Spanish Mustang Breed?
Before going further lets just get our terms straight. The following are from the dictionary:
Conformation: The proportional shape or contour of an animal.
Breed: A group of animals related by descent from common ancestors and visibly similar in most characteristics.
To often both PHD’s and horse lovers do not use the above words correctly when describing a group of horses. This is especially true of the Spanish Mustang of North America. Most breeders talk of the conformation of the horse as showing breed but it is the breed traits of the horse that defines it breed;. the unusual characteristics which clearly show the similarity of a group of horses falling into the breed called Spanish Mustang. Conformation outlines the contour or shape of the horses that shows wether a horse is sound or not and can be used to judge many different breeds of horses.
As a Spanish Mustang owner I know every time I tell someone about my horses they say “..I love those mustangs I saw on the Discovery Channel”, they think those are my horses because I used the word mustang. But, Mustang is not a breed type it is a corruption of the Spanish word mesteno which means lost or unowned. So what is a Spanish Mustang?
The Spanish horse was brought to America by Columbus, to the Carribean Islands, and by the Conquistadors to Mexico, Southern North America and South America. These were the first horses brought to America. As they populated the Southwest and Mexico some were lost or stolen by the Indians and became unowned. The Americas, especially the open plains of the west were the perfect breeding ground for the horse and they prospered. Their characteristics were small stature (not more than 13.2-14.2 hands high), smooth muscling, low set tail, convex face (from poll of the head to the tip of their nose), deep base of the neck, sparse hair on the fetlocks, Chestnuts are small and flat and smooth and sometimes on the hindlegs they are not present. When standing the front legs are slightly under the horse as if they are leaning forward, and the hindlegs will be up under the horse a little; that way the horse is ready to move and go at an instant. Higher at the withers than at the hindquarters. Spanish Mustangs are agile and surefooted and smooth gaited. Their action is fairly high. These characteristics defined their breed as Spanish and were recognizable by any knowledgeable horse man of the period. For the entire time they ruled the west the were not tainted by any other breed of horses. They were the horse of the Indian, cowboy, conquistador and traveler of the west.
In the 1870’s there was estimated to be around two million Spanish Mustangs in the West. As America moved into the late 1800’s and the cattleman and the farmer began fencing the West the Spanish Mustangs began being slaughtered, like the buffalo, to stop their competition for grass. J. Frank Dobie in his book “The Mustangs”, written in 1934 says “Well, the wild ones – the coyote duns, the blues, the blue roans, the snip-nosed pintos, the flea-bitten greys and the black-skinned whites, the shining blacks and the rusty browns, the red roans, the tossed sorrels and the stockinged bays, the splotched appaloosas and the cream colored palaminos, and all the others in shadings and colors as various as the hues that show and fade on the clouds at sunset – they are all gone now, gone as completely as the grass they vivified.”
Dobie did not know about Gilbert Jones, Bob Brislawn, Monty Holbrook who also lived in the late 1800’s. These men saw the Spanish Mustangs and realized that they were a dying breed. They started to save them and breed them. It is from this group of horses that the Spanish Mustangs of today have survived.
The wild Mustangs of today are not the survivors from the Spanish Mustang herds but mostly mixed breeds of horses that have been lost by ranchers through the 1900’s and horses abandon by horse owners who no longer could care for their horses. Since the West is the land of the horse they have prospered and make up the herds of feral horses that populate the BLM lands and exist at other sanctuaries. You will not see all the colors that were described above in the quote from J. Frank Dobie and you will not find all the breed characteristics mentioned above that define a Spanish Mustang breed type. There are only a little more than 1,800 Spanish Mustangs in the United States presently, it is this breed of horses that needs to be saved and preserved as part of our American Western History.
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