horses near Corolla and on Shackleford Banks in Carteret County are believed to have descended from mustangs Spanish explorers brought to the coast in the 1500s.
"We're just ecstatic," McCalpin added. "They’ve quietly existed here and now they’re elevated to the status they deserve. They’re an American icon and a symbol of what’s wild and free. They symbolize stamina and the will to live against all odds."
The measure is headed to Gov. Beverly Perdue's desk to become law. She is expected to sign it upon arrival, according to her press office.
McCalpin said the news comes just days after an ATV rider struck one of the mustangs.
"The person was arrested and we haven't found an injured horse, so we think he's probably sore but okay," she said.
McCalpin says the ATV rider struck the horse after eluding a Currituck County deputy around 11:30 p.m. Saturday.
It happened a year to the day that another mustang, Spec, was killed. The person responsible has never been found.
Other official North Carolina symbols include the honey bee as state insect and the Plott hound as state dog.
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