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Mustang Horse image
Mustang Horse

Mustang Horse

(Mammal)

Mustang Horse Baby
Mustang Horse Baby

Mustang Horse Habits

Mustangs form small herds that provide companionship and defense against predators. A herd consists of one stallion and his harem of two to eight mares, their foals, and various young mustangs. A herd will wander and graze in a specific territory. It will tolerate the presence of other herds on the outskirts of its range, and will sometimes join them in warding off attacks from predators. When the herd is confronted by an attacker, an older female, called a lead mare, will lead the herd away from danger while the stallion remains to challenge the aggressor. it will snort wildly while pawing the ground with his front hoofs to raise a cloud of dust.
By the late eighteenth century, mustangs were well established in nine western states and numbered between two and five million. Then, as settlers moved west and began to cultivate the land, the mustangs were driven off and killed by the thousands. The greatest destruction of the mustangs has occurred in this century; huge numbers were captured and used in both the Boer War and World War I. Others were caught and used as cow ponies, and many more were shot to be used as pet food and fertilizer. By the mid-1960's, their numbers were estimated at between 18,000 and 34,000, and by the early 1970s, there were less than 10,000.

Mustang Horse Communication

Horses are open grassland animals, and they rarely lose visual contact with other group members. This may be a reason why their acoustic communication repertoire is remarkably poor for an animal with such an elaborate social system. Typically, horses start to vocalize (whinny) intensely when losing visual contact with their group members. Another reason may be that acoustic signals are averted in order to avoid attracting predators. Only four vocal categories have been identified, the nicker, the whinny, the squeal and the roar, in addition to two non-vocal acoustic signals, the snort and the sneeze.
Unfortunately, there are no detailed studies on olfactory communication. Horses spend a great amount of time sniffing or smelling objects, but nothing is known about the information they gather or transmit. As with other ungulates and carnivores, horses exhibit flehmen, retracting their nostrils while in- and ex-haling and analysing the scent in their vomeronasal organ which is packed with olfactory nerve cells. This behaviour is present in foals a few hours old when they suddenly are confronted with a strange scent like smoke, and specially developed in stallions when they smell the urine or faeces of mares at the onset of oestrus, a state or period of heightened sexual arousal.

Mustang Horse Breeding

The mating season is from April to July. The foals are born the following spring. When it is time to give birth, the mares leave the herd and bear their foals alone in well-hidden locations. Although adult mustangs have a wide variety of coat colors, newborn foals have coats that blend in with the dusty ground of their habitat.
The foals are able to stand within several hours of birth. After 2-3 days, mother and foal join the herd and remain with it for a year or more. When the male colts reach about 3 years of age, they are driven from the herd by the stallion. The colts are too young to attract females, so they form a herd of their own with which they roam for several years. They occasionally challenge the leader of other herds, until they are successful in establishing a herd of their own.

Mustang Horse Food & Feeding

Like all horses, the mustang is an herbivore, eating nothing but vegetation. But, because of the scarcity and low nutritional value of the coarse grass, sagebrush, and juniper which it eats, it has adapted to survive on a diet that would not sustain domesticated horses. Centuries of living in such harsh conditions have enabled the mustang to go without food or water for several days if necessary. The mustang has also learned how to break open frozen springs and to clear sediment-clogged water holes by splashing and digging to dislodge the debris. It will even chew prickly pear cactus to obtain moisture from the plant's juices.

Mustang Horse Key Facts

        Size 
              Height: Up to 14 hands (1 hand = 4 inches)
              Weight: Between 700 and 800 pounds
       Breeding
             Sexual maturity: 3 years. Stallions do not usually head herds until they are about 6 years old
             Mating: April to July
             Gestation: 11 months
             Number of young: Usually 1, occasionally twins
       Lifestyle 
            Habit: Social. Live and wander together in small herds
            Diet: Grass and foliage
            Lifespan: Up to 20 years

 

DID YOU KNOW?

  • The name mustang comes from the Spanish word mesteno meaning ownerless, belonging to la mesta__that is, to everyone and no one.
  • To fight off an attack from wolves, mustangs group into a tight circle with the colts inside. As wolves try to penetrate the circle, the mustangs stamp their hooves and snap their teeth viciously.
  • Mustangs were often ridden by Plains Indians. The Cheyenne thought that mustangs spotted on the head and chest were sacred and would bring them victory in battle.
  • The mustang is related to every other breed of horse.
  • Their calls range from soft whinnying and whickering to one another, and loud snorting to ward of danger.

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