Mustang (horse)

This article is about the horse. For other meanings of the word, see Mustang.

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Mustangs at the Palomino Valley Adoption Center

A mustang is a small, hardy, naturalized (feral) horse of the North American west. Because of their hardiness, grace, speed, and independence, the name "Mustang" is popular for high-performance products and for sports mascots. For additional information on these derivations, see Mustang.

The English word mustang comes from the Mexican Spanish word mestengo, itself derived from the Spanish mesteño, meaning cattle raised under the extensive system of the Mesta and strayed.

The earliest mustangs descended from Spanish horses brought to Mexico in the 1500s. Some of these horses escaped or were captured by Native Americans, and they quickly spread throughout western North America. Starting in the mid 1800s horses belonging to white settlers that escaped or were purposefully released added to the gene pool. Many ranchers would release their horses to forage for themselves in the winter and then recapture them or other mustangs when they were needed again in the spring. Some ranchers improved the local herds by shooting the dominant stallions and replacing them with imported stock. These improvements were especially useful in arid areas where the herds would become isolated and inbred during periods of drought.

By 1900 there were an estimated one million feral mustangs in North America. Mustangs were a resource in that they could be captured and used or sold (especially for military use) or slaughtered for food, especially pet food in later years. They are also viewed as a nuisance in that they compete with livestock for forage. Since 1900 the mustang population has been reduced drastically. Today, estimates of the feral mustang population range from 40,000 to 100,000, with about half of them in Nevada. A few hundred feral mustangs survive in Alberta and British Columbia.

Today, mustangs are protected on public land in the United States. Shooting or poisoning them is illegal, and the penalties for doing so are severe. However, it is assumed by many that ranchers persist in these activities in the more remote areas.

The Bureau of Land Management controls the mustang population through a capture program, obstensibly to control competition with beef cattle. Most horses that are captured are offered for adoption. As of January 2005, however, Congress has modified this program to allow the sale for slaughter of captured horses that are "more than 10 years of age" or have been "offered unsuccessfully for adoption at least 3 times.” The horse meat from this program is expected to be shipped to Europe and Japan, where it fetches high prices and is considered a delicacy.

External link

de:Mustang (Pferd) pl:Mustang sv:Mustang (häst)


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