Fun Facts About Mustangs

Mustangs Running
Credit: mariait/

A mustang is a free-roaming horse that has become an iconic symbol of the spirit of the American West. Mustangs are often called a wild horse. However, this term is incorrect because they are genetically descended from domesticated Spanish horses. A more accurate term is feral horse.

Mustangs were first brought over to the Americas by Spanish explorers. Native Americans quickly adopted the horse as a means of transportation. Pioneers in the American West, ranchers and cowboys also used the hardy, stocky horses for travel.

Mustangs are known for their speed and grace. They measure an average size of 14 - 15 hands and typically weigh around 800 pounds (360 kg). One hand is equivalent to 4 inches (10 cm). Their coloring varies from reddish-brown, black, white or a golden-brown.  In the wild, Mustangs have a lifespan of about 15 to 20 years, while domesticated Mustangs can live up to 30 years. Like most horses, mustangs spend much of their day grazing in open plains.

Other facts about mustangs

Wild mustangs fight for breeding rights.
Two male mustangs vie for breeding rights.
Credit: Steve_Spiegel, Shutterstock

The name 'mustang' has been derived from the Spanish word 'mustengo', meaning 'ownerless beast' or 'stray horse'.

Mustangs are known for their stamina and speed. Their stockier legs make them less prone to injury.

Approximately 100 years ago, about 2 million Mustangs roamed the North American terrain. Today, there are about 30,000 horses.

Mustangs live in large herds with a lead female horse or mare. The males or stallions can lead a herd around six years of age.

Around the start of the twentieth century, mustangs were hunted for their meat. Some of this meat was even used for pet food.

The mustang is descendant from the Iberian horse. Some herds have been genetically mixed with French or thoroughbred horses.

In the Wild West, cowboys known as mustang runners would catch, tame and sell the horses from 18th century to the early 20th century.

Today, the Bureau of Land Management controls the U.S. mustang population. Most of these horses live free in Nevada, Oregon, Wyoming and Montana.

Other resources:

American Museum of Natural History - Horse

American Wild Horse Preservation Organization

National Geographic - Horse

Oklahoma State University - Animal Sciences Department

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