Friday, March 27, 2009

Wild Horses of Utah's Mountain Home Range
part 1

Written by Ron Roubidoux in 1994.

"The Mountain Home Range lies at the north end of the Bureau of Land Management's Sulphur Herd Management Area, which is located in southwestern Utah. Craig Egerton, Supervisory Range Conservationist for the BI~'s Beaver River Resource Area, says that most maps show the entire north and south running range as the Needle Range, but local people break it up into the Mountain Home Range on the north and the Indian Peak Range on the south. The highest elevation in the Mountain Home Range is 9,480 feet whereas Indian Peak has an elevation of 9,790 feet. The forty mile long Needle Range is covered with heavy stands of pinion and juniper, and is located east of the Nevada-Utah border. Hamblin Valley is on the west, Pine Valley is on the east, and the Escalante Desert is on the south. Antelope Valley, the Burbank Hills, and Great Basin National Park are on the north.

Elevations of the surrounding valley floors are between 5,000 and 6,000 feet. From the dry, lifeless hardpan of the valley floors the land gently rises over native grass covered flats to sagebrush covered benches, and finally to the pinion-juniper covered mountains. Benches and mountains are broken up with many rugged canyons and draws. Low areas are generally sandy while the mountain slopes are very rocky. The Sulphur Herd Management Area is approximately 142,800 acres, and covers the entire Needle Range. Most of the area is unfenced.

Gus Warr, Range Conservationist for the BLM's Beaver River Resource Area, says there is an imaginary line between Vance Spring and Sulphur Spring which divides and separates the horses in the Sulphur Herd Management Area. The area between these springs also divides the Mountain Home Range from the Indian Peak Range. Both Craig and Gus have said that most of the Spanish type horses are found north of this line on the Mountain Home Range. The BLM is therefore managing this area specifically for the Spanish type horse. The herd management area gets its name from the Sulphur Springs. There are three springs in all, North Sulphur Spring, South Sulphur Spring, and Sulphur Spring. Many other springs are found throughout the Needle Range.
Santiago. Photo by Diane Black owned by Deb Baumann of California

According to D. Philip Sponenberg, DVM, PhD, of Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and Technical Coordinator, American Livestock Breeds Conservancy: "The three main tools for evaluating horses (for Spanish descent) are the history behind the individual horse, the appearance of the horse, and the blood-type of the horse." During August 1993, Dr.Sponenberg came to Utah and inspected thirty-four Sulphur horses that the BLM had adopted out to various individuals. His subsequent evaluation states: "The Sulphur Herd Management area horses that are present as adopted horses in the Salt Lake City area appear to be of Spanish phenotype. The horses were reasonably uniform in phenotype, and most of the variation encountered could be explained by a Spanish origin of the population. That, coupled with the remoteness of the range and blood-typing studies, suggests that these horses are indeed Spanish. As such they are a unique genetic resource, and should be managed to perpetuate this uniqueness. A variety of colors occurs in the herds, which needs to be maintained. Initial culling in favor of Spanish phenotype should be accomplished, and a long term plan for population numbers and culling strategies should be formulated. This is one population that should be kept free of introductions from other herd management areas, as it is Spanish in type and therefore more unique than horses of most other BLM management areas." He later states: "The horses removed during the last few years from the Sulphur Herd Management Area are Spanish in type. The fact that the horses were so consistently Spanish type is evidence that these horses have a Spanish origin," This evaluation therefore establishes the Sulphur horses as Spanish in appearance.
Rose and filly Maria. Photo taken by Joseph Hayes and owned by Victoria of California.

Concerning blood-typing, Dr. Sponenberg's evaluation states: "Gus Cothran has blood-typed a small number of these horses, and is struck by the frequency of antigens known to be of Spanish origin. While further sampling would be useful, he is confident that this population will ultimately prove to be one of the more consistently Spanish of feral populations so far studied." E. Gus Cothran, PhD, Director, Equine Blood-Typing Research Laboratory, University of Kentucky, sent me a letter where he writes: "The Sulphur herd in general appears to have strong Spanish links. What I can tell you is that the Sulphur horses have the highest similarity to Spanish Type Horses of any wild horse population in the U.S. that I have tested. They definitely have Spanish ancestry and possibly are primarily derived from Spanish Horses. However, I have not done an intensive analysis of these horses yet. The southwestern Utah horses look to be a very interesting group and I hope I have an opportunity to do more work with these horses." He also told me, during a telephone conversation, that he needed more blood samples to do a proper evaluation of the Sulphur horses. Glenn Foreman, Public Affairs Officer for the BLM's Salt Lake District, planned on a voluntary gathering of adopted Sulphur horses in April 1994, where blood would be taken from horses and sent to Kentucky for more blood-typing. This would have fulfilled the number of samples required for Dr. Cothran to make a final evaluation of the horses. Unfortunately, due to a glitch in the BLM's budget, higher powers in the BLM canceled the funding for Glenn's project. Glenn told me that this set back was temporary, and he eventually wants to have the work done. Although the evaluation for blood-typing still needs to be completed, the work that has been done thus far looks good.This leaves the history of the horses to be established. Again, Dr. Sponenberg writes in his evaluation: .Detailed historical background of the Sulphur Herd Management Area horses is not available. The limited amount of history available points to population being an old one, with limited or no introduction of outside horses since establishment of the population. Foundation of the herd is logically assumed to be Spanish, since this the only resource available at the time of foundation.
Sulphur's Anhur Maximus. Grandson of Sulphur's Chance.

My purpose in writing this paper is to try to establish a background history for the wild horses of the Mountain Home Range, and logically reinforce their case for purity of Spanish descent."

No comments:

Post a Comment