Having grown up with Winnetou and his loyal horse Iltschi, the Mustang has always been a symbol of liberty to me, mentioned in the same breath as USA.
Unfortunately we live in a materialistic world that doesn’t stop at the wild horses. Without mercy the wild horses are being rounded up by helicopters (click here).
During the last major roundup in the Calico Mountains in Nevada (12/28/09 – 02/28/10) 1922 animals were caught (about 80 – 90% of the wild horses).
What is man without the beasts?
If all the beasts were gone, man would die from great loneliness of spirit,
For whatever happens to the beasts also happens to man.
All things are connected.
Whatever befalls the earth befalls the children of the earth.
Chief Seattle (Duwamish Tribe)
….. and additional roundups are being planned ….
Horrible photos of the Mustang roundup find their way across the Atlantic and make protesters go to the barricades. In the news we see pictures of foals losing their mothers and stallions losing their herds. We see horses that break their legs or wear off their hooves on the hard ground to the point that only bloody lumps are left over and they have to be put to sleep. What remains are traumatized horses that are offered for adoption for the ridiculous price of 125 Dollars. Due to their horrible experiences they are often difficult to handle and therefore they go on a last trip to Canada or Mexico where they end up in the slaughterhouses.
On my trip through the USA I was fortunate to be able to observe wild horses in freedom in Nevada and Arizona – such beautiful animals:
Let’s start at the beginning:
The Mustang we know today descended from the horses of the Spanish Conquistadors and settlers. Their name derives from the Spanish word “mestena”, which roughly means “stray livestock animal”.
Around 1860 about 2 million mustangs are thought to have lived in North America, and huge herds roamed the lands.
Their decline became imminent. It started with the introduction of barbwire in 1873. When pastures and watering holes got fenced in, the wild horses became excluded from these territories. The wild horses withdrew, and this was a good move because ranchers hunted these noble animals as they feared that there wouldn’t be enough rangeland left to feed their sheep, cattle, and other livestock. Shot down or captured, shipped off as war horses in the thousands, brutally abused in rodeos, then made into dog food … so sad …
- As mechanization increased in the 20s the horse trade collapsed and a bounty was offered for Mustangs.
- By 1930 the population had decreased to about 17,000 Mustangs.
- In 1935 a fateful law passed regulating the use of public land. It gave privileged grazing rights to ranchers and their cattle and sheep. This put Mustangs on the hit list of professional hunters. Many animals ended up in the slaughterhouses, where their hides and long hair found industrial use. The meat of these animals was of no value. Often, just for the fun of it, they were shot down and their cadavers left behind.
- At the end of World War II their meat was valued by starving people in Europe and many thousand horses were sent to Europe to be butchered there.
- A merciless pursuit began, at first by hunters on the back of of their own horses, later after World War II in small planes and jeeps. Until the 60s no permit was needed to kill a Mustang – incredible – to think that this can happen in a country that is hard to imagine without the Mustang.
But thankfully, there are people, who will speak up for those
who cannot speak for themselves
- One of the most well-known and first activists who spoke up for the wild horses was Wild Horse Annie (her real name was Velma B. Johnston). She caused an uproar in Nevada in the 50s. She was a courageous woman who paved the way for the rescue of the Mustangs. She appeared everywhere in the United States and fought against those who hated the Mustangs. The movie “The Misfits” with Clark Gable, Montgomery Clift, and Marilyn Monroe, had her cause, the plight of the hunted-down Mustangs as its theme. The movie caused quite a stir in the USA and brought forth many Mustang horse lovers. Thanks to her initiative a new law, The Wild Horse Annie Act, passed in 1959. It prohibited the use of motorized vehicles and airplanes to hunt wild horses; also a rich industrialist willed a million Dollar for the conservation of the wild horses. Unfortunately there were gaps in the law which led to a different interpretation later on (“Wild Horse Annie Act.” The bill became Public Law 86-234 on Sept. 8, 1959).
- In the late 60s more and more Americans cried out, and the press and television made sure that more of the atrocities reached the public.
- On the 15th of December 1971 the Congress under President Richard Nixon passed a new law (without a dissentient vote) under which wild free-roaming horses and burros were declared living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West. Congress directed to protect and preserve the wild free-roaming horses and burros as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands. (“WILD FREE-ROAMING HORSES AND BURROS ACT OF 1971″ (PUBLIC LAW 92-195)).
- The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the US Forest Service (USFS) were charged with the protection of the animals. Subsequently, to the detriment of the wild horses and burros the law was amended in 1976 and 1978.
- In the meantime, the law has basically been gutted. Since 1971 the BLM, swayed by oil and gas corporations, mining companies, large landowners and politicians who are indebted to them, has taken about 17 million acres of land away from the horses. Public land taken away from them to be given to the ranchers. It got worse under the G.W. Bush presidency, especially since 2003.
To facilitate that the resources of the West could be utilized freely, the Bush administration quietly modified some laws or simply bypassed them!
In the meantime, there are more Mustangs held captive in federal holding facilities than there are in the wild!
The greatness of a nation and its moral progress
can be judged by the ways its animals are treated
By the way – many people don’t know this, apparently that includes the BLM – but the horse is native to North America:
(see the interpretation of the BLM: Myth # 11: Wild horses are native to the United States.)
The species Equus originated in North America. About 1.5 million years ago Equus reached Eurasia via the Bering land bridge. It is unclear whether the various types of
Equus that lived during the middle and late Pleistocene were subspecies of today’s Wild Horse already or whether they were still a separate species. For the most part, the different types are distinguished only on the basis of body height. Some of the horses that were widespread in North America until the late Pleistocene could possibly have belonged to the same species as the Wild Horse (Equus ferus). About 10,000 years ago however, all horse species on the American continent went extinct.