Xenophon – On Horses

Xenophon, the Greek soldier, historian, essayist, philosopher, and horseman, (431-354 B. C.) was born to a well to do Athenian family and was a student of one of the fathers of Greek Philosophy: Socrates. He was the first to take notes on the conversation of Socrates, sharing these with others under the title of ‘Memorabilia.’

He took part in the campaign of the Persian prince Cyrus the Younger against his brother, king Artaxerxes II Mnemon, which failed in the battle of Cunaxa. Xenophon led the famous retreat of the Ten Thousand, becoming a mercenary leader with a band of notoriously ill-disciplined Greek mercenaries who were trapped in Mesopotamia.

On his return to Greece, he worked as a mercenary and was rewarded with a country estate where he enjoyed the life of the landed gentry. Xenophon lost his estate in a war and settled in Corinth for the remainder of his life. His most famous work is Anabasis, the story of the Ten Thousand. However, we have taken excerpts from only two of his many works; The ‘Cavalry General’ and ‘On Horsemanship’.

Περ ὶ ἱ ππικ ῆ ς (peri hippikēs)

‘On horsemanship’

In the treatise On horsemanship’, Xenophon shares his experience and insight for the selection, care, and training of horses. We have selected and shared some of his advice which note the importance of understanding behavior, and the importance of welfare and the general well-being of horses.

Over 2000 years have passed, and his words still hold true, although generally ignored in equestrian circles.

“Just as a house would be of little use, however beautiful its upper stories, if the underlying foundations were not what they ought to be, so there is little use to be extracted from a horse, and in particular a war-horse, if unsound in his feet, however excellent his other points; since he could not turn a single one of them to good account.”

“At the same time pains should be taken on the owner’s part to see that the colt is gentle, tractable, and affectionate when delivered to the professional trainer. That is a condition of things which for the most part may be brought about at home and by the groom — if he knows how to let the animal connect hunger and thirst and the annoyance of flies with solitude, whilst associating food and drink and escape from sources of irritation with the presence of man. As the result of this treatment, necessarily the young horse will acquire — not fondness merely, but an absolute craving for human beings. A good deal can be done by touching, stroking, patting those parts of the body which the creature likes to have so handled. These are the hairiest parts, or where, if there is anything annoying him, the horse can least of all apply relief himself.”

“The groom should have standing orders to take his charge through crowds, and to make him familiar with all sorts of sights and noises; and if the colt shows sign of apprehension at them, he must teach him — not by cruel, but by gentle handling — that they are not really formidable.”

“But if food and exercise with a view to strengthening the horse’s body are matters of prime consideration, no less important is it to pay attention to the feet. A stable with a damp and smooth floor will spoil the best hoof which nature can give.”

“The one best precept — the golden rule — in dealing with a horse is never to approach him angrily. Anger is so devoid of forethought that it will often drive a man to do things which in a calmer mood he will regret.Thus, when a horse is shy of any object and refuses to approach it, you must teach him that there is nothing to be alarmed at, particularly if he be a plucky animal; or, failing that, touch the formidable object yourself, and then gently lead the horse up to it. The opposite plan of forcing the frightened creature by blows only intensifies its fear, the horse mentally associating the pain he suffers at such a moment with the object of suspicion, which he naturally regards as its cause.”

Xenophon-On horsemanship sp

“But possibly you are not content with a horse serviceable for war. You want to find him a showy, attractive animal, with a certain grandeur of bearing. If so, you must abstain from pulling at his mouth with the bit, or applying the spur and whip — methods commonly adopted by people with a view to a fine effect, though, as a matter of fact, they thereby achieve the very opposite of what they are aiming at. That is to say, by dragging the mouth up they render the horse blind instead of alive to what is in front of him; and what with spurring and whipping they distract the creature to the point of absolute bewilderment and danger.”

“For ourselves, however, far the best method of instruction, as we keep repeating, is to let the horse feel that whatever he does in obedience to the rider’s wishes will be followed by some rest and relaxation.”

“To quote a dictum of Simon, what a horse does under compulsion he does blindly, and his performance is no more beautiful than would be that of a ballet-dancer taught by whip and goad. The performances of horse or man so treated would seem to be displays of clumsy gestures rather than of grace and beauty. What we need is that the horse should of his own accord exhibit his finest airs and paces at set signals.”

