Wild mustangs’ days of freedom are numbered

US government plans to reduce numbers of mustangs

Source: Andrew Buncombe
Independent June 16 2001 p19

The US government plans to reduce numbers of mustangs, found in 10 states in the US West. The government argues that there is not enough land for the horses, so some need to be removed. The government has approved spending of some 23 million pounds sterling (30 million US dollars) for removing mustangs in 2001. The Bureau of Land Management, an agency under the federal government, aims to cut the number of mustangs by half. There were an estimated two million mustangs in the US in 1900, and this has dropped to under 50,000.

Wild Horse Spirit is a campaign group opposing the Bureau, as is the American Horse Defence Fund. Critics, such as these groups, argue that cattle ranchers are putting pressure on the government. Cattle farmers pay the government a few dollars per head to cattle to graze on public lands, where mustangs also live. Cattle farmers argue that they need the grazing, and horses present too much competition. However, environmentalists argue that cattle have more impact than mustangs on the ecology of the ranges.

The mustangs have descended from different sources, such as horses let loose by 16th century conquistadors, and those released by the US Cavalry and farmers. Horses may have existed in American long before the 16th century, but had disappeared by the end of the Ice Age. Fans of the mustang see them as part of US history.