May 21, 2015

1599 UNITED STATES (Nevada) - Wild mustangs

I noted with surprise that quite a few people know that the Mustangs live in North America only by 500 years and come from domesticated horses. It's true that the wild horse (Equus ferus) existed in North America in prehistoric times, but it died out at the end of the last ice age around 10-12 thousand years ago. Thus at the beginning of the Columbian Exchange, there were no equids in the Americas at all. Horses first returned with the conquistadors, more accurate with the arrival of Cortés in 1519. The first mustangs descended from Iberian horses brought to Mexico and Florida. Some of these horses were sold, escaped or were captured by Native Americans, and rapidly spread by trade and other means throughout western North America.

No more than two million feral horses may have once roamed the American west, according to what historian J. Frank Dobie called a "guess." By the 1950s mustang population dropped drastically. Mustangs were rounded up in large numbers and the abuses linked to certain capture methods, including hunting from airplanes and poisoning, led to the first federal wild free-roaming horse protection law in 1959. As of 2015, free-roaming horses remain protected under United States law, but have disappeared from several states. More than half of all mustangs in North America are found in Nevada (which features the horses on its State Quarter in commemoration of this), with other significant populations in Montana, Wyoming and Oregon.

The Mustangs move with the seasons within 83 Herd Management Areas (HMAs) on nearly 14.7 million acres of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, BLM is required to manage wild horses and burros only in those areas (Herd Areas). BLM evaluates each herd area to determine if it has adequate food, water, cover and space. The areas which meet these criteria are designated as HMAs. Wild horses and burros can quickly overpopulate an area, because they have long life spans and are not very susceptible to predation or disease. To bring wild horse and burro numbers in balance with the available food and water, BLM gathers excess wild horses and burros from Nevada ranges as needed.

About the stamps
About the first stamp, issued to celebrate the beginning of the Year of the Snake, I wrote here. About the second, featuring a portrait of George Washington, I wrote here. About the third, issued to celebrate the Year of the Horse, I wrote here.

Mustang - Wikipedia
Nevada’s Wild Horses and Burros - Bureau of Land Management official website

Sender: Denise 
Sent from Greenvale (New York / United States), on 17.03.2014
Photo: Kim Hart

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