Saving the indigenous Navajo horse
Rather than refer to them as feral, it would be better to say that all the horses of the American West are wild. The Navajo horse is indeed quite special – bred for the unique environ and purposes of the Navajo Nation. We should be working to preserve all of these national treasures. ~ HfH
From: Navajo Times
By Guest Columnist: George Hardeen
Like flecks of gold in a stream, hidden within the vast herds on the Navajo rangeland is something distinct, once highly-prized, and a significant source of Diné teachings — the indigenous Navajo horse.
Missing from the discussion about whether feral horses should be rounded up, sent to slaughter, left alone or placed in a sanctuary is a concern that a precious Navajo treasure with unique genetic and historical roots is also being unknowingly and systematically removed.
Like pawning grandma’s jewelry, tribal and chapter roundups may have an unintended consequence — the permanent loss of a rare family heirloom.
Horses are not an endangered species. But the Navajo horse, recognizably different from other breeds, is endangered by human activity — and human neglect. As the Navajo Nation continues feral horse roundups, it is decreasing not just domestic horse breeds but this uncommonly special Navajo horse from the only home it has known and adapted to over hundreds of years.
DNA genetic typing using mane or tail hair as a source sample could determine which of these horses may be descended from colonial Spanish horses and could be saved as a uniquely Navajo breed distinct from others that have been increasingly introduced to the Navajo Nation since the 1960s and 70s.
What is at stake? To answer, let’s consider what is the Navajo horse?
History tells us that Spanish explorer Alvar Nu–ez Cabeza de Vaca shipwrecked on the coast of Texas in 1535 and traveled west.