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Mustang History

History of the Wild American Mustang — Out of Old Mexico

It is one of the iconic images of the Wild West – a sweeping vista of sun, sand and desert, the stillness broken by the thunder of hooves as, just over the horizon, a herd of mustangs race forward in synchronized beauty, hooves kicking up dust, coats gleaming, manes tossing in the wind – so majestic, so wild, so American.

For generations of children, American and otherwise, innumerable dreams were fueled by movie images such as this, of vast tracts of open land populated by grazing cattle, cowboys and Indians, and thriving herds of wild American mustangs. But the history of the mustang begins long before this western era portrayed in hundreds of shoot ‘em up Westerns.

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Wilderness is part of the mustang’s appeal, even when tamed.

When we show our respect for other living things, they respond with respect for us.”
-Arapaho Proverb

The wild American mustang was man’s partner in the journey to settle this country. This breed is truly like no other, a melting pot of colors, shapes and sizes treasured through the centuries for endurance and stamina. The wild mustang persevered through persecution, starvation, abuse, natural disasters and predators. What is it about the breed that sets it apart?

With medium or heavy builds, strong legs, dense bones and sturdy feet, the wild mustang’s physicality separates him/her from domestic horses. Mustangs are built to withstand the running, the weather, and the threats to survival that would be found when roaming free.

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The Kiger Mustang — Linked Directly to History

Mustang Leadership Partners counts among our stock five Kiger mustangs, a breed recognized only recently and bearing distinct genetic ties to the wild American mustang’s Spanish past.

All Kiger mustangs are a shade of dun, ranging from buckskin to claybank and Grullo. Other distinctive markings include a dorsal stripe, jack stripe, zebra stripes on the legs, arm bars, tri-colored mane and tail, ears with a dark outline and fawn colored interior, a facial mask and cobwebbing. Kigers average about 14-15 hands in height, with finely pointed ears, a medium head size, prominent eyes and a fine muzzle. Noted for their agility, intelligence, courage and boldness, Kigers are at the same time gentle, calm and willing to please.

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The Wild American Mustang Today — Triumphs and Tragedies

An Act of Congress

“Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; (and) that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people …”

(Public Law 92-195, December 15, 1971)

In 1971, Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act and prohibited the hunting and killing of wild horses on public land. The wild mustang population, down to an estimated 17,000, began to rise.

Charged with oversight of the wild horses, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) faced many challenges. Scandal ensued over a BLM employee’s role in the Howe Massacre of 1973, an illegal and deadly wild mustang round-up. Long court battles followed.

The Supreme Court upheld the federal law as superior to any state law in regard to wildlife. However, an amendment to the original bill allowed wild mustangs to be rounded up by helicopter, a method deemed more humane than the airplane-driven round-ups.

By the late 1970s, the BLM claimed wild American mustangs had overpopulated the available land, and it was necessary to cut back. Political factions pushed for public lands to become private or to be leased for private use, further restricting the land available for mustangs. Horses were herded by helicopter and severe injuries occurred, including the miscarriages of pregnant mares. Public outcry reached new levels in the late 1970s and 1980s.

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