Wild Horses of the West: History and Politics of America's Mustangs

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Wild Horses of the West: History and Politics of America's Mustangs
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Wild Horses of the West: History and Politics of America's Mustangs
Dehler, Gregory
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Denver, CO
Center for Colorado and the West
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Auraria Library
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Auraria Library
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Wild Horses of the West: History and Politics of America's Mustangs | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 11:37:53 AM] Home Wild Horses of the West: History and Politics of America's MustangsWild Horses of the West: History and Politics of America's MustangsSubmitted by nwharton on 9-7-2011 09:48 PMAuthor: J. Edward de Steiguer Publishing: Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 2011. Color photos, index, sources. 296 pages. 8 x 7. $29.95 paperback. Reviewer: Gregory Dehler In his excellent history of the horse, Wild Horses of the West J. Edward de Steiguer opens by tracing the horses zoological genealogy from its prehistoric ancestry, including an American branch that became extinct during the ice age. Thus, as he shows in a later chapter, Horses Return to the Americas, the Spanish did not introduce the horse into a foreign habitat, but unwittingly and unintentionally returned an extinct species to its former range. Americas wild horses descend from Spanish horses of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries which ranged off the loosely policed missions either on their own volition or with the assistance of Native Americans, not, as is sometimes alleged, from earlier entradas launched by Spanish conquistadors like Francisco Coronado. Characteristic of their diversity, Native American tribes reacted to this new animal in a variety of ways. While the Comanches became one of the greatest horse cultures in history, other tribes utilized equines only in the most peripheral manner, if at all. Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the number of wild horses proliferated, reaching over two million animals by 1850. Increasingly, farmers and ranchers wanted the land that the horse roamed on. Their saving grace, such as it was, rested in the westerners interest in open-range breeding. De Steiguer tells us that disaster struck in the last decade of the nineteenth century and first of the twentieth century when economic depression and the invention of the automobile vastly reduced reliance on the horse and open-range breeding. What became of the millions of wild horses then, if no one needed them? They were sold in large number to the British Army during the Boer War and World War I. Many more were slaughtered for glue and pet food during the prosperous 1920s. Matters grew much worse when the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 permitted fencing on the public lands. By 1940 wild horses were just about gone from the American West. At this point de Steiguers hero, Velma Bronn Johnston, otherwise known as Wild Horse Annie, steps in to the narrative. For over twenty years she lobbied relentlessly for reforms to protect the horse. Her efforts culminated in the landmark Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. Protection of the prolific species, however, had the unintended consequence of overpopulation. With limited land available, the U.S. Department of the Interior collected horses and offered them for adoption, but far fewer people are willing to take a horse than there are animals available. De Steiguer recounts some sad tales of adoptions gone bad. Using the surplus of unwanted horses as an excuse, the ranchers struck back in 2004 with the Burns Amendment. Named after former senator Conrad Burns of Montana, this legislation ordered the Department of the Interior to rid itself by any means necessary of any horse over eight years of age offered for adoption three times. In a dramatic reversal of Wild Horse Annies victories, thousands of EXPLORE BY MEDIABook Reviews Photographs Video Biographies New Publications Resource Guides County Newspaper HistoriesEXPLORE BY TOPICLand & Natural Resources Government & Law Agriculture Mining Commerce & Industry Transportation People & Places Communication Healthcare & Medicine Education & Libraries Cultural Communities Recreation & Entertainment Tourism ReligionEXPLORE BY CULTUREHispanic Native AmericanCasimiro Barela, state senator for over 37 years, fought to ensure Colorados first constitution was published in English, Spanish and German.


Wild Horses of the West: History and Politics of America's Mustangs | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 11:37:53 AM] Auraria Library 303-556-4587 1100 Lawrence Street Denver, Colorado 80204 In the News Partners & Donations About Us Contact Us horses were once again being sent to slaughter. Wild Horses of the West is also history with a purpose, as the author unashamedly and openly states. He wants Americans to take an interest in protecting the horse and ensuring it remains a part of the West. Through his historical analysis he suggests that one route around this roadblock is to prove that the horse is indeed a genuine wild animal and not merely a feral version of an otherwise domesticated animal. De Steiguer affirms decisively that wild horses are indeed wild animals, and, more importantly, native to America, even if they had been absent for a long time. Thus they deserve the protections under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which would reverse the Burns Amendment and prevent their shipment to Mexico for slaughter and canning. Wild Horses of the West is a delightful read, although disturbing in a few sections, with an excellent selection of photographs, including some in color. It is well researched and includes primary and archival sources. There are no notes, but each chapter has a reference section. Reviewer Info: Gregory Dehler is an adjunct professor at Front Range Community College (Westminster, CO). He received his PhD from Lehigh University in 2002 and is currently working on a biography of wildlife conservationist William T. Hornaday. Add new comment