The ~Texas~ Mustang Project's Blog

Working for better management options and cohabitation through compromise and communication for the American Wild Mustang

Wild Horses as Native North American Wildlife (Updated January 2010) – FINAL

Posted by Texas Mustang Project on February 1, 2010

Wild Horses as Native North American Wildlife (Updated January 2010) – FINAL 

This version of “Wild Horses as Native North American Wildlife” contains numerous paleontological peer-reviewed papers that corroborate the mitochondrial DNA data discussed in previous editions. It is still a “work in progress.” We keep adding more to this review of the literature, constantly, and will soon take this concept to a much higher level within the scientific community and publicly in due time.

Are wild horses truly “wild,” as an indigenous species in North America, or are they “feral weeds” – barnyard escapees, far removed genetically from their prehistoric ancestors? The question at hand is, therefore, whether or not modern horses, Equus caballus, should be considered native wildlife.”

© 20032010, Drs. Jay F. Kirkpatrick and Patricia M. Fazio. All Rights Reserved.


8 Responses to “Wild Horses as Native North American Wildlife (Updated January 2010) – FINAL”

  1. This updated version is even better than the older on I have. Somehow, we must get the powers that be to realize that they have an OBLIGATION to reclassify the horse and put it under the protection it is entitled to. Not to do so would clearly reveal motives other than following clear science – which of course we already know. I doubt the horse will ever get a fair shake as long as the cards are so stacked against them. And I DO mean Ken Salazar.

    • I know! It is so awesome! I can’t wait until I actually have some time to get more into it!

      • What’s really strange to me is that the BLM is solid that the horses are NOT wildlife, while the Forrest Service seems to accept them as a reintroduced native species:
        Wild Horse and Burro Program
        USDA Forest Service (FAQs)

        Equus species are part of North America ‘s natural ecology, as they evolved on this continent along with the grasslands. Fossil history clearly documents that equids developed in North America. The first equid, Eohippus, appeared in the Eocene Epoch 54-34 million years ago. This species was a small forest animal suited to the marshy environment of the time. Thousands of complete, fossilized skeletons of these animals have been found in the Eocene layers in North America, primarily in the Wind River basin of Wyoming . In the Oligocene Epoch (34-24 million years ago), the climate of North America started changing to a drier climate, and the forests gave way to grasslands. Mesohippus and Miohippus appeared during this time, and these fossils were also prevalent in Wyoming . Parahippus and Merychippus arose during the Miocene Epoch (24-5.3 million years ago) as the large grasslands evolved. Merychippus was distinctly recognizable as a horse. Equus arrived about 4 million years ago during the Pliocene Epoch. Equus is the genus of all modern equines. The first Equus were 13.2 hands tall with a classic “horsey” body.

        During the first major glaciations of the late Pliocene (2.6 million years ago), some Equus species crossed to the other continents by way of the Isthmus of Panama into South America and the Bering Strait into Asia and Europe. Until about 1 million years ago, there were Equus species all over Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America in large migrating herds.

        In the late Pleistocene (~10,000 years ago), there was a rash of extinctions that wiped out most of the large mammals in North and South America . All the horses of North and South America died out, along with the mammoths and saber-tooth tigers. These extinctions seem to have been caused by a combination of climatic changes and overhunting by humans, who had just reached these continents. For the first time in tens of millions of years, there were no equids in the Americas .

        At the end of the 15 th century, the Spanish reintroduced horses to the Americas . Escaped horses soon resumed to a wild state and proliferated on the plains of their homeland. By the time of Anglo exploration in the 1800s, vast herds of wild horses roamed North America . Their habitat gradually shrank, along with the habitat of other large grazers, such as bison and elk, as settlement spread onto the plains. Herd size was controlled by ranchers and also by mustangers who hunted the horses or gathered them for sale.

        Starting in the 1950s, public concern about the well-being of wild horses and burros grew. With the mounting interest and concern came the realization that a federal management, protection, and control program was essential. Hence, the development and enactment of the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, which gave birth to the Wild Horse and Burro Program in the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

        “Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people; and that these horses and burros are fast disappearing from the American scene. It is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.” ~Public Law 92-195

        How can the two agencies be so far apart on something so fundamental to what they do?

        • reveil39 said

          Thanks for correcting me earlier about the meaning of feral.
          I think that the agencies are far apart concerning the issue because they just use the word rhetorically to suit their need. May be that’s why some people are getting really tired of listening to the debate about the wild horse being feral or not, even if it has merit.
          Are we going to keep on debating until after the round ups? And when is that?
          What about adding vets who are also trained in natural horsemanship?
          Are any real changes taking place right now to benefit the animals? To lower their stress, protect their health and their offsprings?
          Why is it the best time of the year to round up horses in the middle of winter on slippery terrain?
          I don’t think the debate about feral will stand a chance until horses are moved to the East. Until then, it is just used as a distraction from important issues.

  2. R.Thompson said

    A layman’s opinon, with a fair amount of experience with things wild of many kinds, as well as domestic horses and dogs, and “Feral” dogs running up and down the river basins and railroad rights of way near where I live.

    I think this “debate” over the difference between “Feral” and “Wild” is essentially bogus when stripped down to the bare essentials. “Feral” in conventional terms refers to animals still somehat habituated to humans and descended from domestic stock. However, once a “Feral” population goes through an unhabituated genertion or two, the become “Wild” in every sense of the term. Mustangs fit the later category…above and beyond the scientific evidence of their heritage status.

    We consider deer and elk “wild”, even when somewhat habituated to humans. You have to go no further than the Mamouth Hot Springs basin in Yellowstone Park to witness it. Mustangs are far less “tame” from what I’ve learned right here. They are “Wild” and need to be classified that way officallly, and sooner not later.

    Just my opinion. I’m a cranky old dude anyway…I like things simple whenever possible.

    • Cranky or not, well said.

    • reveil39 said

      I agree.
      I’ve heard that there may be more laws protecting feral animals than animals considered part of livestock, but who cares if the wild horse is feral or not? Is anyone debating if whales are feral when they are killed for their meat, or any other animal for that reason? I think that the definition of feral for wild horses is a waste of time and it should not be challenged with history but with its relation to the ecosystem.

      • It has to do with how the horses are classified by the government. If they are a wild, NATIVE species, they legally part of the ecosystem and are entitled to protection just as other native wildlife. If they are “feral” or “estray” as they like to say in Nevada, that is descended from ranch stock, not only do they not get protection as wildlife, they can be classed as a non-native invasive species and mowed down like cheatgrass. This of course is the BLM’s position.

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