The International Face of the American Wild Horse Could be Culled
In a recent Billings Gazette article it was reported that the local BLM office may be considering removing the world famous wild stallion, Cloud, from his family and home in the Pryor Mountains of Southern Montana because it is alleged that his coloring is not of Spanish descent.
The article states;
“The Bureau of Land Management, the agency responsible for managing the horses and range, says a recent genetic analysis of the wild horse herd suggests that the spread of the stallion’s genes has been at the expense of the Old World Iberian horse line brought by Spaniards to North America — a lineage that has made the herd unique.”, a statement that is not supported by the document in question.
The Gazette goes on to state;
“A cream-colored coat is not an Old Spanish horse trait.”
Using these erroneous assumptions as fact the Gazette goes on to claim that Jim Sparks, manager of the BLM’s Billings Field Office, says that the public needs to understand that if the BLM continues to protect Cloud and his progeny, that genetic influence will only grow stronger.
“We’re going to continue to favor the Spanish characteristics, but doing that can narrow down the gene pool,” Sparks said, hinting at the possibility of a BLM plan to remove Cloud and his offspring from their protected native range.
But the above assumptions, regarding coloring and Spanish lineage, are countered by an early 1990s report compiled by Dr. Phillip Sponenberg, DVM, PH D who wrote;
“The colors of the Pryor mountain horses are also interesting. Included are: black, bay, chestnut, the linebacked derivatives of these: grullo, zebra dun, red dun, the non-linbacked dun derivatives, if only rarely): smoky, buckskin, palomino, cremello (these last three potentially if not presently)… The range of colors also is consistent with a Spanish origin. It is difficult to come up with that array of colors, and in the frequencies present, by another origin… A few of the combinations will then occur rarely, but will assuredly pop out at least occasionally. Included would be cremellos (essentially white), and the splashier sabino types. The will result in a very cosmetically appealing group of horses, with great appeal both for the somewhat naïve tourist (who is fascinated by the pretty variation ), but also for the more knowledgeable viewer who recognizes these horses as a genetically significant population due to their being Spanish.”
International Spanish Colonial horse experts, who have viewed the three PBS “Cloud” documentaries produced by Emmy award winning nature film producer Ginger Kathrens, have noted and commented on the single-footed gait of Cloud as he enters a fast trot, a uniquely Spanish trait witnessed in person by this reporter.
Additional evidence of palominos being of Spanish descent is documented at Horse-Genetics.com;
“Pale palominos are sometimes called Isabellas, after Queen Isabella de-Bourbon of Spain, who is much remembered for pawning her jewels to fund Columbus’ voyages to the “New World”. The word Palomino is itself a Spanish surname, derived from a Latin word meaning pale dove. Queen Isabella kept a hundred golden horses (but forbid her commoners to own one!). She did, however send a Palomino stallion and five mares to her Viceroy in Mexico (then called New Spain!) to perpetuate the horse in the “New World”. North America palominos originally came from the Spanish settlements, presumably descendants of Queen Isabella’s horses.”
Now taking into account that Gazette contends that the coloring of Cloud is not of Spanish decent and Sparks, a BLM employee, states that Cloud is weakening the Pryor herd’s genetics and then weigh their assumptions against the research and findings of noted, educated experts it makes one beg the question;
“Did the Gazette put the anti-Cloud thought into the BLM’s head or was it the other way around?”
Either way, the world needs to keep a watchful eye upon the Billings BLM office as they may not realize the value of the treasure that resides just outside their back door that goes by the name of “Cloud”.
(Special thanks to Makendra Silverman for abundant research assistance)