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Werehorses for White Wolf’s Werewolf: the Apocalypse By Laura M. Henson © 2005
APPENDIX: THE ANIMAL KINFOLK
In the Beginning there was a wild horse, and that horse was man… -Ancient Babylonian Myth.
Very little has been written on wild horses and most people simply assume that they are similar to domestic steeds. In reality, however, wild equines are as different from tame horses as wolves are from dogs. As in wolves, wild horses live in extended family groups that have a strict pecking order. The herd is led by a lead mare and stallion. The stallion is dominant in most situations for it is his job to scout ahead to find good pasture, keep the herd safe from predators, and locate safe water and places to rest. The lead mare on the other hand keeps order in the herd and decides the herd’s movement, leading the band as it moves in single file in order of rank as the stallion brings up the rear. Next come the mature mares and their young (foals have the same rank as their mother until they are weaned) in order of age. Unlike wolves, horse herds are bound together by bonds of friendship as well as family relationships. To cement herd bonds two horses stand side by side, head to tail, and groom each others head and back. As horses cannot reach this area of their bodies by themselves they must learn to trust the close presence of another horse to keep themselves clean. All herd members will groom other herd members and will not groom strangers. Interestingly, a horse herd may have non-equine members. Many wild horses have herds that include various antelopes, small wild cats, or even ostriches that repay the herd with using their superior senses to detect predators. Even humans may be adopted into a horse herd, if a man stands in front of a horse and reaches out to scratch its neck and the horse reaches out ant begins to groom the man’s shoulder than that man is considered a member of the herd. Of course a human will have to inspire considerable trust before being adopted in this fashion by a wild herd but Ashringa in human form would probably be accepted without issue. Rank order is maintained by pantomime aggression, instead of kicking another horse the lead mare may simply lift a hoof or instead of biting she may simply snarl. Other facial expressions include smiling
(ears up and mouth partially open without showing the teeth) and a variety of angry expressions ranging from a closed mouth frown (with the ears back) to a true snarl with the ears back and the teeth showing. Submissive herd members show their status by lowering their head and tail and clacking their teeth. Stallions often show a gesture called snaking that looks ferocious (the male lowers his head and snakes it forward while snarling) but is really a signal for the herd to move because the stallion senses danger. The mares and their young remain united whether or not the stallion is present. If he dies or leaves the herd for any reason the normal family existence continues until another male adopts the herd. Sometimes (especially during the mating season, which is February to March in the northern hemisphere) a displaced young stallion may attempt to take a herd away from another stallion by force. If the old stallion is defeated, the herd accepts the new male without any disturbance to the rank relationships (however individual mares have been known to flee back to their chosen stallion when they have the chance). Unlike many mammals the new male does not kill the young of the previous male but those young stallions that are old enough to leave their mother may go with their father when he leaves the herd. It is commonly believed that stallions drive off or kill their young colts while the young mares stay in the herd but this is a falsehood. In reality the young stallions leave their family groups when they are around three years old, not because they are driven off (indeed they may be on very good terms with their father), but because they wish to start a life of their own. Groups of adolescent males form bachelor herds of around fifteen animals that have no apparent rank order. This group of friends eventually breaks up as members meet available fillies or encounter an unrelated group of mares and form their own herd. The young female leaves the family group at an earlier age than her brother, often during her first heat when she is only fifteen months old. Fillies are seldom fertile this first season but the sight and smell of these young mares is especially attractive to young bachelor males. Females who stay with their families during this time will find their herd pestered by hoards of lustful teenage males who may utterly exhaust the family stallion as he attempts to chase them away from his daughter. Eventually she will leave with one of her suitors (or her herd will actually take her to a group of bachelors so she can pick a young one) and send a year or so traveling from one herd to another until she finally settles down with a male. If the mare’s chosen stallion already has a family than she becomes a member of his harem, if he is a bachelor than she becomes the lead mare of a new herd. Of course the lifestyle described above differs somewhat according to species. The wild asses and grevy’s zebra live in smaller groups and do not migrate when food becomes scarce. Instead the males and females separate into same sex herds that occupies different areas of the territory until food is plentiful again. The courtship behavior also varies with species. In most equines the male prances around the female, tossing his mane and nickering. Grevy’s zebra and onagers however mark out an area with dung and urine and any female who wishes to mate with him simply enters his territory. In contrast to the lek behavior of the previous two species the African wild ass engages in ritual combat, a female not choosing a male that she can defeat in battle. Once pregnant all wild equines carry their young for one full year and the newborn is able to walk within hours of being born. Some herds have to deal with interference by man. In this case there is a yearly roundup of the horses and many of the mares and foals are sold at auction while almost all the males are either killed or gelded. The remaining females are set free with only those few males that the government decides are worth breeding. Sometimes the males released are not even of the same breed but are domestic stallions that the men hope will contaminate the bloodline. This “management” often “improves the breed” (I.e. makes the horses look more like domestic animals) but makes the horses less fit to survive in the wild. Most of the wild equines treated in this fashion are the wild ponies of Europe and America, Mustangs and Brumbies.
