Posted tagged ‘wild horses’

The Horses of the Pryor Mountains

September 25, 2017

While traveling out west for nearly two weeks, one of the places we visited was the Pryor Mountains of Montana and Wyoming where wild horses roam free. Established in 1968, the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range was the nation’s first public wild horse range. When the Bureau of Land Management announced the intention to round up the entire herd in the 1960s, a local group brought a lawsuit against the BLM, fought the round-up and won. The area was declared a Wild Horse Refuge.

Today, over 100 mustangs live on approximately 38,000 acres, still managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Genetic testing has shown the horses are descended from Colonial Spanish horses, brought here in the 1600 to 1700s. While some of the horses may have escaped from local ranches or Indian herds, the true Pryor Mountain mustangs have lived for hundreds of years in these rugged mountains. Those with markings of dorsal stripes running the length of their backs and zebra stripes on their legs are most distinctive and appear more primitive, and are more directly related to the Spanish mustangs.

If you visit the Pryor Mountain horses, a stop at the Wild Mustang Center in Lovell, Wyoming, is a must. They will tell you where the herds have been seen and identify the horses in any photos you take. Two of the horse we saw were Chief Joseph, a beautiful black, and Fool’s Crow, a blue roan, whose name was originally Crow, because he was also black. But when his coat changed out to a beautiful blue, he became Fool’s Crow.  The folks at the Mustang Center will also let you know the proper behavior for viewing the horses. The rule is to stay 100 feet away at all times, but we were able to view them quite close up just from the road.

Deciding to stay on the paved highway rather than go up into the very high country, where there are only dirt roads, we saw a number of the members of the lower herd, but perhaps next trip out we’ll decide to make the journey up to the more wild and desolate areas. While round-ups do occur in the Pryors (and there is talk of one being eminent), it seems the BLM does take more into  consideration the genetics of the horses living in the mountains, because of their very old bloodlines. Watching wild horses is always truly awesome and inspiring, and it’s my hope the Pryor Mountain herd will always be allowed to roam free. If you would like to know more about this very special group of mustangs, visit the website:

Our local Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan has stepped up to help the many homeless animals impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Pet shelters in the disaster area asked for help, and Pilots N Paws, a group of volunteer pilots, flew many of those pets from Texas to Michigan. They are not taking pets that have been displaced by the storm and whose owners may be searching for them, but those who were already in shelters. Thirty-three dogs have been welcomed at our shelter this month. For a list of the shelter’s needs and to help with the care of these newest arrivals, please visit the website,


Promises to Keep

March 24, 2015


“To require the protection, management, and control of wild free- roaming horses and burros on public lands. 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.”

So begins the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burro Act that was signed into law by President Nixon in 1971. It leads us to believe that the wild mustangs and burros that roam our vast American West are thus protected from being driven out of existence. Sadly, in spite of this law, that is not the case. Under management by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, there are currently only 24,000 to 37,000 mustangs left in the wild. The drive to “zero out” or eliminate wild horses and burros from our public lands is an ongoing process that has removed over 22 million acres as wild horse habitat in order to appease private ranchers and corporations who graze their livestock on public lands, land that was set aside nearly 45 years ago for the horses.

Wild mustangs and burros are systematically rounded up by chasing them with helicopters, often resulting in the death of those too young or too old to keep up, and then forced into holding pens. Bands and families (horses are herd animals that bond with each other and form strong ties) are ripped apart, with young foals often being separated from their mothers. While a lucky few are vaccinated and returned to the range, most are held indefinitely, costing taxpayers $80 million dollars a year to feed them as they languish in holding pens all over the American West. Some are put up for adoption for $125 each, but as with the countless dogs and cats sitting in shelters, there are too few loving homes. Shockingly, some end up going to slaughter. The difference here is that the horses and burros are wild creatures and they are supposed to be protected by this law (which has been amended since 1971 to accommodate the BLM’s methods of management), and they are supposed to be free to roam on the public lands that belong to you and me.

If this upsets you, as it does me, I encourage you to learn more from the following groups that are dedicated to protecting and preserving our wild mustangs and burros:

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign—

The Cloud Foundation (named for Cloud the stallion, who still roams free in the Pryor Mountains of Wyoming and Montana.)—

The International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros—

Return to Freedom–

Saving Wild Horses–

All their websites are most informative about what is currently happening. You can also sign up to receive the Wild Hoofbeats newsletter ( that keeps concerned readers up to date on the state of the wild mustangs and burros, icons and legends of the American West.

Photo credit: The above photos were taken in the Pryor Mountains by Chris Kubash.