To be or not to be an Endangered Species.
Since I wrote my Op-Ed article titled “Are You Anti-Rancher If You Love Horses,” and the feature article “American Atrocity: The Wild Horse Round-Ups,” a very interesting and robust debate has emerged that really shows just how much incorrect information is being fielded by the corporate ranchers (businessmen with Cowboy hats) and their lobbyists. In order for people, especially ranchers to make informed decisions, they need honest, accurate information, and that is not being provided by anti-wild horse lobbyists.
One person who is allegedly a “rancher” emailed me claiming that “current wild horses bare little resemblance genetically and physically to the prehistoric horses.” This same person provided no support or research for that statement. Of course this is misinformation that is being parroted in order to marginalize their American heritage and right to exist in America.
The evidence says there is a physical resemblance between horses as far back as 25,000 years ago and modern wild horses, and the mutual appearances of these horses is a function of their genes (genetic expression). A further study of that effect can be found here.
Unlike some people, I am not suggesting that readers should simply take my word for this fact; the research I have cited clearly says that horses of 25,000 years ago resembled modern horses in size, color patterns and appearance, which are all the results of ‘gene expression’. And interestingly, the scientists involved in the actual research point-out that the cave paintings from that same period also confirm what the scientists had discovered. So we have a record, albeit painted on a cave wall, from human eyes from that ancient period of time. If this were a court of law, this evidence transcends any reasonable doubt!
And it’s a certainty that even more recent wild horses from only 12,000 years ago also resembled modern wild horses here in America and at other locales around the world today.
As I have stated in my OP-ED piece, the DNA varied, but the outward expression of the DNA is such that, to the human eye (cave paintings from those periods in various locales world-wide), the horses of North America 12,000 years ago did in fact look like many horses seen today in our resident North American wild herds. There is no logical or scientific basis for any other conclusion.
“Digs in western Canada have unearthed clear evidence horses existed in North America until about 12,000 years ago”
People who claim otherwise are soundly proven wrong by the foregoing evidence.
Likewise, I have heard other assertions are either manifestly false, or unlikely anecdotes … For instance, I was told by one rancher that if anyone leaves an empty horse-trailer unlocked at a trail-head they may come back to find a horse that was abandoned in the trailer. I challenge anyone to provide even one documented (not more personal anecdotes) case of such an event! I am sure that anyone who came back to their trailer to find a horse in it would certainly report that incident to the Sheriff, lest they possibly be accused of horse thievery! And as such, the Sheriff would have records and any “real” evidence that would dispel yet another urban myth or “Kentucky Fried Mouse” example; but that is doubtful.
I have also heard other unsupported arguments that attempt to paint wild horses as a current problem on public range lands by stating that horses are damaging to said range-lands. It is very well-known that cattle and sheep operations have wreaked more havoc on U.S. range-lands than all other species combined over the past 5,000 years, as cited by Professor Thomas L. Fleischner, Ph.D. to wit:
“The most severe vegetation changes of the last 5,400 years occurred during the past 200 years. The nature and timing of these changes suggest that they were primarily caused by 19th-century open-land sheep and cattle ranching.”
These and other misleading statements only serve to continue to promote and support existing misinformation and further serves to marginalize and demonize our native American wild horses.
It’s also a fact that all of the world’s horses are literally the descendants of the original prehistoric American herds. And after all, isn’t that the central point of the entire debate? Industrial Ranchers (Businessmen with Cowboy hats) have long proffered that wild horses are not native to America… Now we find that all horses world-wide originated in America!
I have to confess that having grown-up on a working ranch with horses, cattle and sheep, and having been in the FFA, I am a bit polarized in favor of family ranches. And I would hate to see anything that would jeopardize that all-American lifestyle. So as a further part of that ‘confession’ and in order to be a bit self-serving, I am going to let the ‘cat out of the bag’ on this debate and reveal a facet of the issue that many ranchers are not considering, and which the greedy Industrial Ranchers are too short-sighted to see.
If the round-ups of wild horses continue as they are, the already pathetically few wild horses remaining on the range (30-40K horses, vs. Millions of cattle and sheep) will in fact drop even further. And if that happens, you can bet your branding iron that the environmentalists will swoop-in with an audited count of the remaining horses and if that number gets much lower than what the BLM claims (about 50,000), well, can you say Endangered Species?
And when the wild horses gain Endangered Species status by way of a small population, there will likely be new Land Control measures in favor of the wild horses. And just think, ranchers were in a panic over the sage grouse which have much larger populations than the wild horses.
You see, the Industrial Ranchers in their greedy haste to eliminate the wild horses have other ranchers following like lemmings rushing to new mutual problems. And in their short sightedness, they don’t even realize they are creating a ranch-eating monster through their own actions by lobbying to further reduce the numbers of American wild horses! And when horses are listed (ESA) and there is subsequent land control (or grabs), now we all know who to thank for that.
If I had a vote, I would make sure that the wild horses are not abused in any further manner, and that their audited population stays at least at 50,000 – 75,000 animals in the wild. This would help to prevent any ESA action and would be a very smart move.
Ranchers would be doing themselves a big favor by dumping the anti-wild horse lobby and the rumors, and stop the political pressure on the BLM to reduce herd numbers further.
Photo: Laura Simpson © 2014