Most people think horses have limited vocalizations but equines do more than neigh. The calls of equines fall into three basic types: the whinny, nicker, and blow. These sounds correspond respectively to the howl, whine, and barking of wolves. The whinny (a sound that varies from the neigh of true horses to the braying of the asses and the barking of the zebras) is a low pitched sound that carries for several miles and is used to communicate over a long distances, to call another member of the herd, to call other herds (stallions will often call to one another so that they will not intrude on each others territory) and to welcome back missing herd mates. The nicker is a low vibrating sound used by mothers to call their foals and as a submissive call between adults. The blow is an unusual sound that is made by exhaling sharply through the nose. In pitch and loudness this call is exactly like a dog’s bark and is used when the horse senses something unusual, to get the attention of the herd, or to signal a neutral state of mind without the aggression of a scream (the horse equivalent of a growl) or the submission of a nicker. Horses have excellent senses of hearing and smell. They also have the largest eyes of any land mammal and the eyes are placed on the sides of the head, an arrangement that allows the horse to see in a wider arc than man. In horses the only blind spot is directly behind the animal. Unfortunately this eye placement allows for less depth perception than the eyesight of men or wolves. In addition all equines are far sighted and have trouble focusing on things that are close up through their distance vision is superb. Horses do see in color but have trouble distinguishing between yellows and greens. Their night vision is equivalent to that of a wolf. All together the vision of horses is better than that of rats so there is no more need for special vision rules for Ashringa in equine form than there is for Rat-kin in rodent form so none are given in these rules. Horses are also among the most intelligent of animals and come out as number six on animal IQ tests. In these tests the order of the most to least intelligent are humans, apes, dolphins, elephants, wolves, horses, pigs, goats, cattle, deer, kangaroos, sheep and rats. Donkeys, mules, and onagers are even more intelligent than true horses so much so that one scientist declared that “the dumbest jackass on earth is a genius compared to the smartest horse that ever lived.” the IQ of wild equines has never been studied but it is likely that it is closer to the donkey level than that of the pampered domestic horse much as wolves score higher on IQ tests than domestic dogs. Even so domestic horses have learned how to open their stable doors, turn on lights, and even how to line dance to western country music!
The Kinfolk of the Arweharis
“They say that no man dared to ride him and he remained forever the spirit of the valley, saddled only by the sun, moon, stars, and shadow - Abjer, the horse of Antar.” - “The Horse of Antar”, an African myth more than 1500 years old. Of all the Ashringa the Arweharis were the least affected by the ravages of the other shape shifters. The only equine kin of the Arweharis known outside of Africa was Grevy’s zebra which was captured for use in the gladiator arenas of the Romans. With the collapse of the Roman Empire the zebra became regulated to myth, a monstrous beast half horse half tiger that no serious European believed in. When the Dutch settlers of South Africa rediscovered the zebra they soon began to ruthlessly slaughter the animals in order to make their hides into shoes, vegetable sacks, and the connecting bands for machinery. By 1883 two types of zebra were extinct and the rest severely endangered. Today three zebra species are still endangered but the three varieties of plains zebra are the most numerous wild horses in the world, both in the wild and in zoos.
