A Cowboy Fights to Protect the Wilderness and our Nation’s Wild Horses

Dayton Hyde






Dayton Hyde

Dayton Hyde
Courtesy of AARP

Dayton O. Hyde describes the 13,000 acres of land in South Dakota that is home to his Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, along with the wild horses that live there, as “a national treasure.” Hyde himself, an 88-year-old cowboy conservationist, is as precious a national treasure, a hero fighting to the end to protect the land, the water and the wildlife of the American West.

Hyde grew up in Michigan, where his family spent summers on a wilderness lake. “I spent a lot of time by myself when I was young,” Hyde says, his voice gravelly and thick, “and the wildlife became my friends. I determined that wild animals are afraid of people because of their energy fields. I got so that I could make myself into a pack of wet noodles, totally relaxed, and the wildlife was no longer afraid.”

Hyde’s solitary nature led him to write early on, and, in part to experience more adventures that he could write about, he left home at the age of 13 and hopped a freight train to Oregon, where he lived with his uncle on a cattle ranch. It was there that he learned to ride the wild stallions that roamed the area. Today, he says, “Writing is my favorite thing, outside of being on a horse.”

He served in World War II, then worked as a photographer and rodeo clown, before returning to Oregon, where he raised a family while stewarding the waterways and forests of his Yamsi Ranch. He is credited with saving the sandhill Crane from extinction, and has written many books about his efforts to protect the environment.

Watch Trailer for “Running Wild”

Like any hero, Hyde is flawed. At the age of 64, he left the ranch and his family behind to set out for new adventure, a move he now realizes caused his children a great deal of pain. “I felt, at age 64, I wasn’t doing anything with the talents I’d been given,” he explains. While riding cattle in Nevada, he came upon a corral of 2000 wild stallions that had been captured by the Bureau of Land Management. “They were a pretty sad bunch,” he says. “Wild horses are a great joy. Like my own freedom, I understood and cherished the spirit of freedom those animals have.”

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AUTHOR: Posted by Habitat for Horses Calaway
5 Comments
  • mary Gardner

    God Bless you and hope you get it done!

    October 6, 2013
  • BlessUsAll

    Wonderful article. Wonderful man.

    I was introduced to Dayton a decade or more ago when I found, on my mom’s bookshelf, his book on saving sandhill cranes. Today it graces my own bookshelf; in fact, it’s time I reread it!

    When a few years later I learned about Dayton’s wild horse sanctuary, I was thrilled beyond words.

    I’m amazed — and grateful — that Dayton was able to make that initial deal with the BLM. I only wish he could convince today’s BLM officials of the truth of his statement (which I’ve taken the liberty of putting in the present tense): “Wild horses are a great joy. Like my own freedom, I understand and cherish the spirit of freedom these animals have.”

    October 6, 2013
  • BlessUsAll

    P.S. What the heck is that bane of Nevada’s wild horses, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, doing in Dayton’s new film “Running Wild”? To see what I mean, watch the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IooNClINBLQ

    October 6, 2013
  • Valerie W.

    Great article! Going there, meeting Dayton Hyde, & getting to see all his wild horses on his sanctuary, would be my dream of a lifetime! That man is awesome & inspiring, & the work he does is amazing, & his connection & bond with the wild horses & other wildlife is truly a gift. I’m sorry when I tried to watch the trailer, I got no sound, even when I turned my speakers up full blast? Does Dayton have people he trusts that can & will, take over where he leaves off, when he’s no longer able to, & continue his Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary?

    October 8, 2013
  • Margo Nielsen

    What a remarkable man!

    October 8, 2013