Mustang horses are probably the most well known type of wild horse, particularly within the United States. Celebrated in American culture for their freedom and their courage, the Mustang is a breed of warm-blooded horses that live in the southwestern United States.
Although horses were not originally native to North, Central, or South America, today’s Mustang horses descended from the domesticated warm-bloods brought to the New World by Spanish explorers. Whether some of these horses ran off, or were left behind as the Spanish came and went over the years, they lived and bred in the wild for centuries. The Mustang horses that we have today are the product of more than four centuries of isolation and breeding.
Over the years, Mustang horses have captured the interest of Native Americans, cowboys, and other horse people. In his book The Man Who Listens to Horses, Monty Roberts describes Mustang races, which used to be a popular form of entertainment in the American Southwest. A group of wild Mustangs would be captured, and on race day the goal would be not only to ride the horse for the very first time, but to get to the finish line first, too.
Luckily, Mustang horses are now protected by law, but this introduces a new problem — how to keep their herds from getting too large. To keep them from becoming overpopulated, Mustangs are periodically rounded up, with some being captured and sold via Mustang rescue organizations in the United States. Some are trained before they are sold, while others are trained by their new owners.
Mustang horses have made an impact on American culture in many ways. First of all, the introduction of the horse had a strong impact on Native American cultures. When the Spanish arrived in the late 1400s and early 1500s, the natives had never seen horses, let alone men riding them. However, horses quickly spread throughout the Americas, enabling Native Americans to hunt, fight, and travel from place to place more easily than ever before.
Mustang horses have also become synonymous with modern American culture. For example, Ford called to mind the Mustang’s speed and free nature when they named their new sports car after the wild horses in the 1960s. Since then, Mustang horses have become iconic of American notions of freedom and the rich history of America’s “Wild West.”