Mountain Zebra (Equus [Hippotigris] zebra): the first zebra to be discovered was called the Berkwagga, Wildepaard, or Dauw by the Native Africans. It was the smallest zebra at only 12 hands high, seven feet long and 500 lbs. In appearance it resembles a short eared donkey with a dewlap of skin hanging from its throat. There are two distinct types of Mountain Zebra, The Cape (E. zebra zebra) inhabits Namibia and the west coast of South Africa and the Hartmann’s (E. zebra hartimannae) inhabits central South Africa. The Cape variety is white with a brownish black muzzle and stripes of the same color extending all the way to the hooves. Hartmann’s is slightly larger (571 lbs.) and appears whiter due to the fact that its stripes are much narrower than the Cape subspecies. Mountain zebras were once very common but by 1850 the Cape variety was almost exterminated. The only survivors were a few herds that lived on land owned by Boer farmers. In 1937 one of these farms was bought by the South African government and declared to be Mountain Zebra National Park. By that time only six animals (five stallions and a mare) inhabited the area. By 1950 this number had dropped to two so a neighboring farmer named J. K. Lombaard, donated his herd of five stallions and six mares. In 1964 the herd had grown to 25 and the “Doornhoek” herd of 30 was added to the park. Today there are still only 600 Cape zebras throughout the world. Hartmann’s Mountain zebra did much better but even it has dropped from a high of 50,000 animals in 1956 to only 5,000-8,000 today. Grevy’s Zebra (Equus [Dolichohippus] grevyi): In its native Africa this species is known as the Fer’o, N’dorobo, or Kangani. It is the largest zebra at up to nine feet long, 14-15 hands tall at the shoulder, and weighing 780-950 lbs. In appearance Grevy’s zebra is white with many narrow stripes that reach down to the hooves but do not touch the belly. The muzzle is dark and the ears are large and rounded. This is a desert species that inhabits the arid grasslands of Ethiopia and Sudan. Never numerous, the fencing in of waterholes for use by domestic cattle and horses has placed Grevy’s zebra on the endangered species list. Plains Zebra (Equus [Hippotigris] burchelli): the most abundant of all zebras this species comes in three surviving races and two that are provisionally extinct. The two extinct forms are the quagga (E. b. quagga) and the bontiquagga (E. b. burchelli). The quagga inhabited most of South Africa and had a brown head and body, white legs and tail and black stripes on its head, neck and shoulders. Sometimes the stripes would persist as appaloosa spots on the rump but most were almost solid brown. The bontiquagga of South Africa’s East coast, in contrast, was almost pure white with pale stripes only on its head, neck and upper back. Both were exterminated by over hunting and both were selected by the South African Museum’s Quagga Project in 1988 to be recreated by selectively breeding Chapman’s zebras with the proper markings. In November 1991 the fist foal displaying proper quagga coloration was born. The project continues with assistance from cloning and it is hoped that soon all zebra species will once again roam Africa’s savannahs. Grant’s (or Böhm’s) Zebra (Equus burchelli granti): this is the most common of all zebras. Its range extends from southern Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia, south into Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. This is the zebra of Tsavo National Park and the Ngorongoro crater. In appearance it is pony like and quite variable in color. Most are white with wide black stripes that encircle the belly and reach to the hooves but a few are black with white stripes or even black with white spots like a snowflake appaloosa!
Selous Zebra (Equus burchelli selousi): this zebra resembles Grant’s subspecies but the stripes are narrower, more numerous and sometimes do not cover the belly. Faint brownish shadow stripes may mark the hindquarters. Selous Zebra ranges from the Lower Zambezi River south to the Limpopo River in Mozambique, eastern Zambia and Malawi. Chapman’s (or Damaraland) Zebra (Equus burchelli chapmanni): this zebra ranges from Benguela in Angola, through Damaraland in south West Africa and east into the Transvaal and Zululand provinces of South Africa. It is another variable race with brownish black stripes on a cream background. Most have numerous shadow stripes throughout their coats and stripes that do not extend to the hooves. A few are very pale with cream stripes on a white background and unstriped bellies.
