If you look at some old maps of Texas, whole swaths of the state are labeled “wild horse desert” or just “wild horses.” This land was once home to an estimated 1 million wild horses – likely more than any other region of the country. Those mustangs roamed in herds, but today, in Texas, none of those herds are left.
Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times Reporter Dave Philipps explores the history, myth and future of the mustang in a new book: “Wild Horse Country.”
“Right now we spend millions and millions of dollars to try and protect these horses, and we end up storing tens of thousands of them in government storage pastures,” Philipps says.
“I was intrigued. Why do we spend so much and keep so many in captivity when the whole idea of the wild horse is that it’s supposed to be free and independent?”
The multitude of wild horses that were common in the area, he says, were rounded up and put to work, or made into food. Nowadays wild horses in the state are in protected areas.
The protected horses are treated in approximately the same way the government treats endangered species, according to Philipps. When the herd reproduces, the government puts a certain number of horses in the care of wealthy ranchers.
“I think the mustang is the most American animal out there,” he says.
“The mustang is an immigrant. It is noble, but not because it had any noble lineage. It is noble because it is independant, it is sort of a symbol of us as Americans.”
Find out more about Philipps’ upcoming book in the player above
Written by Nahila Bonfiglio.