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Alternative Histories   Our Mustang Heritage

History is written by the Winners. And it changes over time.
Here are some ALTERNATIVE THEORIES & supporting EVIDENCE, if any

  • DID THE HORSE ACTUALLY BECOME EXTINCT OR MIGHT THERE HAVE BEEN SOME SURVIVORS FROM THE ICE AGE?
     
  • DID NATIVE AMERICANS HAVE HORSES BEFORE THE ARRIVAL OF THE SPANISH, AS THEIR ORAL HISTORIES CLAIM?
     
  • WERE THE SPANISH THE FIRST TO RE-INTRODUCE THE HORSE TO THE AMERICAS OR DID THE HORSE RETURN EARLIER VIA NORSEMEN, CHINESE EXPLORERS, OR OTHERS?

Alternative histories, as well as documented facts of history that are not supportive of the majority culture's view tend to be marginalized, discredited, un-funded, unpublished, and generally suppressed - or simply ignored - sometimes for good reason, sometimes not.

Here are some interesting Alternative Horse Stories from the ranks of current Non-Winners (Please note that in most cases this author is simply presenting these for your consideration, and the theories do not necessarily reflect this author's own opinions):

Some Native American people, particularly the Dakotas, insist that they had horses prior to the arrival of Spanish horses. Indeed, it is incredible that the Plains peoples, in the space of just a hundred years or so, became such highly skilled horsemen, as well as skilled breeders who had developed their own unique breed (the Appaloosa) by the time of Lewis and Clark. This is possible, of course, but I have always found it remarkable and therefore a bit suspect.

The Book of Mormon contains references to horses in Mormon territory in antiquity. A summary of scientific and archeological research to support these claims can be read HERE (click)

Here's another link about Mormon scientific inquiry into the origin if the horse. And another from "Wild Horse Conspiracy"

Click here for a collection of a whole lot of ALternative theories, Native American lore, Pre-Colombian explorers, etc.

An amateur historian from Great Britain, Gavin Menzies, wrote a book in which he tried to turn the story of the Europeans' discovery of America on its ear with a startling idea: Chinese sailors beat Christopher Columbus to the Americas by more than 70 years. Although the 1421 theory has been largely de-bunked, he presents some tantalizing archaeological evidence for the existence of horses in America before Columbus. He does so to defend his idea of Chinese presence in the Americas. Nevertheless, here's his evidence: Some pre-Columbian native art found at Cofins Cave in Brazil and at Trujillo, Peru depict horses, and in one case, a cavalry on horseback.

Another little-known part of history is the Norse/Viking presence in pre-Colombian America. There is some evidence that they might have brought their small horses with them (progenitors to Icelandic and Fjord horses of today), which Indians may have acquired far ahead of the Spanish arrival. The most compelling argument for this is Louis-Joseph LaVerendrie's 1642 account of meeting Indians with horses (see "Early Account of the Indian Horse" below)

Some Native people dispute this theory, saying that they always had horses. See "History is written by the Winners,")

This theory is attractive to romanticists, as well as to some wild horse advocates. The theory also makes a certain intuitive sense. Granted, the human species is highly adaptable, and when something new comes onto the scene - let's say, for example, electricity, the internal combustion engine, the computer and cellphones - life can change rapidly. Still, it does seem remarkable that Native people could have developed such a widespread and highly skilled horse culture in just 60 years!

Two arguments in support of the Native American position include:

(1) the fact that the Dakota vocabulary includes far more horse-related words and sophisticated horse-related concepts than would be normal for a culture that only recently acquired the animal, and

(2) excerpts from the diary of Louis-Joseph LaVerendrie, a French explorer who visited "The People of the Horse" in Wyoming in 1642, almost 40 years before the Pueblo Uprising of 1680, which is normally considered the beginnings of both wild herds and Native American possession of horses.

Louis-Joseph LaVerendrie:
EARLY ACCOUNT OF THE INDIAN HORSE

Here is an excerpt from a research paper by Clare Henderson of Laval University in Quebec:

"Between 1984 and 1987, this writer* conducted extensive research on the prairies to retrace the itinerary of Louis-Joseph LaVerendrie, who left a village site near Bismark, North Dakota, on 23 July, 1642, in an attempt to find the "People of the Horse." He traveled 20 days, guided by two Mandans, and on 11 August (1642), he reached the "Mountain of the People of the Horse" where he waited 5 weeks for their arrival. (Note by Webmaster: This account also appears in the book Among Wild Horses: A Portrait of the Pryor Mountain Mustangs By Lynne Pomeranz, Rhonda Massingham, and Hope Ryden)
*"This writer" being Clare Henderson
 

Note: What is interesting is that this account occured almost 40 years before the Great Pueblo Revolt of 1680, which most historians consider the beginning of Native American possession of horses, and it happened in a geographic region far removed from the Pueblos of the Southwest. Yet these Indians were already well-known in these Northern areas for having horses, and being skilled horsemen.

