Mustangs are the descendants of Iberian or Spanish horses that were brought to North, Central, and South America during the Colonial Era, primarily in the 16th century. The name of this breed literally means “ownerless beast,” which helps to foster the reputation of this breed being a wild and free horse. Although there are wild horses that are classified as Mustangs, there is also a specific modern breed that was bred through quarter horses and draft horses.
Here are some more interesting Mustang horse facts to help you get to know the modern breed a little bit better.
#1. The US Government classifies “wild” Mustang horses as being feral.
Because the Mustang is descended from horses that were previously owned by humans, the wild horses that are part of this breed are considered to be feral creatures instead of wild ones. This gives the government in the US certain rights over the animals to domesticate and sell them to new owners. Regular roundups in the US West take place to control the ownerless horse populations.
#2. Just a century ago, there were more than 1 million ownerless Mustangs in the US.
This is one of the reasons why the US Government classified the horses as feral. The horse herds would go onto ranch or farm property and ruin pasture lands that were meant for livestock. Many property owners would kill the roaming horses to preserve their property and protect their livestock.
#3. It is against the law for civilians to capture or kill ownerless Mustangs.
In 1971, the US passed a law called the “Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act.” This law protects the horses from ranchers and farmers who want to preserve their property, making it illegal to capture or kill any ownerless horse that comes onto their land. This has led to population growth of horse herds in the US West, so the law also tasks the Bureau of Land Management to periodically round up Mustangs, tame them, and then sell them to ranchers or others.
#4. Mustangs have one of the greatest varieties of size and color of any horse breed.
A Mustang may be as small as 13 hands or as tall as 16 hands. They may weigh as little as 700 pounds or may be closer to 1,500 pounds for the larger stallions. Every equine color variation that is known is also part of the Mustang breed.
#5. Mustangs have tougher hooves than other domesticated horses.
The free-roaming Mustang is able to travel over 20 miles during the average day, even over rough terrain, thanks to the toughness of its hoof. They are a uniquely hard hoof compared to other horse breeds, which can make it somewhat difficult to trim hooves for those who own this horse. The benefit here, of course, is that Mustangs are able to adapt to numerous environments and not be at a greater risk of experiencing an injury or health issue.
#6. Male Mustangs will battle each other for breeding rights.
When mating season comes along, which is usually April-July, you’ll find Mustang stallions will fight each other for the right to breed. It takes 11 months of gestation for a foal to be born. Most foals are able to join their herd within a day or two of birth. Most foals will spend the first 4-5 years with their herd before starting their own one.
#7. Most Mustangs in the wild have a lifespan of 15-20 years.
The lifespan of a Mustang is generally within the same range of other horse breeds. Wild horses that are domesticated may live longer or shorter lives depending on the temperament of the horse and its new living conditions. These horses are fast and love to run, so they do best in areas where there is ample space for them to exercise on a daily basis. Mustangs owned by loving owners have been known to reach the age of 40.
#8. Not everyone is allowed to own a Mustang.
In order for a person to own a Mustang that has been captured and tamed by the US Government, they must show that they have the ability to properly care for the horse in some way. Since 2015, the adoption fee for a Mustang has been just $125. Public adoption events are held on a semi-regular basis whenever it has been determined that population levels are too high. To qualify for an adoption, you must be 18 years old, have a pasture and stall available, and an open stock trailer is required for transport.
#9. It takes 12 months to earn the title to an adopted Mustang.
The BLM requires a professional follow-up of the living conditions of the horse after one year of ownership to determine its health and happiness. This evaluation can be performed by a veterinarian, a professional trainer, or another recognized horse professional.
#10. Mustangs are often considered to be the epitome of “average.”
Some people may point to breeding within the Mustang community for the horse to have developed its speed. Others might point to the physical structure of the horse – it’s size and lighter weight – as a reason why it is so fast. In reality, Mustangs are simply the very definition of “average” for a horse. Based on the shape, structure, and size, a Mustang is able to maximize their speed potential, making it an exception sporting horse under the right conditions.
#11. Many Mustangs need very little food to survive.
Even when there is plenty of food available to a Mustang, it might only need about 6 pounds of hay or grass per day. This breed can survive on much less food in the wild when needed as well, often on just 1-2 pounds of food, without it affecting its health in a negative way. For this reason, many Mustangs are considered to be “easy care” horses because of the intelligence, independence, and need for few resources.
#12. Despite their speed, not every Mustang will actually gallop.
Because there has been such a mixed lineage within the Mustang breed over the years, it is a unique breed in that some horses will gallop, others will trot, and some prefer to just canter. Mustangs that prefer a fast trot can actually be faster than Mustangs that gallop as well.
#13. Some wish for the Mustang horse to be classified as “endangered.”
Some advocates for the Mustang breed have called for this horse to be classified as endangered. With breed standards in place and consistent management of the feral herds in the United States, the population is expected to recover over the next decade to prevent a further lowering of the population count.
When people think of the US West, they often think of the Mustang horse. It’s freedom has become a symbol of human freedom and that can be seen in Mustang horse facts like these.