Horses of the Wild West

Posted by Mark Rees on

Horses played a huge role in the development of the Wild West. They helped cowboys with various tasks on the farm, like moving cattle and pulling wagons. Without them, the West wouldn’t have thrived the way it did. Let’s check out all the different horses that helped the cowboys to build the Wild West and their history.

Their Role in the Wild West

Wild West Living Horses of the Wild WestThe Native Americans and the Spanish are responsible for horses thriving in North America. The Spanish introduced them here in the early 1500s but the Native Americans helped to breed them to what they are today. They became great assets to day-to-day life and helped the Wild West to evolve. Horses were considered very important and those who had them were considered wealthy. Once the cowboys began to settle the Wild West, horses continued to serve a very important purpose in everyday life.

Wild West Living Horses of the Wild WestWithout horses, the cowboys of the Wild West would have not been able to thrive like they did, and still do. These majestic animals helped out in so many ways, like on the farm. Due to their size and strength, they could pull plows or wagons. They also were perfect for jobs like rounding up livestock or even hunting. They brought a whole new way to get around and made things go a lot quicker and smoother. Today, horses are still perfect for cattle drives and they also coexist well with other livestock. They are almost like an alarm system for your pasture, alerting you to any danger that may be lurking. Many people also have horses for fun – riding on the weekends in the mountains or taking them to events. They continue to build strong relationships.

The Different Breeds

Wild West Living Horses of the Wild WestThere are a lot of different breeds of horses that we know and love today. However, only a handful were prominent in the shaping of the Wild West. The Palomino was brought over from Spain so that this beautiful horse could thrive in North America. It is a golden horse with a platinum mane and they "were often the revered choice of steed for many royal leaders." Another beautiful horse with a simple look is the Buckskin. This horse has "become a symbol of life on the American Frontier", with its beautiful tan skin and dark legs and mane/tail.

Wild West Living Horses of the Wild WestSuited for war and hunting, the Appaloosas were found among the Nez-Perce Indians of the Pacific Northwest. Appaloosas were "practical, hardy, and versatile with the additional advantages of tractability, good sense, and almost endless stamina." These horses are either spotted all over or only on the hindquarters, giving them a very distinct look. Unfortunately, in 1877, a war occurred and the herds were dispersed and did not appear again until the late 1800s and early 1900s. America’s first recognized horse breed was the Morgan. This horse could be found on both sides in the American Civil War, they were draft horses, stock horses, farm horses, racing horses, and could also be found among miners in the California Gold Rush. Although the breed almost died out in the 1870s, "Morgan blood heavily influenced the development of Quarter Horses in Texas."

Many of the horses that helped shape the Wild West can be found in barns today. Each horse is different, having played a different role, giving them an important part in the history of the Wild West.

A Cowboy & His Horse

Without a horse, the Wild West wouldn’t have thrived like it did. Palominos, Appaloosas, and Morgans helped to herd cattle, fight in wars, and even hunt. They changed and improved the cowboy way of life. Cowboys would not have been able to perform many daily tasks so easily and help shape the West to what we know and love today.


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