What is a mustang (the horse, not the car)?

Headshot of Mustang horse. Also Known As: BLM (Bureau of Land Management) horse, American wild horse, Range horse

The Mustang is a feral horse found now in the western United States. Mustang is a name given to a horse.
comes from the Spanish word mesteño or monstenco meaning wild or stray. Originally
They were Spanish horses or their relatives, but they became a mix through time.
of numerous breeds. These were the horses that transformed the life of Native People.
living in or near the Great Plains. When European settlers moved westward, they took with them
Their horses accompanied them. Some were lost to Indian raids, others were freed as wild
Stallions ripped down fences to add tame mares to his herd, or a tame horse fled.
from settlers as the original horses had escaped from the Spanish. Breeding by draft
was among the horses which added to the Mustang herds. The Indians also bartered and
Captured horses were traded across tribes, completing the distribution.

Civilization drove herds of wild horses from the eastern United States west.
and eventually crossed the Mississippi River and joined the western herds. French
Blood was added to the mix from herds pushed out of the Detroit region as well as from
French settlers in the New Orleans area in the South.

Mustang standing in the grass. The old-type breed is another breed that most likely contributed to the blood of the Mustang.
East Friesian is a dialect. For a period of over 10 years during the late 1800s and early 1900s
The US government imported around 150 stallions from Germany each year.
The old-style East Friesian was a hefty warmblood or carriage horse.
was purchased to pull artillery or heavy wagons. Consequently, wherever the American cavalry was located,
These horses were discovered during conflicts in the west, and no likely some escaped and were added.
their blood to that of the American Mustang.

Before the western frontier, vast herds of wild horses did not represent a significant challenge.
As the United States grew more populated, cattle and other grazing animals were introduced.
range of origin. The arid lands of the west could not support a large population of grazing Three Mustang horses running through a field. animals and on some ranches it became the policy to shoot Mustangs. The populace
The number of Mustangs around the turn of the century was believed to reach two million.
By 1926, the population had been cut in half. The current population varies but is near
30,000. Congress approved the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act in 1971, which protected these animals.
These creatures. The Department of the Interior, through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Department of Agriculture, through the Forest Service, have the responsibility
of administering this law.

Throughout the 1970s, the number of wild horses rapidly increased due to this protection.
until control of their population became a major concern. 1976 and 1978 amendments
The issue and necessity to dispose of the animals were addressed in the original 1971 Act.
being removed. The agencies continued to work toward appropriate management levels
and removal of excess animals was needed to reach those goals. This course of action was taken.
in order to meet the requirement that the Secretary of the Interior “must promptly”
To attain proper management levels, remove extra animals from the range.”
The statute requires the elimination of any superfluous animals in order to “establish a healthy natural ecological system.”
balance to the range, and shield the range from degradation caused by
over population.”

A Mustang horse walking in green grass and wildflowers.

The Adopt-A-Horse initiative began in 1973 in Montana’s Pryor Mountains as a way to help needy horses.
A compassionate method of distributing surplus animals. Through this program excess animals are
made available to the public at a cost of $125 for each horse and burro. Adopters
must satisfy specific standards for supplying safe transportation and lodging for
the creature. The animals remain the property of the government for one year following
The adoption. At the end of the year the adopter is asked to submit a statement from
a veterinarian, extension agent, local humane officer, or other appropriately qualified person
certifying that the animal has had proper care. Upon approval, a certificate of title is issued.
is issued and the animal becomes the legal property of the adopter. These wild mustangs,
Although they need competent hands, they normally grow as trainable as any other horse bred.
from birth on a farm. They are mostly the result of natural selection.
Animals are often excellent riders and endurance competitors.

A Mustang horse standing in front of a fence. The majority of Mustangs are light horses or warmbloods. Horses of draft conformation
are maintained on different ranges. The coat color is the full range of colors found in horses.
Despite the fact that the Spanish blood has been diluted, many of the horses still display Spanish characteristics.
characteristics. There has been a firmly held belief for several decades that there
were no pure Spanish-type horse remaining on the ranges of the wild horse. But in
In recent years, a few tiny herds have been discovered in remote places.
found through blood testing to be strongly descended from Spanish breeding. Among
these are the Kiger and Cerat Mustangs.


Bonnie L. Hendricks, International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds, University of Oklahoma
Press, 1995.

I.L. Mason, 1996. A World Dictionary of Livestock Breeds, Types and Varieties. Fourth
Edition. C.A.B International. 273 pp.

Related Questions

  • What is the meaning of a Mustang horse?

    wild or stray

    Mustang is derived from the Spanish words mesteo or monstenco, which imply wild or stray. Initially, they were Spanish horses or their relatives, but through time, they evolved into a hybrid of many breeds. These were the horses that transformed the life of Native People who lived on or around the Great Plains.

  • Was the Mustang named after a horse?

    What was the inspiration for the Ford Mustang’s name? If it was named after a horse, then Ford sure has been taking photos of the Mustang in front of the wrong thing for quite some time. The great majority of automotive historians believe the Mustang was named after the Wartime P-51 fighter.

  • What is so special about a Mustang horse?

    Mustangs are built to withstand the running, the weather, and the threats to survival that would be found when roaming free. Smaller than the European breeds brought to America’s eastern shores in the early days of our nation, mustangs possess speed and adaptability. They are ideal for long-distance biking.

  • Is a quarter horse a Mustang?

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