Letters to the editor for January 4, 2012
The true heritage of ‘wild horses’
To the Editor:
Horses roaming free in the U.S. aren’t native to America. The first horses were brought here by Columbus in 1493 and Cortez in 1519. Aztecs seeing Cortez’s soldiers’ horses were horrified, as were American Indians. The first American horses were Iberian, and a registered “Mustang” must be proved to be of Iberian lineage, which includes breeds consisting of Andalusian, Arabian and Barb ancestry.
By the 1600s, Spanish rancheros had thousands of horses, and Apaches and Navajos acquired stolen horses from rancheros.
In the 1700s, Shoshone traded with Utes and Comanche for horses. Soon after, the Nez Perce, Crow and Blackfeet acquired horses. A tribe’s horse herd was increased through war parties, breeding and trade. Most Indian war parties were to steal horses, and methods warriors previously used for stealing other tribes’ women, or prisoners for slaves, were adapted to obtain horses.
After smallpox outbreaks in 1782 and 1837, many horses roamed the Plains as wild, belonging to whoever caught them. These feral horses were of little value to Plains Indians, being hard to catch, and when caught, hard to keep and handle. It was said, “Once a wild one always a wild one” (Dobie). John Ewer’s book, “The Horse in Blackfoot Indian Culture,” states Blackfeet never tried catching wild horses.
Indian warriors truly became the finest light cavalry in the world, but most knew little about breeding. One exception were the Nez Perce who, being excellent breeders, realized cross-breds were inferior and killed or traded
Today’s wild horses don’t have the proud ancestry or lineage claimed by proponents and some calling horses “mustangs” benefit monetarily. To the dismay of their advocates, the truth is, these horses are strays whose ancestors consist of untraceable combinations of breeds that were traded away, escaped or were discarded, because they had no worth. Now, receiving grants assures their existence while they destroy the habitat they roam. Cattle ranchers sacrifice grazing land for mutt horses never native to America, serving as much purpose as stray dogs, other than to make animal rights activists feel warm and fuzzy.