Horse News

Selective Breeding of Wild Horses: Accelerating Genetic Erosion

By: William E. Simpson II

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the United States Forest Service (USFS) have for the past several decades used fake science, obfuscation and misrepresentation to marginalize the value of American wild horses as a part of our natural ecosystems, where they provide many ecological benefits as an evolved symbiotic species with numerous flora and fauna.

A stallion (far right) and his band in the Soda Mountain wilderness. Photo: William E. Simpson II

Now, along with the knowing and unknowing assistance from some donation-supported wild horse activists, the BLM and the USFS have engaged in the insidious tactic of using a form of ‘Selective Breeding’ on wild horses, which will by design accelerate genetic erosion and speed potential extinction.

Many people, even including some scientists, don’t fully comprehend all the facets and forms of ‘selective breeding’, and most importantly, what the ultimate effects of selective breeding are when used on wildlife (wild horses).
Selective Breeding Definition; generally:
  • Selective breeding is the process by which humans control the breeding of organisms in order to exhibit or eliminate a particular characteristic.
  • Selective breeding uses artificial selection to direct the genetic transfer of desirable traits. As opposed to natural selection, selective breeding focuses on traits which will benefit humans.
The modern horse (E. Caballus) evolved in North America 1.7-million years ago according to the University of Helsinki. Over the course of many millennia, there have been a host of changing conditions across the North American landscape, including wildfires, changes in climate and other environmental stressors that are a part of the natural process of evolutionary natural selection.
Nevertheless, the modern horse continued to survive, and as a species goes, it’s arguably one of the most successful on the planet.
Very basically: A type of artificial Selective Breeding of wildlife occurs when humankind uses any method that circumvents the natural evolutionary processes related to Natural Selection.
Natural selection occurs as a result of many environmental stresses, including but not limited to: change in climate, depredation, changes on the landscape, and of course, critically important competition between stallions for breeding rights, and the more subtle competition between mares as lead mare.
For instance, many ‘experts’ fail to realize that the foal of a lead mare has better odds of survival than the foals of lesser mares in the harem. And of course, geldings don’t compete for breeding rights.
It is vitally important for the sustainable conservation of wild horses and their bloodlines, to fully contemplate all the impacts of this form of Selective Breeding, which employs the use of castration, and PZP and/or GonaCon.
This form of Selective Breeding of wildlife (wild horses) occurs when humankind circumvent natural processes through the combined use of castration of stallions and chemicals that render mares infertile. The serious long-term adverse effects of this artificial process are greatly enhanced when they are concurrently used on small populations of animals.
And, as we see, the BLM and USFS are keeping the populations of most Herd Management Areas well below the minimum populations required to maintain genetic diversity… which according to some studies requires populations as low as 250 breeding adults and as high as 2,500 breeding adults.
I have devoted the last 7-years of my life living among and studying free-roaming wild horses in a remote mountain wilderness area on the Oregon-California border that is virtually free from any livestock grazing.
I am not funded by anyone, and my only compensation is the privilege of being seen by the wild Ones as a human symbiont, and using my background and training in science to learn about wild horses, directly from free-roaming wild horses living in the wilderness. The goal is simple… saving them from mismanagement and decimation.
If there were a graduate program for understanding the behavioral ecology of wild horses, this would be it…
The lessons I have learned from the wild horses and the landscape where they live truly wild and free have been hard-earned… and aside from the obvious and not so obvious hardships that must be embraced by living in such a remote location, including deadly wildfires, the costs of establishing a permanent observational base of operations in the remote wilderness and ongoing operational costs are not insignificant by any measure.
This study site is unique in that there can be no confusion about any impacts in the ecosystem that may stem from the centuries of habitation by wild horses, which factually documented as having lived in this area (this is not an HMA) for the past several hundred years. In fact, there are horse fossils in this area according to the local USGS archaeologist.
Over the course of my time living in the wilderness, so far, I have completed over 11,000 hours of close observational study, using a study paradigm that was first used and perfected by Jane Goodall in Gombe Africa.
And using the method pioneered by Jane Goodall, I have already made new and unique observations, one of which is detailed in this article.
During those 11,000+ hours of close observations, I documented and photographed (more than 50,000 images and dozens of videos) the ecological benefits that these wild horses have provided over the centuries, some of which are included in my first 5-years of study, which can be read here:
I am seeking to implement a natural, holistic and sustainable solution that benefits wild horses.
Such a Solution presently is available and could be effected; I have outlined such a solution for those who care to prioritize the well-being, and ‘wild and free’ status of wild horses over all other motives.
Regards, William

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