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7. Mustang: Mutt of the West

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Host Ashley Ahearn riding her mare, Pistol, and leading her 3 year old mustang, Boo, in the mountains of Washington
Ashley Ahearn
“I don’t really care what Boo is - he’s a good horse no matter what his genetics tell us.” Host Ashley Ahearn riding her mare, Pistol, and leading her three-year-old mustang, Boo, in the mountains of Washington. Mustangs are basically mutts, but they have evolved to be hardy, surefooted horses that make great companions in all kinds of terrain.

Mustangs do not come from a pure, traceable genetic line, unlike many domestic horses. Their genes are like those of our country: mixed and mingled, influenced by wave after wave of immigration. Mainstream science tells us the modern-day mustang is descended from horses brought over by the Conquistadors, who used them to subjugate the Indigenous peoples of Central America. Later on, horses belonging to the U.S. Cavalry, ranchers and settlers likely added to the wild horse genetic hodgepodge. But there is a much deeper history, if we open our eyes and question the dominant narrative. What if the horse wasn’t introduced by newcomers, but was here all along, living alongside the Indigenous peoples of North America?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, while Boo eats his breakfast one morning, Ashley plucks some of his mane to send off to a genetics lab to find out what Boo’s genes can tell us about the history of wild horses.

A transcript of this episode is available.

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