“The majesty of men themselves is best discovered in the graceful handling of such animals.”

The above excerpts are taken from The University of Adelaide Library.


‘On the Cavalry General’

‘On the Cavalry General’ is a discourse on the merits a cavalry general should have, and how to develop a cavalry force, and some tactical details to be applied in the field and in a festival exhibition. Again, we have chosen a couple of snippets from the text, in which Xenophon’s priorities are clearly defined:

Having made sure that the horses are in good condition

the next business is to train the men.

Xenophon-On horsemanship sp“While the ranks are filling up, you must see that the horses get enough food to stand hard work since horses unfit for their work can neither overtake nor escape. You must see that they are docile because disobedient animals assist the enemy more than their own side. And horses that kick when mounted must be got rid of, for such brutes often do more mischief than the enemy. You must also look after their feet so that they can be ridden on rough ground, for you know that wherever galloping is painful to them, they are useless.”

“For getting horses’ feet into the best condition, if anyone has an easier and cheaper method than mine, by all means, adopt it. If not, I hold—and I speak from experience—that the right way is to throw down some stones from the road, averaging about a pound in weight, and to curry the horse on these and to make him stand on them whenever he goes out of the stable. For the horse will constantly use his feet on the stones when he is cleaned and when he is worried by flies. Try it, and you will find your horses’ feet round, and will believe in the rest of my rules.”


Further reading

Berenger, Richard The history and art of horsemanship London: T. Davies and T. Cadell 1771 pp. 219–234 Full text


The whole works of Xenophon London: Jones & Co. 1832 pp. 717–728 Full text


Morgan, Morris H. (trans.) The Art of Horsemanship by Xenophon Boston: Little, Brown 1893 pp. 13–68 Full text

Pryor Mountain wild horses WE

This entry was contributed to Wild Equus by Dr. Jason Ransom of Colorado State University, member and specialist of the Wild Equus Network (WEN).


Species: Equus caballus

Subspecies/Breed/Type: American mustang

Country: United States of America

Region/Province/Range: Pryor Mountains – Montana

Population type: Semi feral – heavily managed

Estimated Population size: about 150 horses

Management Authority:  Bureau of Land Management

Images by Dr. Jason Ransom. Please respect © copyright!

Management Practices: 

The US Bureau of Land Management has managed this population with periodic round-ups, adopting removed horses to the public. Horses from this population are highly adoptable because many of the animals exhibit genetic relatedness to more primitive Iberian horses and often have primitive markings such as a dorsal stripe, wither bars, and leg bars. Management began using the immunocontraceptive PZP in 2003, combined with periodic removals. Management today is done in partnership with the Pryor Mountain Mustang Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to the well-being of these horses.

For more information and a blog, please see the Pryor Mountain Mustang Center website at http://www.pryormustangs.org/

Details of Population

The Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range, located in Bighorn County, Wyoming and Carbon County, Montana, USA (latitude 45°04‘N, longitude 108°19‘W), consists of roughly 16,000 ha of low desert, foothill slopes, forested montane slopes, steep canyons, and isolated grassy plateaus. Elevations ranged from 1,175 m to 2,670 m. Vegetation types varied greatly from lower to higher elevations of the range with lower elevations dominated by sagebrush communities, mid elevations dominated by curl-leaf mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius) and Utah juniper communities, and high elevations dominated by limber pine (Pinus flexilis), subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa), and alpine bluegrass (Poa alpina). Mean annual precipitation is 161.4 mm (range = 96.7–233.4 mm) and mean annual temperature is 7.1°C (range -33.9– 40.0°C). Pumas (Puma concolor) prey on foals somewhat regularly, but rate of depredation varies over time as selected for by individual pumas. Most horses here tend to migrate to higher elevations in the summer as snow melts off of subalpine meadows and then they retreat into the mid-elevations and lower desert in winter. This area was protected for horses prior to the 1971 U.S. law that designated horse ranges thanks to grassroots public interest. That interest remains today and citizens continue to monitor horses and collaborate with researchers and managers toward the stewardship of this herd.