The Kinfolk of the Avarim
“An abundance of myths link the little horse with the unicorn. Perhaps, as some say, the pony is really the unicorn minus the horn.” - Gerald and Loretta Hausman, “The Mythology of Horses”. The dun and white tarpan had roamed Europe since the ice age and was held sacred by the native tribes. In Celtic myth they were the sacred animals of Rhiannon, the Earth Mother, and a “were-tarpan” was said to have founded the royal line of Russia. The commoners deliberately staked their pony mares in the open in the hope that they would have colts sired by their wild relatives as the results were prized for their stamina and intelligence. This lasted until the sixteenth century when Henry the VIII, king of England passed a law that effectively allowed only the nobility to own horses. This was the Bill for the Breeding of Horses that called for the extermination of any horse less than 14 hands in height. As a result in England, and to a lesser extent Europe, all ponies (including the tarpans) were viciously hunted to near extinction. It was during this period of extermination that ponies became associated with the little people. It was claimed that the reason there are still ponies in Ireland is because the Faeries took them Underhill until the King’s law was changed. Unfortunately the law was not repealed until the nineteenth century and by then the last pureblooded tarpan had become extinct. Today the Avarim find equine breeding stock in the feral ponies of Europe and North America and in the hybrid tarpans found in wildlife parks and zoos. In most of these horses a yearly roundup in which the foals are sold at auction is performed, an action that means that most Avarim are of Homid breed as most Equine Avarim make their first change in captivity. Plains Tarpan (Equus [Equus] ferus gmelini): the original wild horse, European tarpans once came in several varieties including a forest species (E..f. silvestris) that gave rise to the domestic cart horse and a desert species (E. f. ferus) which gave rise to most other domestic breeds. The tarpan was the horse found in the famous cave paintings of ice age Europe and was a major game animal, hunted for meat and sport, until the sixteenth century. At this time the value of ponies plummeted in favor of hot blooded race horses and horses that could carry heavy armor. As tarpans were notorious for killing domestic stallions the verdict was death to the wild horse. In 1879
the last wild European tarpan (the plains species) was killed in a desperate attempt to avoid capture and the last tarpan on earth died only eight years later in the Munich Zoo. The Polish government in a desperate attempt to preserve the species collected a number of ponies with tarpan blood and set them loose in the forest reserves of Bialowlieza and Popieleno. Many years later several takhi (Przewalski’s horses) were released in the reserves to try to overwhelm the last of the domestic blood. Today experts argue over whether the species was preserved or restored but its appearance suggests that it is as pure as its takhi relative. It is a small equine (6 ½ feet long, 13 hands tall, and weighing 750 lbs.) with a lighter build than the takhi and with a more flowing mane. In the summer it is a blue grey (grulla) color fading to snow white in the winter. Caspian Pony (Equus [Equus] caballus aquilius): this is a form of the domestic horse descended from the Plateau tarpan (E. caballus ferus ferus) and by 3000 BC it was tamed for use by the Egyptian charioteers. In time it was bred for larger size and crossed with other tarpan types to create the Arabian and other “warm blooded” horse breeds and the original strain was believed to have died out. In 1965 a few herds of this variety were discovered running wild in the Elburtz Mountains near the Caspian Sea. Captured Caspian ponies were soon re-domesticated and can now be found as a riding horse worldwide. Caspian ponies resemble miniature Arabian horses only 9-12 hands tall. In color they are gray, brown, bay, or chestnut. White markings on the head and legs are rare. European Feral Ponies (Equus [Equus] caballus celticus): these are the descendants of domestic ponies that returned to the wild during the times of Henry VIII. These ponies can be found in semi-wild herds that are rounded up once a year by the local government and sold at auction. Those stallions considered fit to breed are released while the rest are sold and gelded. Many of these ponies have since become established breeds that can be found worldwide. European Breeds: Germany is home to two breeds, the Senner which is almost extinct (or is extinct according to some authorities) which inhabits the forest of Teutoberger Wald, and the Dulmen which now numbers less than 100 animals and is found in the Meerfelder Bruch reserve in Westphalia, which are 12 hands tall and black, brown, or dun in color. Another breed can be found in the forest of Hojsta on Sweden’s Gotland Island. The Gotland is common in captivity and is 12-13 hands high and dun, black, bay, chestnut, gray, or palomino in color. France has three breeds of feral pony. The Basque region has the Pottock which resembles a large with whiskers on its upper lip which protect its nose from the thorny plants it eats and comes in black, brown, bay, chestnut and pinto. The Camarguais (gray, bay, or brown) and the Merens (which is always black in color) are slightly larger (13-14 hands high) and are especially loved by the Gypsy peoples. Brittish Breeds: There are two wild ponies remaining in Britain. These are the Welsh and new Forest ponies. The last wild Welsh ponies can be found in the mountains of Wales where several Arabian horses released into the area have made it a near twin of the Caspian. Another pony is found only in the New Forest preserve in England. These New Forest ponies are 12-14 hands tall and come in all equine colors except pinto and tyger. American Feral Ponies (Equus [Equus] caballus caballu ): the New World also contains two populations of wild ponies, one in Canada and one in America. They are basically hybrids of feral ponies of ibericus, aqilus and celticus blood. The Canadian breed is the Sable Island pony. This 14 hands tall tarpan like pony is said to be descended from French ponies that were abandoned on the tiny treeless Island in the eighteenth century. There are currently only 300 Sable Island ponies in the world and they are gray, black, brown, bay, or dark chestnut in color.
