Nokota Horses

When we talk about the wild horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, ND, a crucial part of their story includes the Nokota horses.
For those of you who are new to our page, you may have noticed that we share trailers for the upcoming move, Vanishing Knowledge The movie shares the story of Frank Kuntz, who along with his late brother Leo, saved a special breed of horses that would have otherwise been long gone.
Frank and Leo began advocating for the wild horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the 1970’s. Much of their media coverage and story can be found on their website The Nokota horse is a breed of horse native to North Dakota that evolved to survive and thrive in the badlands here. You can also gain more insight into this breed and Frank and Leo’s story by watching the movie Nokota Heart.
The photos we are sharing here this morning are of just a few of the Nokota horses that live in Linton, ND at The Nokota Horse Conservancy. Some of the Nokota traits still exist within the TRNP horses, but the bloodlines were compromised when the park introduced new blood in the early 1980’s in an ignorant and failed attempt to “improve” the conformation of the horses. TRNP park management failed to follow their own NPS policies to preserve the historical value of these horses and some of the introduced horses were eventually removed, but not before the damage to the unique blood lines was already done. Frank and his brother Leo bought as many of the horses BEFORE the introduction of the new blood and dedicated their lives to making sure this breed survives. There are currently just under 2,000 Nokota horses worldwide.
You can get updates on the new movie, Vanishing Knowledge, by visiting their website at The film has been submitted to the Sundance Film Festival and is currently waiting for word on if it will be accepted. IF it is, (crossing our fingers) the film will be released sometime after the film festival in the spring of 2022.
The story of the Nokota horse is important because it is the only real documented history of the wild horses in Southwestern North Dakota. Once again, the only research that was ever done on this herd of horses was done by Castle McLaughlin as an NPS intern and was completed in 1989. Her report entitled The History and Status of the Wild Horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park can be read here: Castle is currently a curator at Harvard’s Peabody Museum.
Interestingly, as our TRNP wild horses battle with their own inbreeding issues as a result of years of mismanagement and also NOT having any wild horse management plan whatsoever, Frank Kuntz is STILL willing to work with the park to have the Nokota horses re-introduced.
TRNP Park management has yet to take Frank up on his offer. There is a slight ray of hope on the horizon. Word around the local rumor mill is that TRNP Superintendent Wendy Ross, was recently promoted. Here is hoping the next Superintendent sees the value of these horses and is willing to work to preserve them for future generations.
As always….stay tuned.

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