August 07, 2008 | | Comments 0

Cayuse Pony

Cayuse Horse

Revisiting the Wild West with the Cayuse Pony

Many of us have preconceived notions of the old Wild West. It’s easy to imagine horse riding cowboys, bar brawls and gun slingers in action. One might forget though, that the cowboys of the west owed a lot to Native American tribes for the horses that were needed for transportation and became vital for the preservation of the way of life of all the inhabitants of the west.

Perhaps the most popular Indian tribe to ever breed horses was the Nez Perce. Among the various horse breeds that they took care of were the beautiful Appaloosa horses. Another tribe, the Cayuse, which may have been related to the Nez Perce, was also excellent at breeding. They primarily resided in the western regions now designated as Oregon and Washington. They were so good at breeding that ponies bred by Indians were generally called Cayuse. Strictly speaking though, Cayuse ponies really belong to a distinct breed which the Cayuse Indians are primarily credited for preserving.

There are only a handful of expert sources that offer an account of the origins of this pony. It is not entirely clear where their bloodlines come from. What can be established is that the breeding of the horses began in the 19th century, the period when cowboys and gunslingers were truly in their element. It is possible though that like other North American horses, the Cayuse pony may not have originated where it was bred. The general theory is that the Cayuse ponies are the descendants of Spanish and French horses that were imported from Europe. The Cayuse tribe may have obtained horses for breeding while trading. When the distinct Cayuse breed came into existence, it in turn came to influence the Appaloosa breed among others.

Like all horse breeds that were bred in North America, the Cayuse has been known for its remarkable endurance. Horses would have to possess excellent stamina to survive the physical challenges of what was then a rough environment. Their hardy nature is perhaps one of the main reasons why these ponies, small as they are, have become true emblems of the people of the west.

Like other horses, the Cayuse may have also been used for riding and labor. In more recent times, these stocky ponies may have also been used to learn riding. Their height at 14 hands would make them ideal for kids and teens. Of course, the ponies have also been known to be sturdy enough to carry even adults.

The Cayuse ponies have continued to exhibit their excellent survival skills to this day. These ponies are rare but those that still exist do persist despite the odds. The single hope for survival of these ponies is for breeders and the public to have a renewed interest for them.

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