When the first European colonists arrived in North America, they brought with them some domesticated animals that had never been seen by Native Americans. They brought cattle, pigs and horses. Some of these animals escaped, or were lost, and began living in the wilderness of this new continent.
Wild pigs, the decendants of domesticated pigs first introduced by Spanish explorers in the sixteenth century, still live in many of the Southern states extending from Florida to Texas. Herds of wild beef cattle roamed the vast plains of Texas and Mexico until the end of the nineteenth century, when cowboys captured most of them, and drove them North to the railroad towns in Kansas for sale to the hungry cities in the East. Wild horses, known as mustangs, populated many of the Western states, and they still roam in certain areas.
These swift, sturdy horses completely changed the life of the Native American people living on the Great Plains of the Midwest and West. The Indians learned to capture and domesticate the wild horses. They used them for transporting their people and their posessions across great distances. They became proficient horseback hunters pursuing the great bison herds across the plains. They also become fearsome mounted warriors.
Cowboys also learned to capture the wild mustangs. Taming them and training them became a legendary part of the cowboy life.
The story of the wild mustangs is part of the legendary history of the Wild West. Great herds of these swift and graceful creatures used to roam the plains and mountains all across the Western parts of the USA. They became the swift warhorses of the Comanche and Sioux warriors. They became the resiliant work horse of the cowboy. For every one that was captured and domesticated, there were always a few more that continued to roam free and wild.
Unfortunately, the ranches and farms that now blanket much of the Western states has driven the mustang off its traditional homeland. The remaining animals still living in the wild have been relegated to the barren deserts and inaccessible wilderness areas. They still roam free, but their numbers are few.
One of the areas where you can still find mustangs living in the wild is in the deserts of Nevada. Some of these wild horses still roam the vast deserts and mountains grazing on the sparse vegetation and frequenting the isolated water supplies. When you visit Las Vegas, you can drive to the Red Rock Conservation area at the edge of the surrounding mountains just thirrty minutes from downtown. If you are patient and lucky, you might just see a few mustangs roaming free.
In the Northern parts of the state of Nevada, there are approximately 3,000 mustangs living in the barren wastelands. Our government wildlife conservation people say that the area cannot support such a large population. They believe that the land can only support a herd of less than 1,000 horses. The US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has begun a great roundup of mustangs in the Calico Mountains of Nevada using helicopters. They hope to capture nearly 2,000 mustangs to reduce the population. The captured horses will be placed for adoption by anyone that would like to own one of these remnants of the legenday days of the Wild West. Here is a link to the BLM page about this mustang adoption program.