Structure and demographics

A detailed account of demographics from 1996-2003 can be found at: Demography of the Pryor Mountain Wild Horses

This report shows that pooled across years, productivity was 0.501 foals/mare (range = 0.254–0.705) for mares ≥2 years of age, 0.576 foals/mare (range = 0.300–0.795) for mares ≥3 years of age, and 0.597 foals/mare (range = 0.311–0.795) for mares ≥4 years of age. Pooled across years, ages, and sexes (n = 2,531), the annual survival rate of horses on the study area was 0.899.

Population size has ranged over the years from 200 horses, but averages closer to 150. The horses arrange themselves into 29 to 38 bands of 2–11 horses each. Bachelors form loosely associated ephemeral bands or range independently.

Issues worth noting and needed actions

Like most populations in the USA, available habitat for horses is finite and management is necessary to protect all natural resources while attempting to balance the multiple-use mandate for the federal lands where horses live.  The science needed for more-informed management is improving, but many obstacles persist. You can read much more in the 2013 National Research Council report “Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program: A Way Forward” Click link to view free PDF.

Bibliography and Further reading

On-going behavior and ecology research from Dr. Ransom can be followed on Twitter @wildequids

McCullough Peaks horses

This entry was contributed to Wild Equus by Dr. Jason Ransom of Colorado State University, member and specialist of the Wild Equus Network (WEN).


Species: Equus caballus

Subspecies/Breed/Type: American Mustang

Country: United States of America

Region/Province/Range: Park County – Wyoming

Population type: Semi feral-heavily managed

Estimated Population size: between 112-194 horses

Management Authority:  Bureau of Land Management -McCullough Peaks HMA

Images by Jason Ransom. Please respect © copyright!

Management Practices: 

The US Bureau of Land Management has managed this population with periodic round-ups, adopting removed horses to the public. Since 2004, management has more intensively been done using a time-released form of the immunocontraceptive PZP and periodic round-ups.

Details of Population

McCullough Peaks Herd Management Area is located Park County, Wyoming, USA (latitude 44°35‘N, longitude 108°40‘W), and consists of 44,400 ha of primarily open sagebrush steppe with badlands along the western edge. Vegetation consists of large expanses of small shrubs, grasses, and forbs. Pronghorn antelope and mule deer are sympatric with horses here and little natural depredation occurs. Elevations range from 1,200 m to 1,964 m. Mean annual temperature is 8.0°C (range -30.0– 37.8°C) and mean total annual precipitation is 271.2 mm (range=168.9–389.1 mm).

Structure and demographics

Population size reached a high of 495 horses before a large management removal in 2004, and now is maintained between 112 and 194 horses. Bands average 8 horses and many bands closely associate into herds; travelling, feeding, and resting together. At its largest population, bands with more than one stallion occurred, but are now infrequent. Bachelors form loosely associated ephemeral bands or range independently. Genetically, these horses are most related to draft breeds such as the Percheron, probably reflecting much of the early settlement activity around the old west town of Cody. Horses of all colors are in this herd, including Overo, Tobiano, and Sabino paint horses.

Issues worth noting and needed actions

Like most populations in the USA, available habitat for horses is finite and management is necessary to protect all natural resources while attempting to balance the multiple-use mandate for the federal lands where horses live.  The science needed for more-informed management is improving, but many obstacles persist. You can read much more in the 2013 National Research Council report “Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program: A Way Forward

Bibliography and further reading

Additional details about this population, and specifically about behavior and fertility control, can be found in:

Ransom, J.I., Roelle, J.E., Cade, B.S., Coates-Markle, L., and A.J. Kane. 2011. Foaling rates in feral horses treated with the immunocontraceptive porcine zona pellucida. Wildlife Society Bulletin 35:343-352

Ransom, J.I., Cade, B.S., and N.T. Hobbs. 2010. Influences of immunocontraception on time budgets, social behavior, and body condition in feral horses. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 124:51-60

On-going behavior and ecology research from Dr. Ransom can be followed on Twitter @wildequids

Aveto horses (WE)

This entry was contributed  by Evelina Isola of WILD HORSEWATCHING – I Cavalli Selvaggi dell’Aveto.

Species: Equus caballus

Subspecies/Breed/Type: Crossbreed Bardigiano/Franches Montagne

Country: Italy

Region/Province/Range: Parco Naturale Regionale dell’AvetoLiguria (Genova)

Population type: Feral-unmanaged

Estimated Population size: <50

Header image provided by Evelina Isola and gallery pictures provided by Paola Marinari. Please respect copyright!

