Monday, June 6, 2011

Are Horses Wild After All?

As much as horses are a symbol of the American West, it has long been accepted and taught in textbooks that they are not a native species. Historians are certain that these animals were brought to North America in the 15th and 16th centuries by Spanish explorers, and that the current populations of wild mustangs are descendents of those domesticated horses.

Wild mustangs - Photo: BLM

However, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times, federal courts are hearing a case that may change that belief, as animal rights groups are presenting DNA evidence suggesting that wild horses may have roamed North America over 1 million years ago, and that today’s horses are genetically linked to them.

If this case can be proven in court, it may change the way wild mustangs are treated in the United States. Currently, free-roaming horses are classified as no more a wild animal than cattle, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) can legally control their population and corral them as necessary to allow enough land for cattle grazing. If mustangs were to become classified as native wild animals, they would have a right to graze on rangeland just as antelope and bison do, and the BLM would no longer be able to displace them for the purposes of commercial cattle feeding.

Wild mustangs - Photo: Jaime Jackson

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