In trying to locate this campsite, Ms. Henderson used LaVerendrie's maps and diaries, as well as other documentation and interviewed numerous Elders and old ranchers. Eventually the site was located in Wyoming, and all of the people he met and traveled with were found to be Lakotas.

According to the Lakota Elders, the aboriginal pony had the following characteristics: It was small, about 13 hands, it had a "strait" back necessitating a different type of saddle from European horses, and wider nostrils with larger lungs so that its endurance was proverbial. This account described two distinct types, or breeds: One had a long mane, and shaggy (curly) hair, while the other had a "singed (roached?) mane." This description is consistent with the Tarpan and the Polish Przewalski horses, as well as various breeds of modern equus caballus, such as the Icelandic Fjord, for the roached mane, and any other modern horse for the long mane. It also is possible the writer was describing American Curly horses.


The Norwegian Fjord Horse has a naturally roached mane, and although there is a scant body of evidence that the Vikings may have brought horses to America, which the native people could have acquired, it is possible...

Curly Mustang from Black Rock HMA in Nevada, adopted by Angie Gaines
The Curly Horse has the shaggy, curly hair coat described in the LaVerendrie account.
Curly horses in America were known to the Native Americans. The Crow & Sioux both had Curly horses. 
-The North American Curly Horse


Frederick Wilhelm, Prince of Wurtemberg,
a widely respected naturalist, traveled along the Mississippi and up the Missouri in 1823. Prince Wilhelm had studied zoology, botany and related sciences under Dr. Lebret, himself a student of Jussieux, Cavier and Gay-Lussac. An English translation of his diary, titled First Journey to North America in the years 1822 to 1823, was published in 1938 by the South Dakota Historical Society. His memoirs show that he was a keen observer of the fauna and flora wherever he traveled, and it was interesting to note his remarks on the Indian pony's characteristics:

"I interrupt my discourse, to say a few words concerning the horses of the Indians…At a cursory glance one might mistake them for horses from the steppes of eastern Europe. The long manes, long necks, strong bodies and strait back make them appear like the horses of Poland…On the whole the horses of the Indians are very enduring..." (So. Dak. Hist. Soc., XIX:378).

He explained this curious phenomena (sic) by postulating that the Indian pony had descended from the Spanish horses, but that it has "degenerated," so that "They now resemble the parent (Spanish) stock very little."

Here's an interesting story that I don't know what to do with, but it is interesting. Here's an excerpt:

"Which brings me back to the story I heard at the Rock Shop.

“When I was a teenager, up in Nevada,” the manager told me, ‘I saw some terrible things happen.  Things would make you sick. 

“There was this rancher, see.  Not far from Lovelock.  This would have been back in 1970, I think.  This rancher owned some good grazing land.  Maybe two hundred acres or so.  Now, you’re not supposed to slaughter wild horses in Nevada.  It’s against the law.  But this guy wanted to get rid of a certain small herd that he said was eating up his best hay and forage.  So he applied to the State for special permission. 

“He had to give a good reason, other than his losing hay.  So he said this herd was a degenerate strain, useless for anything except dog food.  He claimed they might cross breed with other mustangs and bring down the quality of the herds.  They were small and malformed, with strange looking hooves.  This rancher’s explanation for their being degenerate was that they were half-starved and badly nourished. 

“That was a clear contradiction, you see.  Those horses couldn’t be eating the guy’s best hay and be malnourished at the same time.   But the State bought it.  He got permission, went out there with two or three ranch hands, and shot every last horse in that herd. 

“Thing is, there were some other witnesses who saw those horses.  Someone must have been paid off, because this was a major crime.  You see, those horses were not malnourished or degenerate.  They were native horses.  That rancher killed the last remaining herd of native American horses.  Now they’re gone, and there’ll never be another.  It was a crime, and it made me sick.”  - A Horse's Tale by Steve Bartholomew

So What?

Regardless of when horses arrived in North America , or whether they left in the first place - in terms of today's wild horse management issues, so what? Nothing changes. Horses still double their populations every 3 to 5 years, still need to live in balance with their resources.

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Beginning: Menu  Pre-History  Domestication  Return to America  Return to the Wild   Mid-1800's to 1970   The Creation of the BLM Wild Horse & Burro Program   Wild Horses & Burros in the 21st Century
Alternative Histories   Our Mustang Heritage