Details of Population

They live in Liguria, in Tigullio Gulf hinterland (30 Km from the coast, Chiavari, Genova). They live between Sturla Valley and Penna Valley and another population lives in Graveglia Valley, few km from Sturla Valley at East. The territory is a typical Apennine mountain area. The Sturla/Penna population has an area of about 15-20 Km2. Graveglia Valley population has an area of 5-6 Km2.

They are the heritage of horses working in the valley at about 20 years ago. Since the last owner died their number grew up and the new generations never had relationship with humans. They feed, reproduce, find water and whatever they need in complete autonomy.  Their biology and their behaviour seems to be the same of wild american and mongolian horses.
They represent a great treasure for the territory because of their relationship with environment and habitat conservation
In the territory lives a population of wolfs, able to control by natural predation the increasing number of heads.

Structure and demographics

5 adult stallions identified. Adult to young ratio – 3,5:1

Census and further details presently under study in collaboration with the University of Genova.

Issues worth noting and needed actions

Six years ago, humans’ intolerance caused the kill – by shot – of two horses. For some people in the valleys, horses represent a danger for their fields and breeding, because during the winter, sometimes, horses move down from the hills top to the villages looking for warmer weather and easier feeding sources. For this, in 2010 was written an agreement between local municipalities, Aveto Regional Natural Park, breeders associations, health institutions and animals’ protection associations, in order to manage herds. For this agreement horses should be captured and transfer in another locations or donate to private people. But, many animals died during capture operations, others were kept by infarct when they were putted in the boxes. Some females died during labor.

Now we are carrying out a conservation program in order to find the correct juridical classification for them. For Italian laws, in fact, horses are only classified as “farm” or “sport” animals. We are raising public awareness of their unique value, on biological and ecological point of view, and of their value as an economic resource for local-slow-rural tourism.

Galician wild ponies WE

This entry was contributed to Wild Equus by Dr.Laura Lagos, member and specialist of the Wild Equus Network (WEN).


Species: Equus caballus

Subspecies/Breed/Type: Galician wild ponies

Special note: Galician Ponies, which belong to the group of Atlantic Ponies or Garranos (Bárcena 2012). There is no evidence of this population of Garranos coming form domesticated populations, and it has even been proposed that the population of wild ponies living in the mountains of Galicia may constitute a subspecies of wild horse, Equus ferus atlanticus (Barcena, 2011). However this hypothesis needs DNA confirmation. Some individuals in the population having certain morphological characteristics have been registered as “Galician pure breed”

Country: Spain

Region/Province/Range: Sierra de A Groba (A Groba Mountain Range), Pontevedra (Galicia)

Population type: Semi feral – slightly managed (Semi-feral according to a classification based on management, wild according to their probable origin.)

Estimated Population size: estimated 850-900 ponies

Management Practices

The traditional management of the Galician ponies includes the removal of the majority of the foals in annual round ups (curro). In the past yearlings were tamed and used for transport, haulage and work in the farms. Today foals are slaughtered for meat for consumption of the local people. In this round ups the manes and tails are shared. In the Sierra de A Groba the management is a bit more intensive, thus ponies are rounded up twice a year and, in these last years during captures ponies are also dewormed and treated for external parasites. In addition, adults are also equipped with micro-chips since it was established in a Galician Decree for domestic horses.

The traditional curros and this old harvesting system of the wild horse population has a great ethnographic value. Today they are still an important social event for locals and are becoming more and more a touristic attraction.

These ponies as a general fact inhabit communal land. It consist on communal forest, called Monte Vecinal en Mano Común (MVMC), belonging to a rural community formed by a group of people living usually in a parish, each parish has their communal forest. The people who traditionally harvest the ponies are called besteiros and they usually are not the owners of the land.

Ponies in these mountains are fire branded. The president of the association has a book with all the marks; some of them have been the same for generations. They are micro chipped since 1-2 years ago.

