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Main \\ Outdoor Activities \\ Earth \\ Equestrian Sport \\ Breeds of Horses \\
  American Mustang


The word "Mustang" comes from the Spanish word, mesteno, meaning "stray or ownerless" horse. This term aptly describes all wild horses in the United States.

The modern horse evolved over three million years ago and then disappeared from this hemisphere 10,000 years ago. The horse returned to North America when explorers Cortes and DeSoto came mounted on magnificent Barbs from Morocco, Sorraia from Portugal and Andalusians from Spain.

The Pueblo Indians learned to ride and passed this skill on to other Indians. In 1680, the Indians revolted against the Spanish rule and the Spaniards left thousands of horses behind in their hasty retreat. The Indians could have rounded up these horses, but chose to let them run wild. It was much easier to raid the Spanish settlements and steal horses. In an effort to stop the Indian raids, the Spanish government
shipped a steady flow of mounts to the New World. It was hoped that the Indians would catch the "wild" horses and leave the Spaniards alone.

Tens of thousands of the Spanish-bred horses were herded to the Rio Grande and turned loose in a 200-year period. These horses soon met up with draft horses and cowboy ponies that escaped from the ranchers and farmers arriving from the East. Their numbers exceeded two million by the year 1900.

Ranchers took to killing these horses to protect the range-land for their cattle. Fewer than 17,000 horses remained by the year 1970. Stating that Mustangs were "living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West," Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act in 1971. An estimated 41,000 Mustangs roam public range today, but few if any have much original Spanish blood.

Breed Characteristics

Mustangs come in all sizes, shapes, colors and types of build. Average size is 14.2 hands but it is not uncommon to see one as short as 13 hands or as tall as 16 hands. The most common color seen is sorrel and bay, but any color is possible. The flashier colors such as Paints, Appalossas, Palominos, Buckskins and black seem to have been bred out of the breed over the years, but again, it is not uncommon to see those colors.

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