Wildlife Photography By MHD -

Wild Horses of Teddy Roosevelt, The Beginning:
Scars on his flanks tell a story that this Stallion has been around a while. At the moment he seems to be alone, probably subdued by a stronger, younger rival as the struggle for survival continues. As I watch him standing atop of a hill in the badlands of North Dakota, now a part of Theodore Roosevelt NP, I wonder is he the last of his kind that once numbered in the millions?

To view more photos of horses click on the pictures below.
Upwards of two million wild mustangs roamed the Western Plains at the beginning of the 20th century. Another 2 million roamed the grasslands of Canada. In the U.S. roughly 17,000 remained by 1970. The reduction in the number of wild horses was a direct result of farmers and ranchers killing the mustangs because they were eating too much grass on public grazing land. The United States government eventually passed an act called the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act which allows these horses to roam free and protects them from harm. Since this Act, the number of wild Mustangs has increased and is now hovering around 41,000. 
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management manages more than 245 million acres of Federal Land in 12 western states with about 30 million acres currently designated as horse management areas in 10 of those states. Of the roughly 33,000 horses that currently roam BLM land, roughly half are in Nevada, with the remainder in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.

Watching another stallion guarding his band as his forefathers did eons before him, made me wonder about the bloodlines that are being passed on to his foals. Does his bloodline include the genes of Sitting Bulls pony herd that was relinquished to the U.S. Army upon his surrender after the Battle of the Little Bighorn. A study done by  Anthropologist, Dr. Castle McLaughlin PhD., and Tom Tescher, a Medora rancher, which was released in the 80's gave strong evidence that the population in the park carries the genes of horses that survived that bloody day on the Little Big Horn river in 1876 between the 7th Calvary and the Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne confederation.

The horses inside TR's  boundaries were not covered by this ACT and these "Feral" horses were reduced to 16 by the mid 1970's.  Persistence by the public changed the attitude of park management, so now the "wild" horse is listed as "historically significant" to the park.

For more information on the disbursement of the horse into the Native American culture and the efforts to protect those at TRNP click on the following links:

The horse returned to the North American continent in the early 1500's with the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors. The wild horse of our western states had it's origin's from this introduction.
The horse was completely unknown to the native Indians. At first they looked at the creature with awe and made the horse a god. Early on, some of the plains Indians used the horse as food. 

"Next to God, We Owe Our Victory to Our Horses," 1519
Cortes' proclamation concerning his horses has much meaning. 

The Spanish Were Not Long in Bringing Significant Numbers of Horses to the New World
In 1519 Coronado set out for North America with 150 horsemen, followed by De Soto's expedition with 237 horses in 1539. By 1547, Antoni de Mendoza, the first governor of New Spain (Mexico), had eleven haciendos and over 1,500 horses. 

The 1680 Pueblo Revolt forced the Spanish out of New Mexico and thousands of horses were left behind. Some historians claim that the Pueblo had little use for the horse, they were more interested in the sheep, which fit their life styles as farmers. Other's claimed that the Pueblo traded with the more nomadic tribes, such as the Comanche, Ute and Apache. However the disbursement of the horses took place, the horse became the corner stone of a new life for the Indians of western North America. Fifteen years later when the Spanish regained control of the area, these tribes were a force to be reckoned with. Spanish conquests to the north came to a halt. Some say that the Comanche bragged that they allowed the Spanish to stay so they could raise horses for them. By 1740 the Crow and Blackfeet in Montana, along with the Cree and Assiniboine in Canada had horses. Tribal warfare and customs aided the dispersal of the horse over the entire great plains area of North America. As the Native American population was confined to reservations the wild horse population continued to expand as the Army downsized, their remount's were just turned loose. The wild horse has a place in our society and the chance to spend a day or 2 with them in well worth the time. 

This noble beast has served man for thousands of years and we should make and maintain a place where they can run free. My thanks goes to those before me that stood up for this icon of freedom. 

Another interesting article in reference to the Native American's bond to the horse in today's world is @;

The Panfluit by Runa Pacha
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