Details of Population

The Sierra de A Groba is a mountain range, situated in the southwest of Galicia, by the see in one of the most populated areas of Galicia (164 inhabitants per km2 in the surrounding municipalities). Altitudes are between 50-650 m above sea level. The landscapes consist on scrublands dominated by gorse (Ulex europaeus, Ulex minor) and heathers (Erica sp., Calluna vulgaris) together with forest of pines (Pinus pinaster, Pinus radiata) and eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) cultivated for the wood and paper industry. Cattle, sheep, and goats in some areas, are raised in these mountains. Wolves, which are the natural predators of the Galician wild ponies, were extirpated from these mountains in the seventies. The ponies live in an area of about 12,000 ha.

The characteristics of the Galician ponies are reduced size, frequently bay or black coat, curved back, big abdomen and a dense “moustache” which presumably is an adaptation to the consumption of the prickly gorse. The Galician ponies in the Sierra de A Groba are the smallest in Galicia: the average height on shoulders for mares is 119 cm. The moustache is present in about 47% of the mares. In Sierra de A Groba the ponies are called “burras”.

Structure and demographics

Removal of foals means that the sex ratio of adults is artificial and it is maintained at 40-50 mares per stallion. There are 18-20 stallions in the population. Studies on wild ponies in other mountains of Galicia indicate that foaling rate is 0,67 (Lagos 2013), however, in these mountains the habitat is rougher, consequently, the foaling rates are presumably lower.

The census is decreasing. Thirty years ago the population size was 2,000-2,500 ponies (Iglesia 1973) and only 8-10 years ago 1,500 ponies lived in these mountains. The decrease is due to the disappearance of their traditional uses of the ponies, and since 2008 due to the implementation of the regulations for micro chipping of the ponies and other measures which burden this traditional system.

Issues worth noting and needed actions

The implementation of the regulations for micro chipping of the ponies and other measures which burden this traditional system are causing a reduction of the population of ponies and many besteiros giving up this tradition that their families have continued for generations. It is necessary to have regulations adapted to the characteristics of this population of wild ponies.  At least, the exceptions contemplated by the European regulations (EC No 504/2008) for the equidae constituting defined populations living under wild or semi-wild conditions should be applied.

There is an insufficient knowledge of the biological, ecological and cultural value of this population by the managers of the land and the government. It is necessary to disseminate the importance of this population to the public, to the managers of the land and to the government.

Research is needed in order to learn what is the true importance of Galician wild ponies as key species in the habitat, as well as to improve knowledge about their genetics and ecology.

The management of this populations should be more adapted to the biology of these animals.

Bibliography and Further reading

BÁRCENA, F. 2012. Garranos: Os póneis selvagens (Equus ferus sp.) do norte da Península Ibérica. Pages 75-96 en N. Vieira de Brito y G. Candeiras (coord.), Libro de Actas del I Congresso Internacional do Garrano. Arcos de Valdevez. Portugal.

IGLESIA, P. 1973. Los Caballos Gallegos Explotados en Régimen de Libertad o Ca¬ballos Salvajes de Galicia. Tesis, Facultad de Veterinaria, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid, 1.205 p

LAGOS, L. 2013. Ecología del lobo (Canis lupus), del poni salvaje (Equus ferus atlanticus) y del ganado vacuno semiextensivo (Bos taurus) en Galicia: interacciones depredador-presa. Tesis, Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, Santiago de Compostela, 458 pp.

LAGOS, L. 2014. O sistema tradicional de aproveitamento dos ponis atlánticos salvaxes nos montes da Groba, Morgadáns e Galiñeiro. Retos no século XXI. Revista del Instituto de Estudios Miñoranos 12/13

Namibia Desert horses WE

This entry was contributed to Wild Equus by Dr. Telané Greyling of the Namibia Wild Horses Foundation, member and specialist of the Wild Equus Network (WEN). You can visit the foundation website, where you will find more details about her work with the feral horses at the Namib Naukluft National Park.


