BLM Mustangs and Burros
The mustang is a free-roaming horse of the American west that first descended from horses brought to the Americas by the Spanish. Mustangs are often referred to as wild horses, but because they are descended from once-domesticated horses, they are properly defined as feral horses.
In 1971, the United States Congress recognized that “wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West, which continue to contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people.” In the 21st century, mustang herds vary in the degree to which they can be traced to original Iberian horses. Some contain a greater genetic mixture of ranch stock and more recent breed releases, while others are relatively unchanged from the original Iberian stock, most strongly represented in the most isolated populations.
The free-roaming mustang population is managed and protected by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Controversy surrounds the sharing of land and resources by the free-ranging mustangs with the livestock of the ranching industry, and also with the methods with which the federal government manages the wild population numbers. A policy of rounding up excess population and offering these horses for adoption to private owners has been inadequate to address questions of population control.