At one time it was believed that horses were introduced to our country by the Spanish, but modern fossils disprove that theory. Horses were actually endemic to North American and known to have migrated to Eurasia via the Bering Land Bridge during the geological epoch that lasted from about 2.5M to 11,700 years ago, spanning the earth's most recent period of repeated glaciations. Basically, they left North America to survive. The original ancient North American equine became extinct on the continent roughly ten thousand years ago along with the extinction that included mammoth, wooly rhinoceros, the sabretooth cat, camel, dire wolf, giant ground sloth, and the short-faced bear. The reappearance of the horse to North America happened through the Spanish, arriving in Mexico in 1519 AD. The domestic horses were often set free or escaped to reinhabit our country and became the first horses of the Native Americans. The name mustang comes from the Spanish word “mesteño,” which means “stray” or “wild.” The west was settled literally on the backs of these friends to man, until the industrial age rendered them without use other than recreational. As herds grew and roamed our nation, they were judged as competition to cattle by ranchers and were subjected to horrific acts of eradication by the ranchers.
Finally, in 1971, Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, which was a result of one of the largest campaigns by the American public in history. More letters were sent to the white house to pass this law to protect wild horses and burros from being hunted or rounded up for slaughter than ever in history. And it was only surpassed by letters to stop the Vietnam war. The Department of the Interior, through the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Agriculture, through the Forest Service, have the responsibility of administering this law. To this day, it is a deep point of contention and continual struggle between wild horse advocates and politically opposing organizations such as the Big Pharma, Oil Industry and National Cattlemen’s Association on how to manage the process fairly. If a vote by the citizens of our nation were taken tomorrow, polls show that over 85% would vote to protect our dwindling mustang populations and to keep them wild.