Species: Equus caballus

Subspecies/Breed/Type: Namibia Desert horses

Country: Namibia

Region/Province/Range: Namib Naukluft National Park

Population type: Semi feral – slightly managed

Estimated Population size: about 175 horses (2015)

Management Authority: Government Agency – Ministry of Environment and Tourism

Details of Population

These horses’ ancestors became wild around 1914-1924 and were able to live relatively undisturbed since the area they inhabited was a restricted diamond area, the “Sperrgebiet”. The horses had little influence from people except for the railway line and station at Garub, where they could get water. The origin of the horses is believed to be mainly from a horse stud which were abandoned around 1921 and the stud’s horses joined horses already grazing on the Garub plains since the First World War, many horses of the Allied Forces, stationed at Garub for two months, were scattered by bombing from the German forces. These ancestors were believed to be mainly crossbreds of Cape Horses, Trakener, Hackney and Thouroughbred bloodlines. The present horses are of small and light built, about 14-15 hands tall and weighing around 400 kilograms.

The area the horses inhabit were incorporated into the Namib Naukluft National Park in 1986 from when on an interest in management of the horses by the Namibia Ministry of Environment and Tourism became relevant. Population estimates were made in 1988 and 1991 and the population reduced by capture in a drought during 1992. The remaining population of 117 horses were individually identified and catalogued in December 1993 and has been monitored ever since. Another severe drought during 1998 caused the near removal of the horses from the desert, the controversy between proponents and opponents within the National Park authorities and the public led to a study on the ecology of the area during 2003-2005. A subsequent policy was accepted that the horses will be protected within the Namib Naukluft National Park with minimal interference, though ensuring a stable population within upper and lower limits.

Structure and demographics

During the past 20 years the population size has fluctuated between 89 and 286 horses. Good rainfall years in the late 80’s were followed by severe droughts in the 90’s and then followed by 12 years of abundance that ended by 2012. At present the Southern Namib are in the mid of a dry cycle again. Apart from malnutrition during drought, other mortality factors include predation mainly by spotted hyena, motor vehicle accidents on the B4 road to Lüderitz, fatal injuries, old age and complications (dystocia, etc.) while giving birth.

The population is typically structured in breeding groups, which consists of a stallion (sometimes 2 or more), adult mares, their offspring as well as youngsters not related to the adults. Peripheral stallions are also part of some groups, these stallions are not allowed interaction with adult mares in the group but contributes to the cohesion of the group by looking after youngsters and being a buffer zone around the group. Stallions not associated with breeding groups are called bachelor stallions who live alone or associate in small groups. At present the 175 horses are distributed into 32 breeding groups (ranging from 2 to 7 individuals) and 56 bachelor stallions. The sex ratio is 62% stallions to 38% mares and 78% adults to 22% juveniles (less than 5 years old). The main periods of significant changes in groups during the past 20 years have been influenced or caused by human interference (removal of horses) and severe droughts.

Issues worth noting and needed actions

Regarding policy and local opinion the population at Garub are secure, threats include severe drought and increased predation, therefore the activity of spotted hyenas in the area are being monitored and preparation for provision of a supplement protein mineral lick is in process.

Bibliography and further reading

Please see more at Namibia Wild Horses Foundation

Delft Island horses WE

Species: Equus caballus

Subspecies/Breed/Type/Common names: Delft type

Country: Sri Lanka

Region/Province/Range: Delft Island

Population type: Feral

Estimated Population size: about 450 horses (2014)

Management Authority:  

Management Practices: Drinking water is often provided to the horses in the drier months

Details of Population

The roughly oval-shaped Delft Island is approximately 49,5 km² with close to 4034 hectares.(8kms long by about 6km wide at the widest point.) The island is characteristic of semi-arid tropical island landscape, dominated by palm trees, grasses and shrubs. The mean annual rainfall lies between 500-700mm, with seasonal peaks in April and November.

Structure and demographics

No in depth studies are known to this date

Issues worth noting and needed actions

The Delft ponies are threatened due to overgrazing by the large population of cattle.

In the drier months horses are noted to starve and lack water. Talks of a Wild horse Sanctuary were under-way in 2013 which would protect the horses in an area of approximately 530 hectares,  but no advances have been made to date.

Bibliography and Further reading

Sustainable Development of Delft Island: An ecological, socio-economic and archaeological assessment Occasional Papers of IUCN Sri Lanka No. 1. (2013


Help us improve our Wild Equus – Atlas entries!

The WE Atlas depends on your support and encourages you to add to, revise, or edit our Atlas entries. When editing or adding facts to an entry, please provide references to a reliable source so others may verify them.

