The Wild West is a time in history that focused on Western expansion, cowboys, and outlaws; it certainly lived up to its name. However, none of the action and adventure that occurred would have been possible without the use of horses. In fact, this era shaped Western-style horse riding as we know it today, and that new style of riding in turn had an impact on history. Read on to learn more about horses’ impact on the Wild West.
Horses’ Introduction Into America
Horses were not initially an indigenous species to the US. They were introduced by Spanish settlers in the 1500s, and Native Americans began to utilize and breed them over time. At this time, horses were seen as property owned by only the wealthiest people. Eventually, however, horses became more commonplace as their population expanded and the need for them grew.
Work for Horses
In the days of the Wild West, horses had a few main jobs. The most common use was for farming, as horses had the strength and endurance to pull farm equipment. Of course, horses were also used as transportation, either by horseback riding or by wagon, for longer distances. Due to their speed, agility, and the ease of riding them, ranch hands also used them to herd cattle, much like they do today.
Wild West Horse Breeds
During the Wild West time period, there were only a few horse breeds that were common, as breeding was not as selective. The Palomino was originally brought over from Spain and was one of the first breeds to gain popularity. Buckskins were also common, and you may recognize it as the quintessential Old West horse. Appaloosas were plentiful in the Pacific Northwest, too. America’s first recognized horse breed, however, was the Morgan horse.
Horses became a necessity in the Americas as settlers needed more efficient ways to farm and move around quickly. With westward expansion beginning in the early 1800s, horses grew in popularity and played a major role in several historical events, including the Gold Rush. When thinking about this era of American history, there is no doubt that you will imagine cowboys on their horses. The impact is evident — horses were a main influence in our nation’s development, and they will continue to be an important part of American culture for the foreseeable future.