History of the Spanish Mustangs
The true Spanish Mustang is a direct descendant of the horses brought to the Americas by the early Spaniards. Considered the finest horses in the known world at the time of the conquest of the New World, this ancient breed left a legacy in its tough, beautiful, hardy descendants that endures to this day.
Around 1600, the Native Americans, until then horseless, discovered the Spanish horses and made them their own. These horses completely revolutionized their way of life, and for 500 years were the prized horses of the Americas. The Spanish Mustang is an important symbol of our country's history, and was the horse used by the Pony Express and the early American cowboys. It is a strong, intelligent and personable horse that has been met with innumerable and massive challenges.
By the early 1900s, slaughter and crossbreeding had decimated the population of the Spanish Mustang to near extinction. For decades the Spanish Mustang was rounded up and used in the battlefield, and when they were no longer needed in warfare, they were slaughtered for pet food. Their "systematic removal" also allowed for the boom of the cattle industry. The Spanish Mustang was regarded as merely a wild nuisance of a creature, showing no direct profit for mankind.
What once had been a population of over a million, was reduced to less than 20,000 by the 1960s. Forgotten and taken for granted, this grand horse that made our perpetuation and success as a society possible, was now dangerously close to extinction.
It was in the 1920s, during his years as a surveyor, when Bob Brislawn came to realize the strength of the Spanish Mustang. Bred by nature alone, their equine instincts and intelligence were still intact. While other horses would "tire easily", the Spanish Mustangs would "go all day". He was impressed with their speed, agility, and above all, their will to survive. Bob and his son Emmett started breeding Spanish Mustangs from known stock, and their dedication to save these incredibly scarce horses culminated in the founding of the Spanish Mustang Registry in 1957.
Since Emmett's passing in June 2010 his wife, Goija, their daughter, Josie, and son, Bige continue the Brislawn legacy of preserving the Spanish Mustang. Fifteen breeding herds of Spanish Mustangs roam across their Cayuse Ranch, homesteaded in 1916 in Oshoto, Wyoming. These horses come in all colors and are noticeably different from most modern horse breeds. They are somewhat smaller, with straight foreheads, long smooth muscles, and a reputation for tremendous endurance. They are also commonly confused with the "BLM" or "Wild Mustangs", which are a cross-breed remotely related to the original Spanish Mustang.
Spend some time with Spanish Mustangs and you will learn that they are kind, intelligent horses. Even around strangers they are not high-strung or wary, but curious and downright friendly. While still rare, there are now more than 2,000 Spanish Mustangs across the country. Because of the Brislawn's efforts, the future of the Spanish Mustang finally appears as secure as its place in history.
Please visit the Spanish Mustang Foundation website to learn more about the Spanish Mustang and the organization's efforts to preserve, protect and educate these magnificent animals:
We also invite you to participate in the rescue efforts, classes and education projects; to volunteer; or make a contribution that is tax deductible to help fund the organization's outreach programs.
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All images © Sierra Perkins. All Rights Reserved.