This is a non-commercial, independent website, owned and written by Nancy Kerson, for the benefit of actual and potential adopters of BLM Mustangs and Burros and similar animals.
Great Pueblo Revolt of 1680
Although there were no doubt earlier instances in which horses escaped or were abandoned and became feral, it was the Great Pueblo Revolt of 1680, in which thousands of horses were released from the mission ranches, that gave birth to the vast wild horse herds of the Great Plains, Great Basin, and western Mountain regions. Horses also spread out to the East, where they are nearly all gone now, and up into the Great Basin, where they thrived and continue to live today.
Horses came into California from Baja and Mexico, being brought along "El Camino Real" to the Spanish missions and upward into Northern California. Records indicate that Spanish Barb horses continued to be imported into California, Oregon, & Nevada in the mid and late 1880's, to be used as range breeding stock.
In the 1700's and 1800's, Horses also entered North America (and were absorbed into Native American breeding programs particularly in the Northwest) from the Northeast with the French-Canadian Mountain Men. These were of Northern European origin and were larger, heavier horses related to today's Canadien and Percheron breeds.
"Old" and Modern Spanish Horses:
Today's Spanish breeds are descendants of the same "Old Spanish" stock that our mustangs are. However, they have changed over the years, just as modern mustangs have, through both natural and human selection and the introduction of new genes from outside stock.
Interestingly, there are only a handful of blood markers that unequivocally indicate ancient Iberian origins, and yet, these same markers are lacking in today's modern Iberian horses. Markers are just that - markers - of no known functional importance. The modern Iberian horses have lost these over the years as an accidental consequence of selective breeding for other traits.
Yet, again by chance, these markers survive in many American Mustangs. The Kiger, Sulphur Springs, Pryor Mountain, Lost Creek & Carter Reservoir herds are celebrated for this fact, but many other herds - such as California's Twin Peaks herd, also carry these Old Spanish markers. As more herds and horses are tested, we will no doubt find that more mustangs than previously believed descend from Old Spanish lineage.
Wild horse herds in the U.S. were historically tested using the old blood marker system. The first draft of a comprehensive map of the equine genome was published in 2007, and DNA testing, using hair samples, has replaced the old blood marker system. The latest DNA testing can map a wild horse's breed resemblance, and many more wild horses are turning up with Old Spanish connections than the older blood marker system revealed.
The Native American "Indian Pony" breeds were developed by highly skilled Native American people. Those in the North used horses of both Spanish and French horse ancestry (including the Percheron and Canadien) to develop their animals, including the best-known Native breed, the Appaloosa. Native Horsemen in the more Southern regions had more access to pure Spanish horses, so their horses were smaller, quicker, and very athletic.
The Appaloosa, developed by the Nez Perce people, is the most well-known Native American-derived breed, but there were others. Click here to read about the Cayuse Indian Pony
From The Appaloosa Horse Club's breed history: Famous explorer Meriwether Lewis was very favorably impressed with the breeding accomplishments of the Nez Perce, as noted in his diary entry from February 15, 1806: "Their horses appear to be of an excellent race; they are lofty, eligantly [sic] formed, active and durable…some of these horses are pied with large spots of white irregularly scattered and intermixed with black, brown, bey [sic] or some other dark color. "
It is unknown how many of the Nez Perce’s horses were spotted, but a possible estimate is ten percent. Settlers coming into the area began to refer to these spotted horses as “A Palouse Horse”, as a reference to the Palouse River, which runs through Northern Idaho. Over time, the name evolved into “Palousey,” “Appalousey,” and finally “Appaloosa.”
In the mid-1800s, settlers flooded onto the Nez Perce reservation, and conflicts soon ensued. The Nez Perce War of 1877 resulted in their herds being dispersed.
Other Origins of Appaloosa Mustangs:
"New France furnished the horses taken to the western settlements at Detroit and in the Illinois area. Many of these horses were allowed to run loose in large herds and were only brought in when needed for work.
Great numbers are known to have escaped to run with the mustangs of the American plains - an ancestor never mentioned in writings of the American Mustang."