More famous is the Chincoteague pony of the United States. These ponies are 12 hands tall and are found only on Assateague Island off West Virginia. According to legend they are the descendants of Caspian ponies that escaped from a Moorish ship that sank near the Island during the early days of American exploration. In colonial times Shetland ponies were released onto the island which caused the native horses to diminish in size, changed the color to pinto, and made the breed more massive in build. In the early 20th century the release of several Welsh ponies onto Assateague Island restored some of the original pony’s quality. For decades the ponies were rounded up by the volunteer fire department of Chincoteague Island on the last Thursday and Friday in July. The horses were then swum across the narrow channel between the two islands where the foals were sold at auction. Recently the American government has fenced off the ponies from most of Assateague island claiming that the ponies harm the wetlands. This move that has angered the people of Chincoteague who point out that the ponies have lived on the island for centuries without affecting the wetlands and that the fence was actually built to keep the ponies from their main grazing land and shelter from storms. This view seems to be correct for hurricanes have devastated the herds since the fence was built making “pony penning day” a thing of the past.
The Kinfolk of the Karkadamm
A man said to a wild ass one day “Let me ride you and I will feed you”, whereupon the ass replied, “keep your fodder and may you never ride me!” - from “The Book of Abiquar,” written in the fifth century. The wild asses of Arabia are the kinfolk of the Karkadamm. These creatures (often called demi-asses) resemble mules but are a group of species unto themselves. Demi-asses once roamed the entire northern hemisphere before the end of the ice age restricted them to Asia. In the days of the Sumerians onagers and their kin were captured to pull chariots but were so vicious they had to be controlled with a nose ring. Once the donkey was tamed anyone who still owned a demi-ass was said to be “half assed” because the onagers were half again harder to control then even the wildest donkey. Once returned to the wild the demi-asses soon became favored game for royal hunts due to their great speed, tender meat, and their unique ankle bones which were used to make dice. This hunting was so extreme that two subspecies quickly became extinct and most of the rest are severely endangered. Luckily for the proud Karkadamm their animal kin are well represented in many wild animal parks and zoos worldwide. Onager (Equus [Assinus] hemionus onager): this subspecies of demi-ass inhabits western Arabia in the form of two races. The true Onager (E. h. o. onager) can be found in North West Persia, Kasbin, Western Pakistan, and Iran. It is 10-12 hands high, 6 ½ feet long, and weigh up to 640 lbs. In color the true Onager is sandy yellow with a white belly and muzzle. Its mane, tail and dorsal stripe is brown. The Khur (E. h. o. khur) is closely related to the onager and differs in having white lower legs and ranging from South Pakistan to West India. There are less then a thousand khurs and no more than 400 true onagers on Earth. Kulan (Equus [Assinus] hemionus kulan kulan): this subspecies (and its extinct kin the Anatolian ass [E. h. kulan anatoliensis] which died out in Roman times and the Syrian ass [E. h. kulan hemippus] who died out in 1930) are sometimes classed as Onagers and sometimes as Dzigettais and sometimes as their own
subspecies by scientists. The living race once roamed from Iran to Mongolia but today it is restricted to Turkistan and North West Afghanistan. It is the same size and color as the Onager except that the white on its belly extends onto its flanks and the legs are almost entirely white. The kulan is the fastest equine on earth and is able to run at over 40 mph. today there are less than 2000 kulans in the world. Dzigettai (Equus [Assinus] hemionus hemionus): this subspecies is better known in the West as the ghorkhur and it is a large demi-ass (13 hands tall) from Mongolia’s Gobi desert and the plains of east Kazakhstan, Manchuria, Balkash, and Kansu. It resembles a kulan in markings but differs in having a reddish gold coat with a black dorsal stripe, mane and tail. There are less than 300 of these animals in the world. Kiang (Equus [Asinus] kiang): the kiang was long classified as a hemionus but its behavior is so different that it is now placed in its own species. The main difference between the kiang and the other demi-asses is the fact that kiangs live in large herds and love to swim while the other demi-asses are solitary and will refuse to even step in water. It resembles a deep reddish gold dzigettai and is found in Northern and Eastern India and is particularly common in Tibet. The kiang is the only demi-ass that is not in danger of extinction.
