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Mustang Horse Breed

Mustangs have no specific conformation and can range in size of between 13 and 16 hands, but on average stand about 14 hands. While their colorings of appaloosa, palomino, buckskin and black seem to have been bred from the breed over the years, it is still possible to see these colors. Shapes and the horse’s physical build will vary as they have mostly been bred in the wild.
During the early colonial days and going through the westward expansion, horses that escaped from their owners or were purposely set free became part of the mustang reproductive family. Some ranchers also would allow their horses to roam free during the winter to basically fend for themselves, food wise, and then recapture them in the spring. Other ranchers attempted to improve the breeding of local mustang herds by killing off the dominant male in the herd and replacing him with males with a pedigree.
In many parts of the country the wild mustangs are kept in preserves as part of the 1971 federal protection law, but they can be found in the southwest roaming free on open plains. The term wild may not be completely accurate, however as all horses in North America are descended from animals which were originally domesticated and trained by humans. The correct term for this type animal would be feral as they are wild with domesticated ancestors.

Until the early 16th century horses were extinct in North America, brought to this country by the Spanish Conquistadors in the early 1500’s. When the Pueblo Indians learned to tame and ride horses, they passed this lesson to other Indians and when they revolted against Spanish rule in 1680, the Spanish left thousands of horses behind as they fled.

While the Indians could have rounded up the wild horses and trained them, they found it easier to raid the Spanish fort and steal their horses. To combat this, Spain shipped thousands of the animals to North America, flooding the country with new rides in hopes the Indians would then go after the wild ones and leave their horses alone.

Wild Spanish horses were herded to the Rio Grande area and turned loose over 200 years so that by 1900, there was an estimated two million roaming free throughout the plains. Cattle farmers began to kill them off as a threat to their grazing land until only about 17,000 remained as recently as 1970. The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, passed in 1971 gave the Mustangs, which means free roaming or ownerless in Spanish, freedom to roam as they please. It is estimated that 41,000 mustangs are alive today, although it is doubtful many remain with their original Spanish blood.

In 1977, a Mustang called Tang was born and raised in Texas has become a national celebrity representing the Mustang Horse in the Big D Charity Horse Show in Texas and in 1992 was featured in Car and Driver Magazine when they compared the Mustang Horse with Mustang Car. In 1997 Tang was featured on its own trading card.

Read the next horse breeds article on mustang horses
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