PRYOR MOUNTAIN WILD MUSTANGS
BLM Montana/Dakotas manages the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range on approximately 36,000 acres. The appropriate management level is 120 horses.
Wild horses in the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range include a wide variety of colors, such as bay, black, dun, grulla, roam, buckskin and palomino. The wild horse may have dorsal stripes down the back, bi-colored manes and tails, tiger-striped legs and some may have cobwebbing on the face. Adults typically range in size from 13 to 14 hands.
The wild free-roaming horses inhabiting the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range most likely descend from a mixture of many domestic breeds. Recent genetic tests concluded that Pryor horses include a higher than average level of ancestry from New World “Spanish” breeds (saddle type horses) and related to European “Spanish” breeds, in addition to other "light racing and riding breeds." Other genetic analyses suggested that the single closest breed to Pryor horses was the Quarter Horse. Some of the Pryor horses carry a rare allele variant Qac that has been traced back to the original New World “Spanish” type horses – Spanish and Portuguese (Iberian) horses that were brought to the Americas. However, all of the genetic markers in these wild horses are found in other horse breeds.
The Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range is one of only four designated wild horse and burro ranges in the country, which means the area is managed principally, but not exclusively, for wild horses and burros. The Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range was created by order of the Secretary of the Interior, Stewart L. Udall on September 9, 1968. At the time, the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range encompassed 33,600 acres of BLM and National Park Service-managed lands in Montana. In the years since, additional land was added to the Range, including land across state lines in Wyoming. Today, the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range comprises of more than 38,000 acres.
Location: The Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range is in the southeastern portion of Carbon County, Montana, and northern Big Horn County, Wyoming. Approximately 50 miles south of Billings, Montana, and 10 miles north of Lovell Wyoming. Every year, many visitors come to the public lands to enjoy observing these well-known wild horses from a safe distance.
Topography/Vegetation: The area is high in diversity and complex in nature. Elevations range from 3,850 feet to 8,750 feet above sea level. Annual precipitation varies with elevation from 6 inches of precipitation in the lower elevations to upwards of 20 inches in the alpine high elevation. Soils vary in depth from shallow (less than ten inches) to 20-40 inches deep depending on site locations and position on the landscape. Water is considered a limited resource within the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range.
Habitat within the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range is diverse and ranges from shrub-grass vegetation including big sagebrush, Gardner’s saltbush, black sagebrush, rhizomatous wheatgrasses, Indian ricegrass, needle and thread and bluebunch wheatgrass to communities that include Douglas-fir, lodgepole pine, subalpine fir, limber pine, and juniper.
Plant communities also vary with elevation and precipitation from cold desert shrub to sub-alpine forests and meadows.
The Pryor Mountain Wild Horses are unique. Cortez once said “…Next to God, we owed the victory to the horses…” in discussing his conquest of the New World. The Pryor Mountain Wild Horses are the descendents of these important horses. They are truly horses with a heritage.
Early on, locals realized that there was something special about the Pryor Mountain Wild Horses due to their interesting characteristics. It wasn’t long until it was realized that the wild horses looked like Spanish horses. Since then, the herd has been extensively studied; and it has been confirmed that they are descended from Spanish horses. There are three main reasons this confirmation is based on: History, genetics, and phenotype.
I strongly encourage you to support the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center as they work hard on a daily basis to protect the horses.
The history of the Pryor Mountain Wild Horses is not well known. There are accounts of the wild horses being present in the late 1800’s, and many people believe that there were wild horses in the Pryor Mountains in the early to mid-1700’s.
At the Wild Mustang Center, we believe the herd is descended from Spanish horses brought to the area by different Native American tribes, especially the Crow. Many other share this belief, though some other plausible explanations have also been proposed.
Starting in the mid-1990’s, studies were done on the Pryor Mountain Wild Horses to determine genetic traits of the herd, such as their level of inbreeding and what type of horse the herd was most genetically related to. From these studies, it was determined that the herd has high genetic diversity, meaning they have low levels of inbreeding.
It was also determined that the herd has genetic traits consistent with Spanish horses and that the herd lacks genetic traits that would have originated in draft or thoroughbred ancestors. Around this same time, there were also studies on the phenotype of the herd. That is, these studies were concerned with determining if the wild horses looked like Spanish horses. These studies confirmed that the Pryor Mountain Wild Horses indeed had colors and conformation consistent with Spanish horses.
The Pryor Mountain Wild Mustangs are a type of horse today known as the Colonial Spanish Horse or the Spanish Mustang, which is considered a rare and endangered breed.
Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang History
50 years ago this year, the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range was established by established by the Secretary of Interior, Stuart Udall. This action came as the result of a group of local people who saw the importance of preserving the special group of horses that live just to the north of Lovell, Wyoming. That is where the history of the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center began as well.
The Mustang Center evolved from the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Association, a loosely knit group of local citizens who worked to save the wild horses in the mid-1960s. Some of the members of the committee who remained active through the years were Bob Doerr, Wes Meeker, Reverend Schwieger, Emil Doerr, and Phyllis Hill, along with the Lovell Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Lovell. John Nickle supported the committee as Town Manager of Lovell. They all worked to help Lloyd and Royce Tillett and their families in their battle with the BLM to save the herd of wild horses in the Pryor Mountains. The work for the Pryor Horses was brought to the public’s attention through the Lovell Chronicle and reporter, Beverly Robertson. Hope Ryden, then a roving reporter with ABC TV, aided the cause by airing a report on national TV that brought nationwide attention to the plight of the Pryor horses.
Finally in 1968, Secretary Stewart Udall established the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range in Montana and Wyoming. This became the first public Wild Horse Range in America. Clyde Reynolds, then Mayor of Lovell, was named to the first Wild Horse National Advisory Board, which convened their first meeting in Lovell. Reverend Schweiger liked to say, “Come to Lovell to see the first horses on the first wild horse range.”
The Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center was incorporated in 1998 by Reverend Floyd Schweiger and John T. Nickle with initial donations of $300 each. John Nickle served as President and appointed Reverend Schweiger, Richard Doerr, Jim Edwards, Daphne Hartman, and Phillip Schaeling as the original board.
The Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center now serves as a permanent advocate group for the Pryor horses. The network of support for the Pryor Horses has grown from a local, to a national, to an international level. The Mustang Center serves as the local source for information and advocacy for the horses. Thousands of visitors from all over the United States and the world visit the Mustang Center each year. These visitors are provided information about the horses and where to find them in their mountain home. This was the dream of Reverend Schweiger and remains the dream of John Nickle and the Board of Directors. Please join us in supporting the Pryor horses.