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State Herd Area: Murderers Creek (OR)

The Murderers Creek Herd Management Area is located approximately 35 miles southwest of John Day, Oregon. It encompasses 34,954 acres of BLM land and 73,615 acres of National Forest Service land. Gathers are usually conducted every 3 years to maintain the herd at approximately 100 head. The horses share the range with mule deer, elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, bear, cougar, and many other native species.

The lineage of these horses is diverse and quite debatable. While some may trace back to early explorers and Native Americans, most are probably descended from stock which escaped from settlers and ranchers. Before the passage of the 1971 Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act, local ranchers routinely released their own stallions into the area, and gathered the young animals the following spring. The horses usually stand around 14 hands, and their colors vary depending on whether they live in the heavily timbered regions of the HMA, or on the western plains. The "timber horses" are usually bay or brown, while horses in the western plains also include gray, dun, and sorrel colors.

Most of the HMA is accessible by road during the summer months, but horses are easier to spot in open country rather than in the heavily timbered areas. Gathering the "timber horses" is very challenging, as the horses have learned to use the trees and mountainous terrain to their advantage. However, once gathered, they tend to settle down shortly after capture, and are often easier to work with than open country horses.

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