The name "mustang" is given to wild horses that inhabit areas of North America. SaveOurWildHorses.org encourages children to learn more about the plight of the wild mustang, including the history of the animal's struggle for survival. Due to changes in the law, the wild mustang is no longer protected.
The mustang thrived in North America after it was introduced by Spanish explorers in the 1500s, although the population of mustang herds dwindled drastically after the arrival of Anglo explorers in the 1800s, who shot a large number of horses to prevent a Native American uprising. Mustangs were still being subjected to over-hunting throughout 1960s, which almost drove the mustang to extinction. According to SaveOurWildHorses.org, the mustang owes its survival to Velma Johnston, who battled for the protection of mustang herds. In 1971, the mustang received federal protection under the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, which outlawed the hunting, capturing, and branding of wild horses in the United States. The law has since been changed, and wild mustangs are no longer protected.
Living in Herds
Herds of mustangs inhabit the open plains in the West of the United States. One herd will generally consist of one male or stallion and eight females or mares, as well as a number of foals. At two years of age, male foals, or colts, will be driven away by the existing stallion. These mustangs go on to form an all-male herd until they reach maturity, and each manages to attract his own herd of mares. Each herd of mustangs will inhabit its own territory, although herds from neighbouring territories will often unite to fight off predators.
The mustang has adapted to life in a barren environment by developing a tolerance to a low-nutritional diet made up of juniper plants, sagebrush, and coarse grasses. This also means that a mustang can go without feeding for several days. Mustangs are able to survive because they also have learnt to get water by digging around waterholes and smashing through frozen streams.
Mustangs breed between the months of April and July. Pregnant mares leave the heard to find a secluded area to give birth the following spring. The mustang has a gestation period of 340 days, or 11 months. Mustang foals are born with a sandy colouration to keep them camouflaged in their environment, although they will develop a range of different colours as they mature.