Preservation of Rare Spanish, Choctaw, Sulphur, Kiger, and Sorraia Mustangs
Welcome to this new and exciting Spanish Mustang Spirit of the Black Hills preservation project, managed by the Institute of Range and the American Mustang (IRAM) at the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary (BHWHS) in Hot Springs, South Dakota. Nearly fifty of our over five hundred mustangs at the sanctuary, in our special Spanish herds, represent primitive remnants from rare bloodlines of the Golden Age of Spain. We are now expanding our wild horse sponsorship program to include our historic Spanish-type horses.
Click here to learn more about our eight Iberian-influenced horses available for sponsorship, reminescent of the Spanish jennet and the Old World Iberian Peninsula.
The purpose of this project is to preserve, promote, and educate the public about rare Spanish and Portuguese equine bloodlines still found in today’s American mustangs. Majestic and iconic Spanish jennets came to the New World with the Spanish explorers and conquistadors in search of new lands and riches. The Iberian horses left behind were in many ways worth more than the gold they had discovered in the New World; safeguarding this shrinking treasure chest of genetic wealth from ancient times is the mission of this project, with significant focus on helping to reclaim the Sorraia mustang.
The Rare Sorraia Mustang
Along with various types of Spanish horses brought to the New World, historians believe it was the wild horse of Iberia (the “marismeño” now known as the Sorraia), or its tamed descendants that Christopher Columbus first brought to the Caribbean Islands. Columbus’ own writings state that he intended for only the finest Andalusian stock of the time to accompany him on his second voyage, however, just before setting sail, fraudulent dealers pulled a switch and “a lower grade” of horse reached Hispañiola in late November of 1493. But instead of the anticipated drawbacks, the unscrupulous substitution proved most advantageous as these common horses were much more capable of enduring the hardships ahead. The fact that we have any remnants of these bloodlines left is a testament to their hardiness and adaptability.
At the BHWHS, we not only provide sanctuary for America’s most unwanted mustangs, but we are taking steps to preserve an original horse created not by Man, but by Mother Nature herself. With less than 200 Sorraia horses left in the world, the BHWHS is one of a few places where research and preservation of the Sorraia mustang will continue, along with a few other private breeders in North America.
Historic Spanish Mustang Lineage
The types of Spanish/Iberian horses we have today in the Americas—reminiscent of the jennet type—include horses from wild strains, Native American strains, Mexican strains, South American strains, and rancher strains. There are Spanish traits that the eye alone can recognize, but we also have the science of mitochondrial DNA now to help prove what was already obvious to many equine hippologists and historians. Mustangs trace their lineage wholly or in part, however diluted, to those early horses brought to the Americas by the conquistadors.
American mustangs with the strongest traits of Spanish ancestry frequently surface in the more remote ranges of public lands which are overseen by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The Kiger herds in Oregon, the Book Cliffs herds in Utah/Colorado, the Sulphur Springs herds in Utah, and other Herd Management Areas (HMAs) all have horses which exhibit Iberian characteristics. These “Spanish Mustang Spirit” horses forever changed the history of man in the Americas, and with your help, we have a unique opportunity to preserve this equine “DNA gold of the Black Hills."
"Look back at our struggle for freedom,
trace our present day’s strength to its source;
and you’ll find that man’s
pathway to glory
is strewn with
the bones of a horse.”
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CONGRATULATIONS! to photographer, Karen Tweedy-Holmes and writer, Allison Milionis on the March 26, 2013 release of their new book, "Horse Sanctuary" published by Universe, a division of Rizzoli. A book signing is taking place at Rizzoli Bookstore at 31 West 57th Street in NY on April 4th from 5:30 to 7:00pm. Chapter 2 is devoted to the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary and we are proud to offer this great book for sale in gift shop. Click here to order the book today! A trailer on You Tube shows excerpts from the book. Karen is also our featured photographer again in the above slide show.
Read the story of Caballos de Destino—A Vanishing Breed by Karen Parker.
Don Juan's Iberian Equine Roots
(a story about our Sulphur/Sorraia Stallion, including an extensive timeline depicting the horse's pervasive role in history) by Karen Parker
The Round-the-World 10,000 Year Journey of E. caballus
by Karen Parker