The horses running wild in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota have developed over the years into a breed unlike any other. Descendants of sturdy domestic farm horses, trusty ranch stock and the ponies that carried our Native American people across the plains, they have survived harsh North Dakota blizzards, temperatures of -40 degrees, and the scorching sun and hot dry winds of summer. They have learned to find shelter in the washes and Juniper stands of the badlands and drink from the water filled tracks of Bison after a sudden summer rain.
In the mid 1900's many wanted them dead. Hundreds were herded into rail cars and shipped away to slaughter when trains, autos, and tractors made them obsolete. Cowboys and ranchers made sport of running them down or shooting them to keep them from foraging on the rich, but often sparse grasses of the Little Missouri breaks. Early roundups were conducted on horseback, by pickup truck, and even with planes. It didn't much matter what happened to the horses during the wild chase, since they were destined for destruction anyway.
The horses that remained in the national park, once it was fenced, were the lucky ones. For many years they too were targeted for removal as trespass animals, but some survived and became the foundation of these proud and beautiful horses that call the North Dakota badlands their home.
These horses had a friend in a local rancher, who loved them, kept track of them, and managed them for decades. His story will becoming to this blog soon.