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Spanish Mustang

Spanish Mustang
Spanish Mustang Mare
Alternative names: Colonial Spanish Horse
Country of origin: Developed in the Americas from bloodstock originating in Spain
Horse (Equus ferus caballus)

The Spanish Mustang, also called the Colonial Spanish Horse, is a horse breed of historical importance. They descend from horses introduced from Spain during the early conquest of the Americas. They are a type that today is mostly or wholly now extinct in Spain.[1]

Spanish Mustangs today are primarily domesticated horses but are sometimes confused with the feral American Mustang, animals descended from both Spanish horses and other feral horses escaped from various sources that currently run wild in protected areas (HMAs) of the western United States, currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and to a lesser degree, in Canada. However, DNA studies indicate that Spanish breeding and type does still exist in some feral Mustang herds, including those on the Cerbat HMA (near Kingman, Arizona), Pryor Mountain HMA (Montana), Sulphur HMA (Utah), Kiger HMA and the Riddle Mountain HMA (Oregon). However, the true Spanish Mustang as a modern breed differs from the "wild" American Mustang in appearance and ancestry.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, many ranchers introduced Thoroughbreds, draft horses, Arabians. Morgans and other breeds into most feral herds, seeking to improve the type. However, the breed was saved from extinction by the efforts of preservation breeders and the creation of a registry to protect and preserve the original type.



The Colonial Spanish Horse developed from animals of various breeds and types first brought from the Iberian peninsula to the Caribbean within the first 30 years of Conquest of the New World. The Spanish Mustang is a descendant of the Spanish horses brought from Cuba, Hispanola, and other islands during the conquest and establishment of the Spanish colony of New Spain in what today is Mexico. They are a direct remnant of the horses of the Golden Age of Spain; this type is mostly or wholly extinct now in Spain [2] As the conquest of Mexico progressed during the 16th century, horse herds spread north and crossed the Rio Grande River. Over the next one hundred years horses in the Americas were stolen and traded by the Apache, Comanche, and later the Utes and Shoshoni to various tribes across the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains. It is claimed that Lewis and Clark received Spanish Mustangs from the Shoshoni, and were so impressed with them they said they owed much of the success of their expedition to those tough little horses.

Spanish Mustang developed as a distinct type during the 17th and 18th centuries, prior to the arrival of English-speaking American settlers on the Great Plains. By the late 19th century, the advance of farming onto the Great Plains threatened the existence of the Spanish Mustang as this horse was deemed too small to be useful for the farm work, and both farmers and ranchers introduced of taller and heavier horses into wild herds to deliberately create a different type of animal more suitable to the immediate needs of settlers. Thus various draft horse breeds, Morgans, Thoroughbreds, and other animals were crossed into the mustang herds.

On the brink of extinction in the early part of this century, the salvation of the original Spanish type can be attributed primarily, but not exclusively, to Ferdinand L. Brislawn and his brother Robert E. Brislawn of Oshoto, Wyoming, who founded the Spanish Mustang Registry, Inc. in 1957. Two full brothers, Buckshot and Ute, were his first foundation stallions, sired by a buckskin stallion named Monty and out of Ute Reservation blood on the dam's side. Monty, captured in 1927 in Utah, escaped back to the wild in 1944, taking his mares with him. He was never recaptured.


The Spanish Mustang is an using horse and is versatile and well-equipped to compete in varied fields. At present there are horses competing in team penning, dressage, jumping, polo, competitive trail, showing, driving and gymkhana. In addition there are Spanish Mustangs being used for all types of ranch work.

Spanish Mustangs perform well and are used as stock horses. Hundreds were used as U. S. Army cavalry mounts once when fighting the Apache. The American bred horses of the Cavalry were no match for these Spanish descended war ponies in the inhospitable and barren mountains and plains of the West. So the Cavalry fought fire with fire and pursued the Apache mounted on Spanish Mustangs.


Today's Spanish Mustangs retain their stamina and ability to travel long distances without undue stress. Spanish mustangs have historically exhibited a legendary ability to travel great distances without injury.[citation needed]

The Variety of Colors

Colors of the Spanish Mustang vary widely, and it is through the Spanish influence that many other North American horse breeds gain some of their distinctive colors. Spanish Mustangs come in a full range of solid colors including black, bay, brown, chestnut, sorrel, grullo, zebra and red dun, buckskin, palomino, and cremello. In many horses these base colors are combined with white hairs or patches to result in gray, roan, paint, pure white, and the leopard complex of blankets, roans, and dark spots usually associated with the Appaloosa breed.


The Spanish Mustang Registry, founded in 1957 describes the breed standard as follows:

"The Spanish Mustang is a medium sized horse ranging from 13.1 to 15 hands with an average size of approximately 14.2 hands with proportional weight. They are smooth muscled with short backs, rounded rumps and low set tails. Coupling is smooth and the overall appearance is of a well balanced, smoothly built horse. The girth is deep, with well laid back shoulder and fairly pronounced withers. They possess the classic Spanish type head with a straight or concave forehead and a convex nose which is in contrast to the straight forehead and nose of most breeds. Ears are medium to short and usually notched or curved towards each other. Necks are fairly well crested in mares and geldings and heavily crested in mature stallions. Chests are narrow but deep with the front legs joining the chest in an "A" shape rather than straight across. Chestnuts are small or missing altogether, particularly on the rear legs. Ergots are small or absent. Feet are extremely sound with thick walls, many having what is typically known as a "mule foot" which resists bruising due to the concave sole. Cannons are short, upper foreleg is long with the canon bone having a larger circumference than other breeds of comparable size and weight. Long strided, many are gaited, with a comfortable gait such as the amble, running walk or single foot. Some individuals are laterally gaited and do a very credible "paso" gait though without extreme knee action. They are remarkably hardy animals and tend to be less prone to injury, particularly of the legs and feet, than other breeds. These magnificent horses were brought to America on Columbus's second voyage to the new world." [3]

See also

  • Sorraia - wild horses indigenous to Spain


  1. Sponenberg, D. Phillip "Spanish Mustangs and Barbs" Conquistador Magazine [1] Accessed June 5, 2006
  2. http://www.frontiernet.net/~RanchoTamarisque/SponenbergFrame.htm.
  3. Spanish Mustang Registry

External links

  • Sponenberg, Dan Phillip. Equine Color Genetics, 2nd edition, Ames, Iowa : Iowa State Press, 2003.


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