Some say that wild horses are born with the colors of the western mountains upon them: the browns, reds, and blues, the dappled grays, the frosty white of snow-capped peaks. As tough as the steep, rocky hills, their hooves resound like distant thunder across the rugged range.
This romantic image of horses running wild and free in the untamed West has been an icon of American popular culture for nearly two centuries. Thanks to art, literature, and film, wild horses have come to represent the essential spirit of the West—a freedom from restraint that has always appealed to Americans.
As we face an increasingly urban existence, this "wild and free" imagery has become even more compelling. And savvy advertisers have taken advantage of these realities—and the anxieties they produce—to package the image of wild and defiant horses to sell everything from automobiles to cologne.
The modern wild horse had its origins in distant lands, yet it has become a distinctly American symbol. Perhaps this can be explained by the fact that so many Americans have pursued that elusive dream of freedom epitomized by wild horses. Of course, such freedom comes with a price. As high-impact species that must share the shrinking range with other resource users—both animal and human, native and nonnative—wild horses and burros are often the subject of great controversy and conflict.
He's desert bred, he's underfed, and tough as a piñon tree,
No cowboy pals or pole corrals, just wild and runnin' free.
No thing of beauty, most would say, but beauty's hidden there.
It's in the blood of a rangy stud, and the heart of a mustang mare.
Wild Mustang © Robert Wagoner