The Kinfolk of the Killina
The unicorn is to come in the shape of an incomparable man, a revealer of mysteries, supernatural and divine, and a great lover of mankind. - N. McCloud, “An Epitome of the Ancient History of Japan”. Przewalski’s horse was known for centuries as the Takhi or “good luck horse” in its native lands of Mongolia and China but expanding agriculture and hunting soon made the horse almost extinct. Discovered by science only in 1881 it was deemed to be almost identical to the steppe tarpan drawn in the cave paintings of Eastern Europe and moves were quickly made to preserve these horses from the wars that were killing off so much of China’s wildlife at the time. The Duke of Bedford, a member of the Zoological Society of London, arranged for the capture of several takhi for his organization but of the 50 takhi captured only 13 lived to reach England. The surviving horses were bred to domestic Mongolian ponies to prevent inbreeding and their descendants are now found in zoos worldwide. This was fortunate for by 1969 it had become extinct in the wild. There are now 200 animals in zoos and wildlife parks and about 50 were released into the Takin Shara Nuru (“mountains of the yellow horses“) in Mongolia in 1990. Takhi (Equus [Equus] ferus przwalskii przwalskii): the Asiatic wild horse stands 12-14 hands tall, is 6-8 feet long and weighs up to 767 lbs. In color it is yellow, ranging from cream to deep golden brown with a dark brown to black mane and tail and a white muzzle. The lower legs are either the same color as the mane or marked with zebra stripes. In the winter the coat becomes longer and greyer in color and both sexes develop a goat-like beard. The Takhi shares with the American Curly the unusual trait of shedding their entire mane and tail when molting instead of simply shedding individual hairs all year like other horses.
Yonaguni (Equus [Equus] caballus ibericus): a pony of the Mongolian type that runs wild in two herds on Okinawa Island in Japan. Like most feral ponies the Yonaguni is rounded up yearly for vaccinations and to have the “excess” foals auctioned off. These tiny (11 hands tall) ponies are used as kinfolk by both the Nabrima and those few Killina who still live in Japan.
The Kinfolk of the Nabrima
One by one in the moonlight there, Neighing far off on the haunted air, The unicorns come down to the sea. - Corbin Aiken, “Evening Song”. Many wild ponies of the tarpan type once inhabited Indonesia but as man colonized these islands the native horses were captured and crossbred with domestic stock. The surviving Nabrima are now stuck with only two kinfolk, each one at the extreme north or south of the bão’s range. The kinfolk to the north are the Yonaguni which is shared with the Killina (see above) while the kinfolk to the south are the Australian Brumby. Those Nabrima who live outside Indonesia and Australia are usually of human stock though it is possible for a few kinfolk horses to be kept in captivity. Brumby (Equus [Equus] caballus caballus): the brumby is the descendant of many domestic horse breeds, including ponies and draft horses, which were abandoned in the outback by the early settlers of Australia. These horses were allowed to run wild and eventually reverted to a wild type much like the American mustang. Unlike the Mustang however the brumby has become so wild that it is practically untamable. In size the Brumby ranges from 13 to 15 hands high and comes in all equine colors. In the 1960’s the Australian government declared war on the brumby, claiming that they ate grass meant for sheep, and began to shoot at them from trucks and helicopters. Today the brumby is very rare and inhabits only the most remote areas of the outback.
