Wild Horses are Native to North America and Need Protection
Even though wild horses are native to North America, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) falsely claims that they are not. With that false supposition, the BLM goes even further, to ridiculously claim that the wild horses of North America are an “invasive species.” The truth is that wild horses are certainly more native to North America than all humans, and surprisingly, even more so than the American bison, which was named our national mammal in 2016, though that designation hasn’t done them much good as individuals either. As a native species, horses should be granted protection from the cruel fate of roundups and slaughter at the hands of our government agencies.
Evidence that Wild Horses are Native to North America
Dr. Ross MacPhee is the curator of the Division of Vertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History who has scientifically studied horse evolution for many years. He debunked the BLM’s false claim saying, “The family Equidae evolved on this continent; it is as American as anything you could possibly imagine. That was 55 million years ago. Progressive evolution occurred thereafter, eventually culminating 1.8 million years ago when a horse very like modern horses evolved… Scientifically, the BLM’s comment that The Horse did not biologically evolve on the North American continent is wrong… most people regard bison as a native species even though it has only occupied North America for the past 125,000 years.”
A Brief History of Wild Horses in North America
As horses evolved in North America, they would move back and forth across the Bering Land Bridge into Siberia during glacial periods, when the sea level would drop. From there they migrated through Asia, Europe, and Africa.
It had been thought that they mysteriously went extinct in this hemisphere almost 12,000 years ago. However, recent scientific research and archeological digs have provided a considerable body of evidence that some remnant horses did survive and continued to endure up to the time of the colonization of the Americas by Europeans. Archeological sites such as Wolf Spider Cave in Colorado, Horsethief Cave and Little Box Elder Cave in Wyoming, and Pratt Cave in Texas have provided horse bones which were radiocarbon dated to show horses lived in the western United States during the period between 8,000 years ago all the way to 1481 AD.
In addition to scientific evidence, oral histories passed down by Native American tribes, as well as cave drawings, tell the story that horses and Native American cultures co-mingled prior to European arrival.
Why is this important? Dr. MacPhee said, “There are rights that should accrue to horses as native species that they don’t have at the moment.”
The BLM’s unscientific definition of wild horses gives it license to rip apart established horse families, run foals to death from helicopters, brutally rip open the ovaries of mares through surgical sterilization, and open the door to slaughter for these iconic animals by the thousands.
We must continue to fight for America’s wild horses and convince our government to protect them better with all the scientific and humane solutions advocates have provided.
What You Can Do To Help Wild Horses
- Become a wild horse defender by signing up for an In Defense of Animals membership
- Take action for horses by signing one of our active alerts
- Educate yourself about wild horses in North America by visiting our Wild Horse action center