Not far from Swakopmund, in Namibia, more precisely 4 km South of the Swakop river, there is a sort of horse cemetery, the remains, now reduced to a pile of bones, of more than 1,000 horses; only a limited number of people can venture up to here, usually driving a quad or a 4x4 car.
For a long time everybody wondered where these horses came from and how they were all gathered in the same place.
Various theories and stories and legends have been told about this discovery; in addition to being all gathered in the same place, another mysterious curiosity concerns the fact that in the skull of the horses there is a hole, compatible with that of a bullet.
One of the stories that, for some time, was the most popular, narrated that these horses had been abandoned here by the German troops of the Schutztruppe during the Second World War and that they died as a result of some unidentified epidemic.
Another theory says that these horses died as a result of poisoning or lack of food or water.
But these and other stories do not explain why these animals have a bullet hole in the skull or why so many and all died together; moreover, it had never been proved that they were indeed the horses of the Schutztruppe or if they had belonged to the South African Occupation Forces.
The answer to this mystery was found in the military archives in South Africa, and precisely in the text of a telegram sent on May 15, 1916 by the defense minister, who had his office in Johannesburg, in the Parliament, that was instead in Pretoria.
The text of the telegram is as follows: "1,695 horses and 944 mules were suppressed near Swakopmund as a result of an outbreak of glanders that spread among the South African Occupation Forces conducted on the Namibian coast during the month of October.
All the measures have been taken to treat the glanders and to solve the problem.
As soon as the news was received that the epidemic had broken out in Namibia, a veterinary officer from Cape Town was dispatched on board the SS British Prince with a liquid used to diagnose the glanders.
Unfortunately the ship collapsed and the veterinary officer arrived in Swakopmund 10 days late.
The animals, that showed the typical symptoms of the glanders, were immediately suppressed by the officer; while the others were tested to find out whether or not they were infected, those who tested positive were suppressed to prevent the spread of the disease."
The glanders is a chronic and fatal disease, the symptoms are cough, pneumonia and swollen lymph nodes, it usually affects already sick or debilitated horses or when the hygienic conditions are not good; it can be fatal even for humans, the only way to control its spread is to suppress infected animals.
This is the confirmation that the horses were not of the German army, also because the German army had already left the coast of Namibia for five months, after the peace treaty of Khorab on July 9, 1915, when the horses were suppressed.
In addition to the telegram, another proof was found: on May 17, 1916, General Louis Botha, the Prime Minister of the South African Union and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, was interrogated in parliament on what happened near Swakopmund.
The dead horses were buried in the sand and remained there for several years, but the moving dunes of the Namib Desert, shifting continuously driven by the winds, unearthed the remains of the horses; even today the dunes move and sometimes cover and sometimes discover the innumerable bones and white skulls of the horses.