The Kinfolk of the Nhurim
“The mustang doesn’t just belong to Nevada. He is a symbol of freedom to all. He is our American heritage, as meaningful as the battlefield at Yorktown or the White Church at Lexington. Even more so, because he is a living symbol!” - Wild Horse Annie during her famous trial to illegalize mustanging. The horse evolved in North America and many species once roamed the New World including Grant’s zebras, kiangs, and donkeys. By the end of the last ice age, however, only one species remained. This was the Arctic Tarpan. It was similar to the Takhi of China except that it had a thick wooly coat to protect it from the arctic snow and tended to be palomino in color. When man fist came to the New World these horses were hunted like deer and, as the ice age waned and the environment warmed, the horses became rarer and moved into the relatively cooler mountains. By the time the white man came these horses were
restricted to the isolated desert mountains of California and Nevada. In the early 1500’s the first Spaniards landed on the east coast of Mexico and, as the eastern Indian tribes knew nothing of horses, they treated the Spanish horses as supernatural beasts. By the time the first Europeans traveled to the west it had become “a fact” that America had no wild horses so any seen by the explorers “had to be escaped domestic steeds”. Thus the myth that all of America’s horses died out over 12,000 years age became part of the history books despite the insistence of the Indians of Nevada and California that there were “horses before there were horses” and the presence of American cave drawings and sculptures in that area of horses that date from before the coming of the Spanish! Today there is conflict between the government, which wants to exterminate the horse (which it regards as a non-native species) from America’s national parks, and the average citizen who sees the mustang as the very symbol of the west. The latter recently received confirmation of their view in 1993 when miners working in Alaska dug up a mummified horse. Analysis showed that it was over 26,000 years old but when genetic tests were done this supposed new species (the remains were dubbed Equus lambi) turned out to be genetically identical to the living mustang! The fight to change the status of the American horse from “feral pest” to an endangered species is currently being fought by the National Mustang Association and the Nhrim are in the thick of the battle. Mustang (Equus [Equus] caballus): the mustang is the descendant of Andalusian, Barb (both of subspecies ibericus), and Arabian (subspecies aqilus) horses that were stolen from the Spanish by the Apache Indians in 1598. As time went on the “elk dog” (as the Indians called it) soon became indispensable to the lives of the plains Indians, a fact that soon got it the enmity of the new American Government. At fist new settlers were simply encouraged to fence mustangs off from grazing land and watering holes. Soon the farmers were told to shoot the horses because they supposedly competed with domestic cattle for grass, fouled watering holes (in reality horses dig watering holes which benefit’s the local wildlife), and stole domestic mares. Cowboys called “mustangers” captured the horses and sold them for $10.00 each to the British for use in the Boer War in the 1890’s. By 1925 the U.S. government decided to expand cattle ranching in the west. As an excuse to remove the mustang from public land once and for all the government claimed there were now too many mustangs. In actuality the herds had already dropped from a high of over two million animals to less than a million. They passed a law that allowed any unbranded horse to be sold by anyone who captured it. These horses were then sold for $2.00-$3.00 each to pet food plants. In 1934 congress demoted the wild horse from “wildlife” to “feral pest” and gave permission for them to be rounded up out of the national parks and sold for profit. By the end of the 1950’s more then 100,000 mustangs in Nevada alone were killed to make chicken feed. In 1959 Mrs. Velma C. Johnston, better known as Wild Horse Annie, was driving along a country road when she saw a truck leaking blood and gore. Curious she followed the truck to a slaughter house and to her horror saw that the truck was full of mustangs. The wheelchair bound young woman disfigured by polio filmed the atrocities committed by the mustangers. She filmed them as they chased their quarry in helicopters while shooting at them to make them run over sharp rocks until their hooves were nothing but bloody stumps until they finally chased them over cliffs to break their legs. The horses were then tied up with barbed wire and piled atop one another in the trucks which then carted them away to the rendering plants. Though ridiculed by politicians (who nicknamed the woman “Horse-Faced Annie”) the public was outraged by this misuse of tax dollars and forced the passing of the Wild Horse Act which prohibited the hunting of mustangs with airplanes and automobiles. Despite the Wild Horse Act the hunting continued for the Act did not prevent mustang hunting on horseback or the selling of branded horses on public land. During this time many mustangs were captured, branded, and sold to slaughter houses in order to bypass the law. The poaching finally resulted in a massive public protest that resulted in the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act that made it a crime to capture,
