Where Mustangs Originated

Mustangs are descendants of Spanish, or Iberian, horses that were brought to the Americas by Spanish explorers in the 16th century. The name was derived from the Spanish word mustengo, which means "ownerless beast" or "stray horse." Many people think that mustangs are simply wild horses rather than a specific breed. These horses bred with other types of horses, including quarter horses and draft horses, to create the breed we know today.

Mustang Characteristics

Mustangs are a medium-sized breed of horse. They measure around 14 to 15 hands. Hands are the common standard of measurement for horses. This equals 56 inches to 60 inches (140 to 150 centimeters). They weigh around 800 pounds (360 kg).

Mustang Colors

Mustangs have a wide variety of colors. Usually, they are bay, which is a reddish brown, or sorrel, which is a chestnut color. They can also have a variety of colors, patches, spots and stripes.


Like other mammals, mustangs have live births. Their babies are called foals. Mares carry their foal for an 11-month gestation period. Mustangs typically give birth to their foals in April, May, or early June, according to the American Mustang Handbook. This gives the young horse time to grow before the cold months of the year.


It is a common misconception that horses only eat hay or oats. Horses are omnivores. This means that they eat plants and meat. Mostly, though, wild mustangs eat grass and brush. They can stay a healthy weight on very little food. When food is readily available, adult mustangs eat around 5 to 6 pounds of food each day.


Mustangs live in the grassland areas of the western United States. The Bureau of Land Management manages the U.S. mustang population and allows the horses run free on 34 million acres of public land. About 271,000 mustangs have been removed from private land by the government since 1971, according to the American Wild Horse Preservation Organization. Most of the mustang populations are found in the Western states of Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming, Utah, Oregon, California, Arizona, North Dakota and New Mexico. Some also live on the Atlantic coast and on islands such as the Sable, Shackleford, Assateague and Cumberland Islands.


According to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), the taxonomy of horses, and therefore of mustangs, is: Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Mammalia Order: Perissodactyla Family: Equidae Genus: Equus Species: Caballus

Conservation Status

The mustang is not on any endangered list at this time, though there are people petitioning to change that. About 100 years ago, about 2 million mustangs roamed the North American terrain. Now, there are fewer than 25,000 mustangs left in the wild, according to the Humane Society.

Life Span

In the wild, Mustangs can live up to 40 years. Hurt or disabled horses are protected by the herd and can live remarkably long lives when compared with other animal species that live in the wild.

Cool fact

In the Wild West, cowboys would catch, tame and sell mustangs. These cowboys were called "mustang runners." Mustangs were also hunted for their meat in the early 20th century. Sometimes their meat was used for pet food.


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