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Mustang Facts

  • Mustang is another name for wild horse and they come in a variety of shapes, colours and sizes. It is derived from the Spanish word Mesteno, meaning ownerless or stray horse. It is now considered a breed. The average size is approximately 14.2 to 15.2 hands, often weighing 1,000 lbs or more. They are alert, swift, hardy, sure-footed, agile, intelligent and spirited horses. They can live up to 25 to 30 years. With patience, Mustangs can be trained by experienced handlers to excel in many disciplines including English, Western Pleasure, Dressage, Driving, Endurance, Barrel racing, and Team Penning to name a few. Mustangs have won many equine shows and competitions.

  • Mustang stallions constantly struggle for herd dominance. They gather breeding mares into a band or herd. Stallions defend their bands by fighting off other stallions that try and steal mares by challenging, rearing, biting, kicking and chasing off the competitor. The winner passes on his genes, strengthening the herd. The rest of the herd consists of mares and their young foals, and a dominant mare leads their search for food and water. Young stallions chased from the herd by the dominant male gather into bachelor bands.

  • The Mustangs ancestors, called dawn horses, roamed here 50 million years ago. Horses first developed in North America. They disappeared in the post-Pleistocene time about 11,000 years ago. They were reintroduced by the Spanish Conquistadors in the early 1500s and became a vital part of life.

  • Wild horses are descendants of animals turned loose or escaped from early Spanish explorers, settlers, ranchers, prospectors, Indian tribes, and the U.S. Cavalry from the 1600s through the Great Depression of the 1930s to more recent times.

  • In 1492 Columbus sailed across the ocean with sleek, fast, desert-bred hardy, small horses. Over time, the explorers and their horses spread throughout the west.

  • Theses hardy, intelligent horses were highly prized by the native Indians who liberated them from the Spanish for transportation and a food source.

  • The Native Americans philosophy was not one of containment, and the missionaries set thousands of horses free. These horses that prospered were the founding stock of today's Mustang.

  • Ranchers during the mid-1800s, who had already seized land from the Indians and were deep into a land war with farmers, saw horses as competition for unfenced grazing land. They poisoned the horses' watering holes, blinded the lead stallions by shooting their eyes out, or simply ran them to death, up and over cliffs, Ranchers "even captured wild mustangs, sewed their nostrils shut with rawhide so they could barely breathe, and returned them to their herds so they would slow down the other horses and make them much easier to capture, according to Mike Markarian, executive vice-president of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

  • In 1897, the Nevada legislature passed a law allowing any citizen to shoot a wild horse on sight. This resulted in unspeakable cruelty and unlimited killing of Mustangs.

  • By the beginning of the 19th century, the railroad had spread across the west, bringing death and destruction to all in its path after reducing the bison herds from 60 million to several hundred animals they massacred the Indians and contained what was left of the tribes. They then turned their contempt and their guns on the Mustangs.

  • As a break from the boredom of cross-country travel Transcontinental Railway encouraged its passengers to shoot bison and Mustangs within Range of their trains.

  • From the journals of the missionaries came these reports: In 1807, two herds of 7,000 mustangs each were driven into the ocean at Mission Santa Barbara to drown: at the San Diego Mission, Mustangs by the hundreds were shut in corals to starve.

  • During the great drought of California between 1828 and 1830, ranchers who considered the Mustang a nuisance, killed about 40,000 Mustangs who were competing with the ranchers sheep and cattle, which were revenue producers for food.

  • Ranchers, hunters and missionaries weren't the only groups profiting from the death of wild horses. In the 1920s chicken feed processing plants were paying $5 per horse and this practice continued until the 1970s.

  • In 1924 the pet food industry edged into the horse slaughter market, killing approximately 500 mustangs per day.

  • In 1928, alone, 40,000 mustangs were slaughtered for pet food

  • Processing wild horses into chicken and pet food in the 30's reached its peak with nearly 30 million pounds of horseflesh were canned. The unregulated exploitation of the wild horse herds constituted the Grazing Service's (BLM) policy for nearly thirty years.

