By William E. Simpson II as published on The Pagosa Daily Post
Native species American wild horses evolved on the North American continent about 55 million years ago. So, it’s no wonder that unlike invasive species — cattle and sheep — wild horses have critically important, evolved grazing functions and symbiosis with North American flora and fauna.
Wild horses are nature’s reseeding experts
In a recent article by Travis Duncan, published in the Pagosa Daily Post titled, ‘FIELD NOTES: Lessons Learned from Colorado Wildfires, Part Two’, we learn that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is having difficulties in reseeding and restoring wildfire damaged public lands.
It turns out that nature already has that figured out. The only problem is the BLM is too myopic in their approach to look and see how nature does it so perfectly.
Unlike ruminants (cattle and sheep) which have complex stomachs that digest virtually all the native plant seeds they eat, wild horses have a single stomach and pass virtually all the native plant and grass seeds they eat back onto the ground in their nutrient- and micro-biome-rich droppings, which restore wildfire damaged soils. The droppings of wild horses provide a perfect humus substrate for the enclosed native seeds to germinate and grow.
In fact, I believe I may have pioneered the use of this evolved wild horse trait on my own ranch, to spread the seeds of beneficial flora by feeding the local horses such seeds at feeding stations.
Teeth And hooves matter when restoring wildfire-damaged land
Few people actually study the anatomy and morphology of the large-bodied herbivores that are grazing public lands and wilderness areas. These studies are critically important in regard to intelligent land management, especially in the restoration of wildfire damaged wilderness lands.
Unlike cattle, which only have bottom front teeth, wild horses have top and bottom teeth (incisors), which cleanly cuts through the vegetative materials they graze.
Because cattle have no top front incisors, they have a long prehensile tongue that is used to wrap-around and help pull grasses over their bottom front teeth. The result is that cattle tend to uproot some plants and grasses as they graze.
Hoof Anatomy: The impact on post-wildfire soils
The evolved hoof of a native species American wild horse has a much greater surface area in proportion to body weight than do invasive species cattle.
After 55-million years of evolution on the North American continent, the horse’s hoof is evolved to be in perfect ecological harmony with the North American landscape.
NOTE: The photos below show cow claw and horse hoof penetration depths in a native pasture. They were all taken in the same immediate area (by the author) where cattle and horses had walked in a native pasture on the same morning.
Here are the simple mechanics of the evolutionary hoof design (difference) between of horses of North America, and cattle (evolved in Africa), and how each design uniquely impacts the soils in our North American forests, range-lands and riparian areas.
The photo above shows the underside of a cow’s hoof, which as we see, has what are termed as pointed claws. Like the point of a pick-axe tool, the points on these cow claws are very effective at penetrating deeply into soils, especially soft or wet soils. We also note that these claws present a relatively small surface area (pounds/square inch loading) upon which the entire weight of the cow is supported. And this point is obvious on its face…(CONTINUED)
Please visit the original article to view the rest of the story and the extremely descriptive photographs…