Understanding the Mustang
A lot of terms can be associated with the Mustang. Although it is a horse breed, its name has also been linked with hardiness and a semi wild sense of freedom. This seems only appropriate since the Mustangs are after all feral horses.
Like other North American horses, Mustangs are not of original American descent. Since the horses in North America died out, all succeeding horse breeds were the product of foreign introduction. The Mustangs in particular have their origins in the first Spanish horse breeds introduced to America in the 16th century. Although many of the imported horses were carefully bred to create new American breeds, some of the horses were able to roam free in the wild. This led to interbreeding with other free roaming local and foreign breeds.
There would have been a variety of ways for the introduction of horses into the wild. It is possible that different events contributed to the formation of Mustang herds. Some of the original imported horses may have escaped their enclosures or may have been stolen and lost. There have also been some horse owners and ranchers in the past who deliberately set some of their horses free. This may have either been due to the undesirability of some horses or due to a desire to save on keeping costs and space. When horse owners did not need their horses, they could set them free until they were needed again. Some of these horses may have mated with free roaming ones.
Although they roam in the wild, Mustangs are not wild horses. They are instead categorized as feral because they originated from previously domesticated horses. Because Mustangs live in harsh conditions and have had to survive on their own, they have grown strong and durable. Offspring that were not strong enough simply perished naturally. In most cases, Mustangs favor body strength over height and physical refinement. There have been instances when purebred horses have been introduced into Mustang herds. Most of the time though, Mustangs breed among themselves. Naturally, this has led to the propagation of their traits.
Mustangs were largely left on their own for some time. That was until they grew too many. Their population swelled to a point where they went well beyond a million heads. To protect their own property and herds, horse owners in the past took it upon themselves to eliminate Mustangs whenever possible. Mustangs have been killed outright to help diminish their numbers.
It was only in the 1950s when the cruel plight of many Mustangs came to light. The government has since taken over the responsibility of both managing the Mustang population and protecting them from harm. Some Mustangs are put up for adoption.
To this day, Mustangs have come to occupy the eye of controversy. Like other feral horses, they are sometimes viewed as pests. Some ranchers argue that Mustangs ruin the land and vie with cattle for food. Other groups maintain though that the Mustangs are a vital part of American culture and history.