  • From an estimated 2.3 million Mustangs at the turn of the century, their numbers were reduced to an estimated 25,000 in the 1950s.

  • Decades of bloody and indiscriminate annihilation of wild horses and burros took place in order to make more grazing land available for domestic livestock was a black chapter in the history of mans abuse of an animal.

  • A heroic women named Velma B. Johnston later nicknamed "Wild Horse Annie" alongside hundred of thousands of schoolchildren and wild horse supporters lobbied the government for 18 long, hard years against the unspeakable cruel destiny of the Mustangs.

  • In 1955 a bill was passed in Nevada where the majority of wild horses roamed, that banned aircraft from shooting and capturing wild horses except on public lands, which constituted 86% of Nevada lands.

  • In 1959 the first federal law was passed which prohibited the use of motorized vehicles in the capture of wild horses and prohibited the poisoning and pollution of watering holes for the purposes of trapping wild horses. Known as the Wild Horse Annie Act (PL86-234)

  • In 1971, the Wild Free Roaming Horse & Burro Act (PL92-195) was passed, this federal legislation protected wild horses and burros from capture branding and harassment or death on public lands. The law directs that horses be maintained in a thriving ecological balance with livestock, wildlife and the habitat.

  • Wild horses are the responsibility of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which is an agency of the US Department of the interior. The BLM manages free roaming horses and burros as living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West, and as an important part of the natural system on public lands.

  • While the Mustang's Spanish bloodlines have been diluted, many Mustangs still exhibit Spanish and Andalusian characteristics. Recently a few herds found in remote areas were DNA and blood tested, they were in fact proven to be descendents of the Spanish horses from the 16th century.

  • There were 303 herd areas where wild horses and burros roamed. Now there are only 184, and that number is steadily declining due to zeroing out policies of the BLM.

  • The ratio of domestic livestock to wild horses and burros on the public lands is at least 50 to 1. An estimated 4.1 million domestic livestock graze the public lands compared with approximately 25,000 wild horses and 5,000 burros.

  • There are approximately 17,500 public land permit holders, most of whom graze cattle and sheep.

  • Less than 3% of the beef consumed in the U.S. comes from animals raised on public lands.

  • Ranchers are charged only $1.81 per month to graze a cow and calf on our public lands. That's less than it costs to feed a cat.

  • In 1999 alone, Nevada proposed to eliminate 38% of the burro herds in the state.

  • Associated Press launched an investigation and has reported that many of the wild horses adopted by the public had gone to slaughter. In 2005 three fourths (¾) of the wild horse and burro herds in the 10 western states are below population levels that will guarantee their long-term survival.

  • Due to the recent Burns amendment ----Thirty-four years later "excess" or un-adopted wild horses are once again without federal protection.

  • Mustangs are still subject today to death or displacement by fire, drought, illegal hunting, over grazing; straying off federal lands onto non protected areas, culling of herds and unscrupulous horse traders. Unfortunately, in a consumer-driven North America, the wild horse has no real significant economic value.

  • The sale of horses to slaughterhouses is financially attractive. Depending upon market value, a 1,000 pound mustang can bring $700-$900. Horse - meat is considered gourmet meat in Western Europe, Japan, and several other countries. About 65,000 domestic horses, unprotected by any laws, were butchered last year. Mustangs eat natural grasses, and have not been subjected to artificial foods, chemicals, and drugs; their meat is considered a special delicacy.

  • Currently there are less than 33,000 Mustangs remaining with many herds numbering below population levels needed to restrain inbreeding and sustain the species.

  • Wild horses roam primarily on public land in Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, California, Arizona and New Mexico.

  • The BLM plans to reduce the population on public lands to about 20,000, removing at least 11,500 wild horses and burros in 2005. This number is below the minimum necessary to sustain healthy populations, according Dr. Gus Cothran, equine geneticist at the University of Kentucky. The minimum number of horses and burros in each herd management area (HMA) needs to be at least 150 animals, says Cothran; under BLM plans, about 70 percent of the HMAs will have fewer than 100 animals.

  • Numerous experts agree, that at the present rate of decline, and without intervention the Mustang could very well become extinct by the end of this century.