For contributing images, audio or video files, please send us links to the files. Send mail here (Wild Equus)Please ensure media files linked to this form are your own.The copyrights to all media will remain yours. By sending media links to Wild Equus Organization will have the right to use media solely on this website.

 

Ancestral horses through the eyes of Charles R. Knight

Charles R. Knight (1874-1953) was one of the most influential paleo-artists of all time. His depictions of prehistoric life forms make them come alive, gain character, and have sparked the imagination of many that view them.

The first time I came across his artwork, was in the cover of a book called ‘Bully for brontosaurus’ by Stephen J. Gould. But, his art not only depicted dinosaurs, many ancestral forms of horses also captured his imagination and he painted them on canvas for all to see.

As I was preparing this post, Rhoda, Charles Knight’s granddaughter, shared one of her childhood memories with me, and I thought I would share it with all of you.

Charles and his wife,  Toppy and Nonnie (as they were called by Rhoda), lived in 24 West 59th street -New York City. On Fridays, Rhoda’s’ school let out early and she was taken in a taxi to the American Museum of Natural History to be with her grandfather, where they would spend the afternoons and many evenings. Rhoda remebered that Toppy would meet with many different scientists who all enjoyed being with him, and they discussed the latest findings.

From the museum they would typically go to Toppy’s studio to have dinner with Nonnie. Rhoda’s remembers that her bed was set up in the studio which looked out onto the avenue and Central Park south. From the studio window,  both the west side and east side, with central park in the middle, were in view. Just across the apartment building they could see a dozen plus horse carriages  lined up beside the side-walk. Every Saturday morning after breakfast, Toppy would walk Rhoda across the street towards these horses, walking from horse to horse- and Rhoda would stop and talk to each horse- pet it gently and hold out her hand with a carrot and some nuts.

Rhoda, loved those horses dearly, and would stand by them, watching them nibble the carrots from her hands and lick-up the nuts that she offered in a little cup. Toppy worried about these horses, and he visited them to be sure they were properly cared for. After the horse visits, Rhoda and Toppy would go to central park to spend the day at the Zoo- checking on each animal. Toppy worried about them all- he always wanted to be sure they were getting proper care and food!

After the typical zoo visits they would make their way back to the studio to help Nonnie prepare for tea parties!  Toppy and Nonnie were always surrounded by friends, who loved coming to the Knight’s  tea parties.

Rhoda remembers Toppy’s special love for these carriage horses, and of course the animals in the zoo.

These are the paintings of Charles R. Knight we have collected to share with you, with the kind permission of his granddaughter, Rhoda Knight Kalt.

 


I would like to extend a special thanks to Rhoda Knight Kalt for sharing her grandfathers’ artwork, and her personal memoir.

To view more of Charles Knight’s artwork and learn more about his work you can visit his site at The World of Charles R. Knight

Little Book Cliffs Wild Horses WE

This entry was contributed to Wild Equus by Dr. Jason Ransom of Colorado State University, member and specialist of the Wild Equus Network (WEN).


Species: Equus caballus         Subspecies/Breed/Type: American Mustang

Estimated Population size: between 80–200 horses

Country: United States

Region/Province/Range: Colorado

Population type: Free-ranging-heavily managed

Management Authority: Government Agency – Bureau of Land Management (BLM)

Images from Jason Ransom

Details of Home Range or Territory

The Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Range, located in Mesa County, Colorado, USA (latitude 39°12‘N, longitude 108°25‘W), consists of approximately 14,600 ha of sloping plateaus, sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) parks, and 4 major canyon systems. Elevations range from 1,500 m to 2,250 m, and the vegetation is characterized by dense stands of Colorado piñon (Pinus edulis) and Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma). Mean annual temperature is 11.5°C (range= -26.7– 41.1°C). Mean total annual precipitation is 235.4 mm (range=184.4–300.2 mm) and this typically falls in a monsoonal pattern of late summer rains. Pumas (Puma concolor) are present and do prey on foals, but rarely kill subadult and adult horses. Horses use all aspects of the geography, including travel routes shared with bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) on some nearly vertical cliff faces. Most horses tend to migrate to higher elevations in the summer and retreat into the canyons in winter. This area was protected for horses prior to the 1971 U.S. law that protected wild horses thanks to grassroots public interest. That interest remains today and citizens continue to monitor horses and collaborate with researchers and managers toward the stewardship of this herd.

