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Wild Horses


The legacy of wild horses in the West is somewhat complicated. They are iconic, evoking images of a lost, wild and romantic West. On the other hand, they can be pretty damaging to fragile dry-land vegetation and cause a good bit of erosion. On the third hand (since this is extra-limbed creature day at LGM), they are related to a long-lost indigenous species of horse that populated the West until the Pleistocene era.

Even if you think wild horses aren’t a great thing, it’s hard to understand a “long-time advocate of horse slaughter” who is buying horses from the Bureau of Land Management and shipping them to Mexico for slaughter. Talk about a dirty (and illegal) way to make money.

Also, this:

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  • GFW

    “On the third hand” -> “On the gripping hand”
    see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gripping_Hand

    • herr doktor bimler

      Imma sticking to my prehensile tail thankyouverymuch.

  • Scott P.

    That was an episode of the A-Team.

  • Jamie

    Mayhap a bit pedantic, but I don’t find it hard to understand a [radio edit] that wants to kill things, finding a way to make money killing those things.

    I find it harder to understand how those people get this way, I suppose.

  • teraz kurwa my

    Other than it being illegal, I don’t see the problem. As long as the numbers taken are sustainable why not slaughter them?

    • blowback

      What’s wrong with eating horse meat except for the chemicals pumped into domesticated ones? A few slices of paardenrookvlees for breakfast sets me up for the day.

      • rea

        What’s wrong with eating horse meat except for the chemicals pumped into domesticated ones?

        Which is exactly why the native species of horses in North America is extinct, and we have to make do with feral European escapees.

  • Jordan

    “On the third hand (since this is extra-limbed creature day at LGM), they are related to a long-lost indigenous species of horse that populated the West until the Pleistocene era. ”

    What? I mean, I guess all horses are “related” in some sense. But “wild” horses in North America are really “feral” horses descended from those brought over by Europeans, right? I’m sure I’m missing something obvious :(.

    • Ken

      There were horses in the Americas until around 12,000 years ago; they died out during the big megafauna extinction. They were not the European species, but were in the same genus Equus (as are donkeys and zebras). And yes, modern wild horses are feral descendants of European horses.

      • Jordan

        That is what I thought. So how are the west’s “wild horses” related to “a long-lost indigenous species of horse that populated the West until the Pleistocene era” in any meaningful sense?

        • rea

          In the same sense that it would be really cool to have wild elephants roaming the plains.

        • Chet Manly

          They aren’t any more meaningfully related than the Pacific salmon of today are related to the sabretooth salmon.

          But, like rea says, anything that nudges us even a tiny bit closer to the awesomeness of the Pleisticene is OK in my book. There were dire wolves the size of a man for crying out loud.

          • The Dark Avenger

            Yes, along with the short-faced bear and the American lion:

            On February 18, 2009, George C. Page Museum formally announced the 2006 discovery of 16 fossil deposits which had been removed from the ground during the construction of an underground parking garage for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art next to the tar pits.[10] Among the finds are remains of a saber-toothed cat, six dire wolves, bison, horses, a giant ground sloth, turtles, snails, clams, millipedes, fish, gophers, and an American lion.[10][11]

  • Quercus

    So I guess I must have missed all the impassioned calls for vegetarianism on LGM? Because I really don’t see why killing horses is particularly worse than killing cows or pigs.

    • witless chum

      Or in this context, elk or mule deer.


    • Paul

      The basic problem is that the mustangs are just too prolific and quickly overburden the available range land. Slaughter is a useful tool for trying to balance all the issues land managers are trying to juggle. I recall an story in the Spokesman Review back when the US horse slaughter plants were closed the local Indian Land Managers were really upset. Yes they wanted wild horses but the herd would quickly grow to large and degrade the waterways (affecting the salmon) and over graze the land thus allowing invasive species to dominate or the native plants.

      Since the horses had to be culled – sale for slaughter was a good way to dealing with management costs. They most certainly did not have the budget to do what the BLM (catch and pen wild horses), and even the BLM is straining its budget.

      That being said I really dislike the ideal of Wild Horses being shipped that far and to Mexico and certainly not under false pretenses.
      Its odd when my Wife bought her Mustang from the BLM we had to wait 2 years and have a person visit from the BLM for a follow up inspection before we got a final ownership papers. I don’t see how this guy could buy that many animals and move them so quickly. But I guess if he was already violating Colorado law perhaps his buyers also did not care if lacked proof of ownership.

      I would not mind seeing local small (and fat chance) well inspected slaughter in the US however.

  • Bloix

    Before you lock in your opinions about wild horses, you might want to read this article,


    According the Audobon Society, the “wild horses” of the west were actually managed herds that supplied horses to the army. In the 1940’s, when the army stopped buying horses, the ranchers abandoned the herds, which have grown to the point that they destroy habitat and threaten the survival of endangered species. A former BLM biologist says:

    “They do incredible damage… BLM exacerbates the problem by hauling water to them… The horse groups have tremendous power with Congress. They only care about horses; they couldn’t give a damn about all the wildlife that’s adversely affected.”

    These horses have nothing to do with the equids that became extinct 10,000 years ago, and that had predators like sabre-toothed tigers and dire wolves. Today, they reproduce until the land can’t carry the population and then, after they’ve destroyed the vegetation, they starve.

    The whole article is worth a read.

  • I spend time on the range & in meetings with advocates and BLM, and here’s the thing: money.
    Dept of Interior has scientists, but doesn’t apply their skills to rangeland health. I once had a staffer show me wildfire damage he said was caused by wild horses.
    But then,wild horses don’t make campaign contributions. Unlike livestock and extractive industries, they don’t hire lobbyists. When the wild West is gone, don’t blame wild horses ; blame greed.

  • Tom

    The horse problem could be solved with proper management which would require a calm and rational response to overpopulation.The emotional over kill that horse enthusiasts bring to the table literally blocks any sane discussion.The degradation of the western range has many causes,horses are just a small part.The huge fires in the Nevada desert are changing the landscape far more than any equine. The livestock,and wild life load could be tripled or more, if the Feds would fix and rehab the watering holes across the west. Imagine the benefit to all users of the range if the Feds spent a billion dollars on range land water projects and road maintenance. Order 1 less billion dollar stealth bomber and put every dump truck,grader,and backhoe in every dry dusty town in the west to work. Immense benefits and immense payback.Bring back the million head of sheep that used to keep the fires at bay in the wet years,the western range can provide far more protein to help feed the world than it currently does, better management and less emotion is the place to start.

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