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Wild horses are truly wild, and native

Scott Beckstead’s rebuttal (“Americans will always revere wild horses,” Herald, Nov. 3) of Andrew Gulliford’s earlier misinformed screed against wild horses makes some important points about the Bureau of Land Management's perfidy and the iconic status that wild horses have deservedly earned across the American landscape and psyche.

But he neglected to correct the professor on a key – and provably false – claim underlying his argument that wild horses are merely feral mutts cast off by ranchers and farmers. The animal advocacy group Friends of Animals has successfully petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider protecting Montana’s famed Pryor Mountain herd under the Endangered Species Act, given that Pryor Mountain mustangs often have primitive markings, indicative of the Old Spanish genetic lineage, or any lineage traceable to early horses.

These markings include zebra striping on their legs and dark striping down their backs and withers. The Old Spanish genetic lineage has since been lost in Spain because of domestic breeding. Thus, Pryor Mountain mustangs’ lineage can be traced back to ancient horses who first evolved in North America and Eurasia, but are thought to have temporarily gone extinct after the last Ice Age, before being reintroduced by Spanish settlers.

There are a scarce 170 of these truly wild and native horses left on 27,000 acres after years of the BLM taking away mares’ ability to reproduce by forcibly drugging them with a fertility pesticide and years of yanking so-called “excess” horses off the land.

Scott Smith

Darien, Connecticut