Details of Population

The US Bureau of Land Management has managed this population with periodic round-ups, adopting removed horses to the public. Since 2003, management has more intensively been done using the immunocontraceptive PZP. Prior to PZP use, annual population growth exceeded 20% (in 2003), but between 2004-2011 when PZP was fully implemented, annual growth rate was reduced to an average of 7.6%,  resulting in less frequent round-ups.

Structure and demographics

Population size ranges from 80–200 horses and is arranged into roughly 30 bands of 2–9 horses each. Bachelors form loosely associated ephemeral bands or range independently. Most females give birth within about a 4 week time period ranging from late April to late May.

Issues worth noting and needed actions

Like most populations in the USA, available habitat for horses is finite and management is necessary to protect all natural resources while attempting to balance the multiple-use mandate for the federal lands where horses live.  The science needed for more-informed management is improving, but many obstacles persist. You can read much more in the 2013 National Research Council report “Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program: A Way Forward”  – a free PDF is available at http://www.nap.edu/catalog/13511/using-science-to-improve-the-blm-wild-horse-and-burro-program


Additional details about this population, and specifically about behavior and fertility control, can be found in:

Ransom, J.I., Roelle, J.E., Cade, B.S., Coates-Markle, L., and A.J. Kane. 2011. Foaling rates in feral horses treated with the immunocontraceptive porcine zona pellucida. Wildlife Society Bulletin 35:343-352

Ransom, J.I., Cade, B.S., and N.T. Hobbs. 2010. Influences of immunocontraception on time budgets, social behavior, and body condition in feral horses. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 124:51-60

Ransom, J.I., Hobbs, N.T., and J. Bruemmer. 2013. Contraception can lead to trophic asynchrony between birth pulse and resources. PLoS ONE 8:e54972

Theodore Roosevelt free-ranging horses WE

This entry was contributed to Wild Equus by Dr. Jason Ransom of Colorado State University, member and specialist of the Wild Equus Network (WEN).


Species: Equus caballus         Subspecies/Breed/Type: American Mustang

Estimated Population size: Maintained at 120–160 horses

Country: United States

Region/Province/Range: Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Population type: Free-ranging-heavily managed

Management Authority: Government Agency – National Park Service

Images from Jason Ransom

Details of Home Range or Territory

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is located in south-western North Dakota, USA (45◦55’N/103◦31’W). The South Unit of the park, where horses range, is approximately 19,000 ha and consists of eroded badlands with gullies and ravines separated by large upland plateaus, and small buttes. The mixed-grass prairie vegetation is predominantly comprised of needle and thread (Hesperostipa comata), threadleaf sedge (Carex filifolia), western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithia),blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis) and little bluestem (Andropogen scoparius). Unlike most mustangs in the US, which are managed by the Bureau of Land Management, this herd is part of the National Park Service system. Horses in the park are preserved as part of the cultural landscape, but because they range with pronghorn (Antilocapra americana), bison (Bison bison), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and elk, the result is a vignette of primitive North American landscape.

Details of Population

Details about the park and its resources can be found at www.nps.gov/thro. Research is on-going for this population and longer-term behavioral data are currently being analyzed. Additional details about this population, and specifically about behavior, can be found in: Ransom, J.I., Powers, J.G., Garbe, H.M., Oehler Sr., M.W., ,Nett, T.M., and D.L. Baker. 2014. Behavior of feral horses in response to culling and GnRH immunocontraception. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 157:81-92

Structure and demographics

This population is maintained at around 120–160 horses through periodic management removals and immunocontraception (GnRH). Predation by pumas is minimal, even though the large cats share habitat. The horses organize themselves into about 20 bands with an average band size of about 8.7. All individual horses in this population are identified and assigned individual identity numbers by managers and researchers, and age and reproductive data for each animal are maintained.

Issues worth noting and needed actions

Like most populations in the USA, available habitat for horses is finite and management is necessary to protect the full suite of natural resources in this National Park.  The on-going research on use of GnRH to reduce fertility is promising as it appears to have minimal effects on short-term behavior while slowing population growth. Like all management tools, the long-term effects of human actions need to be monitored in order to responsibly preserve the ecosystem.