Mustangs were native to North America

Mustangs in the USA: Close to the Wild West

The American mustang represents a feeling of freedom and the Wild West like no other animal. So many cowboy and Indian myths entwine around the four-legged friends, which are often referred to as wild horses. In fact, the term Mustang is not a wild horse in the classic sense, but rather a feral domestic horse breed. The origin of today's Mustangs lies in the 16th century, when the Spanish conquistadors opened up large parts of the American continent and took possession of them as colonies. The term mustang therefore goes back to Spanish (mesteño) and describes the property of a Spanish cattle herder, a so-called mesta.

On their campaigns of conquest, the Spaniards primarily used horses as pack animals and mounts. Even the Indians, who until then had been largely on foot, would later discover the newly introduced animals as a means of locomotion. After the domesticated animals became more and more captive, stable wild populations were able to spread across North America over the decades. Today's mustangs are therefore considered to be neozoa, i.e. as introduced species that have successfully established themselves in a new area.

Today the relatively compact horses with a stick height of up to 150 cm are primarily at home in the western United States. The largest populations are in Nevada, Oregon, Wyoming, and Montana. Over 30,000 Mustangs roam the American prairie. Thanks to intensive protective measures and hunting bans, their game population has recovered so well that nowadays it has to be regulated externally by the “Bureau of Land Management (BLM)”. Due to the protected status of the animals and their high symbolic power, they are not shot, but simply caught and their population controlled in this way. Since the number of animals living in captivity already exceeds the number of animals living in the wild (up to 34,000 individuals), a horse adoption program has been in place since the 1973s in order to convey such animals to private individuals. However, interest in adopting wild horses is so low in the USA that many animals remain in the care of the BLM or are sold to slaughterhouses under poor conditions. Another problem is the mistreatment and neglect of captive animals.

If you want to stand up for the protection of mustangs and other horses, then you should consider volunteering with horses. On our website we inform you about typical fields of activity as a horse protection volunteer and present the projects we offer. You can also find more information about animal welfare volunteering in the United States on our Volunteering in the United States topic page.