brand or kill a wild horse or burro. By now there were less than 10,000 mustangs alive. Nevertheless a mere ten years later in 1981 the government claimed there were now 55,000 mustangs and began rounding them up and putting them up for adoption. In 1990 it was revealed that the adoption program was a sham and that most of the horses were sold to government agents who then sold the mustangs to slaughter houses. Public outrage was the result but the practice continues. Today there are an estimated 45,000 mustangs but most of these specimens have been bred on farms and ranches for generations as cow or rodeo ponies and most contain the blood of domestic breeds. The true wild population teeters at only a few thousand and only the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Refuge in Montana and the Owyhee Desert in Nevada have sizable herds. Mustangs come in all horse colors and average 15 hands high. American Curly (Equus [Equus] ferus przwalskii arcticus): the arctic tarpan was long believed extinct when a rancher named Peter Damele rounded up three odd looking animals among a herd of mustangs in 1898. The new horses were much smaller than a mustang with oriental eyes, perfectly round hooves, a double mane and the curly coat of a sheep. Since the Damele family had a Ripley’s believe it or not cartoon claiming that the Russian Bashkirsky horse had curly hair the Damele’s simply assumed that the ponies were members of that breed. Later they would learn that such horses had been reported from America as long ago as 1700 and the local Indians had always known of the horses. By 1971 only 20 of these horses were known to exist and the Damele family crossed these last known Arctic tarpans with mustangs, Morgan, and Quarter horses. Today the breed has crossbred so extensively with the mustang that it is technically extinct as a true subspecies. In captivity however the modern hybrid American Bashkir Curly numbers 2,500 members. Curlys stand 14-15 hands tall and weigh 800 to 1,100 pounds. They share with the takhi the unusual feature of having a mane and tail that is completely shed each year. The mane is always double and the coat comes in all colors including pinto and tyger. The original coat color of palomino in the summer and pure white in the winter is still common even in hybrid animals. The mane and tail is long and falls in kinky waves while the body fur varies from only slightly wavy in the summer to long ringlets in the winter.
The Kinfolk of the Nimbi
All of a sudden that stone gave a squeal and jumped right in the air, and you may be sure that the old woman jumped too. But before she had the chance to run, the stone let down four lanky legs and threw out two long ears and waved a great long tail. Then away it went, squealing and laughing like a naughty boy. - “the Hedley Kow”, an ancient English folktale. The Nimbi’s animal kin is the African wild ass and the feral donkeys (Equus [Assinus] assinus) of the world. While today the ass is associated with stubbornness and stupidity in ancient times the gray-horse was the very symbol of cleverness, trickery, and the faeries. It was the playful Hedley Kow which changed its shape to trick the greedy, it was Bottom in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Nights Dream, and it was Bright Angel the very spirit of the Grand Canyon. The wild ass originally came in four types of which three are considered extinct. The Northern Ass (E. a. hydruntinus) inhabited the entire northern hemisphere from Europe to California. It became extinct at the end of the ice age and is known only from fossils. The Algerian (E. a. atlantics) inhabited the Atlas Mountains of Algeria and Morocco. It was exterminated in Roman times but it gave rise first to the domestic donkey at least 6,000 years ago. The Nubian Ass (E.
a. africanus) inhabited Egypt and the Sudan until the late 1980’s. Today it can be found only on the island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean where the last known survivors escaped from a zoo and hybridized with escaped feral donkeys. Somali Wild Ass (Equus assinus somaliensis): this subspecies of donkey was so different from its dun-gray relatives that it was originally classified as a separate species. It is the smallest of all wild horses at only 8-10 hands high, 6 ½ feet long and weighing up to 600 pounds. In color it is slate or rose, often with a bluish cast with a white underside and muzzle and with zebra stripes on the legs. It lacks the dorsal stripe and shoulder cross found in all other donkeys. The Somali originally inhabited Somalia and Ethiopia but due to over hunting, the fencing off of watering holes and chasing the animals for sport the population has been reduced to only a few hundred found in the deserts of the Sudan. Burro (Equus [Assinus] assinus assinus): the North American burro is descended from domestic donkeys that were released by prospectors and miners during the days of California’s Gold Rush. Its history is similar to that of the mustang including the change in its status from wildlife to feral foreign species and the removal of all wild burros from public land. Even the statue of Bright Angel was torn down from its place in the Grand Canyon and replaced with a sign claiming that wild burros destroy waterholes and eat the grass meant for native sheep. Also like the mustang recent fossil finds have caused the public to ask about these policies for an ice age burro was found in 1990 in California’s La Brea Tar Pits, a find that refutes the government’s claims that the burro is not a native species. The wild burro comes in all donkey colors though slate with a white belly, muzzle, and eye ring is the most common. Like its domestic kin most burros have a dorsal cross of dark hair and shaggy coats.
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