The History and Status of the Wild Horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park – Part 3

“In a great many –indeed, in most—localities there are wild horses to be found, which, although invariably of domestic descent, being either themselves runaways from some ranch or Indian outfit, or else claiming such for their sires and dams, yet are quite as wild as the antelope on whose domain they have intruded.  Ranchmen run these horses whenever possible, and they are but little more difficult to break than the so-called “tame animals.”  But the wild stallions, are, whenever possible, shot; both because of their propensity for driving off the ranch mares, and because their incurable viciousness makes them always unsafe companions for other horses still more than for men…” (Roosevelt, 1981)

In this section of Castle’s paper that we shared above, she talks about her research on the type of horse that was in this area and the desire that cowboys and ranchers had to harness the stamina, agility, hardiness, and speed of the Indian ponies and mustangs in their breeding practices.  There are several accounts of this that she found in her research.  She also shares several photos that show what came to be known as the “common horse” in Medora in this section.  Again, we will do our best to post the images on this post, you are also welcome to view them in her paper that we shared in the Library section of our website.

Some notable points in this section:

  • “Breeding up” the mustang horses was considered as early as 1835
  • In the nineteenth century, the Quarter Horse was only a type and did not become a breed until 1941
  • It is well documented that Sitting Bull surrendered at Fort Buford in 1881.  As part of their surrender, their horses were confiscated and auctioned off.   
  • It is also well documented that in 1883 Marquis de Mores, founder of the town of Medora, bought 250 Sioux horses that had been confiscated from Sitting Bull and his sub-chiefs. 
  • There is little evidence that proves a specific horse type for the Sioux.  However, Sitting Bull did disclose this information in a conversation with Charles Deland: “My father was a very rich man and owned many ponies in four colors: roans, white and grey.” (Roans here refers to both blue and red roans)
  • The historic de Mores home still sits where it always has, directly across the street from what is now known as Theodore Roosevelt National Park
  • In 1884, 60 of de Mores’ Sioux mares were purchased by A.C. Heidekoper.  Heidekoper was one of the earliest ranchers in the area and would become one of the largest in the country.

Wallis Huidekoper, brother of AC Huidekoper, describes the transfer of Sitting Bulls ponies and their unique characteristics:

                “The mustang mares had an interesting history in that they formerly belonged to Sitting Bull.  When the wily Sioux Medicine Man surrendered at Fort Buford the summer of 1881, after his four years in Canada, his ponies were confiscated and sold at public auction.  Some 350 of these Indian horses were bought by the post traders, Leighton, Jordan, and Hedderick, who, a year and half later, sold 250 head, including all mares, to that much talked about adventurer and visionary stockman and founder of the town of Medora, the Marquis de Mores.  As these mares were the type wanted by my outfit, the Little Missouri Horse Company, a deal was made with the Maquis whereby some 60 mares were bought, our choice.  They were well suited as equine matrons to go with a thoroughbred stud: solid colors, strong and active, uniform in type, good rustlers, and easy keepers.  Many were war ponies and had been in the battle of Little Big Horn, for they carried scars from the rifles of Custer’s troopers.”

Castle concluded:

“It is possible that some of de Mores’ and Huidekoper’s horses became feral, joining up with the wild stock extant in the area.  During the open range era such losses were not uncommon, Roosevelt commenting that “every outfit always has certain of its horses at large; and if they remain out long enough, they become wild and wary as deer and have to be regularly run down and surrounded” Most ranch stock was range-bred and it was the instinct of the wild stallions to gather free-roaming mares.”

Ready for the next part…you can download the next section we will discuss here: 

As always, you are free to download and read Castle’s entire report on your own by downloading it here:

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