They came with the Conquistadors

In the sixteenth century Spanish explorers reintroduced the horse to America. The Spanish horse was a small sturdy adaptable animal well suited to live off the land. It could carry a rider in full armor and pack all needed supplies.

First hated and feared by Native Americans, it later became a prized symbol of wealth. Traded and stolen, the Spanish horse or mustang was valued for transportation, hunting, and as food.

Easily acquired in raids, it was also prone to wonder off if not well tended. Wild stallions conducted raids of their own, stealing mares.

By the middle of the 19th century approximately two to three million wild horses ranged the western grasslands from Mexico to Canada west of the Mississippi.

As the West became settled there was greater competition for finite grazing land, mustangs lost out to domestic horses, cattle and sheep. Bounties were put on stallions and by the middle of the twentieth century the Spanish horse had dwindled to a few scattered herds. More >>

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