Saddle horses were the basic transportation unit up until the coming of the automobile. Smooth-riding gaited American saddle horses like the Tennessee Walker and Missouri Fox Trotter were the Corvettes and BMW's of the day. Just like the working ranch stock, "extras" roamed freely on the range, and many stayed there, becoming ancestors to today's wild horses.Morgans and gaited saddle horses like the Tennessee Walker or Missouri Fox trotter were popular in the old days, for their comfortable ride over long distances, and easy handling.
It is no surprise that many American mustangs test genetically to bear a close resemblance to today's gaited North American saddle horses. And, it is not unusual to find a gaited mustang.
Tennessee Walkers ridden by The New Buffalo Soldiers, a Historical Re-Enactment & Preservation Group
American Saddlebred (one of the gaited North American saddle breeds, closely related to Tennessee Walkers) horses owned by Scripps Miramar
The Cleveland Bay: The Cleveland Bay horse is rare today, but in its time it was known for its solid build, sure-footedness, and for being an all around strong horse.
There are many theories as to the origin of this breed, ranging from the Roman invasion of England to the Andalusian Stallions crossing with native mares of the North Yorkshire region.
The first Cleveland Bay stallions were imported to Maryland, Virginia and Massachusetts in the early 1800's. Later William Cody, America's Buffalo Bill, chose the Cleveland Bay for his Wild West show. Western States utilized the stallions in their breeding of range horses, to help and improve the size and substance of Western range horses.
Many of today's wild herd areas have a history of "Hambletonian" carriage horses being raised in the area. "Hambletonian" is an old-time term for any gaited carriage horse; The name comes from a famous stud named Hambletonian, who was the father of today's Standardbred breed; The famed stallion Hambletonian was foaled May 5, 1849 on Jonas Seely's farm in Sugar Loaf, NY. Raised by William Rysdyk in Chester, NY to become the progenitor of the modern trotting horse. Died, 1876.
photo from Chester County History
The term "Hambletonian" was commonly used in earlier times to denote a pacing or trotting horse, for either saddle or harness use, such as the Standardbred.
The "Hambletonian" was the "Cadillac" of carriage horses, prized by ranchers for the speed, endurance, and agility. Many wild horse herds descend in part from these.
Years before baseball, harness racing was America’s original national pastime. Harness racing officially began in 1806 when farmers would challenge each other to a "brush" on the road – a race for a short distance at top speed. After the race, these same horses would also then pull a plow or take the family to church on Sunday morning.
- from Carnegie Center's Currier & Ives Exhibit
Harness racing became wildly popular in the 1800's, continuing into the 1900's, and many people in wild horse country raised and bred trotters and pacers. Many American mustang herds test genetically to bear a close resemblance to today's gaited pacers and trotters
For more about Standardbreds: www.imh.org/imh/ bw/standard.html
Then as now, ponies served as children's mounts. They were also used in mining operations. Due to their small size, they could fit into smaller tunnels to bring back the ore. Only a few Herd Management Areas have known pony ancestors.
A son of pioneer settler Joseph Swasey riding his pony in the Sinbad, Utah area - early 1900's.
Central Asian pony-sized horse
Shetland pony used in mines
The Sheepshead HMA in Oregon has the Silver Dapples color gene, which is rare except in the pony breeds and Rocky Mountain Horses
The Pine Nut HMA in West-Central Nevada hsd breen long believed to have Shetland pony ancestry. DNA testing shows pony ancestry for sure, but not Shetland so much as Exmoor. The Pine Nut horses tend to be pony-sized, between 12 and under 14.1 hands, and tend to be stouter than the Fox & Lake herd, resembling a working-type pony such as the Haflinger. Their color variations include Silver Dapples, which is most common in certain pony and gaited horse breeds.
Jackson Mountains HMA in Northern Nevada includes a variety of horse types, including many individuals who test strongly "pony influence" when DNA-tested.
Misty Evans and her talented Jackson Moutnains "Pony" - Cache was DNA-tested and found to have a strong "pony influence."
copyright 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 Nancy Kerson, all rights reserved - I'm happy to share, just need to be asked and have credit given where due.
Disclaimer: Horses are inherently dangerous. Use the information contained within this website at your own risk.