Wild horses could be saved the same way as the buffalo: a free market

Today there are around 500,000 buffalo in the United States, and about 90 percent are in private hands. (Photo: Yellowstone National Park/ Flickr/ CC BY 2.0)

While Gov. Brian Sandoval is threatening to pursue legal action to force the federal government to fund wild horse population control, Bureau of Land Management Nevada Director John Ruhs says he is asking Washington to provide $4 million to pay for rounding up 4,000 wild horses in Elko County, according to The Associated Press.

The BLM is already telling ranchers they may face a reduction in grazing permits due to the overpopulation of feral horses, meaning there will be major economic impact for the state — estimated by state officials to be $1.8 million in Elko County alone. The BLM says the Elko horse herds are 350 percent in excess of what the range can sustain.

The real problem may come once those horses are rounded up, if they are. Though federal law specifically requires captured but unadoptable wild horses to the humanely disposed of, Congress has refused for years to allow any federal funds to be spent to do so.

Instead, as the AP story points out, there are now more than 45,000 mustangs in government corrals and pastures costing of $48,000 per animal over its lifetime or $40 million per year. Another 4,000 horses could add $200 million in warehousing costs.

Perhaps, the government should learn a lesson from how the American bison were saved, not by expensive government roundups but by private enterprise. Today’s Daily Signal recounts studies that show “the number of bison swelled in the 20th century mostly because they were ‘preserved not for their iconic significance in the interest of biological diversity but simply raised to be slaughtered for their meat.'”

A study by Andrew C. Isenberg, a professor of history at Princeton, says it was Western ranchers such as the renowned Charles Goodnight, who captured buffalo calves in 1878, who really saved the buffalo, and “many of the bison that eventually populated government preserves descended from the herd of two Montana ranchers.”

Their primary motive: profit.

“Without question, market forces had contributed to the near-extinction of the bison, along with the political objective of destroying the Indians by eliminating their food source. But that is well known,” writes University of Dayton history professor Larry Schweikart at the Foundation for Economic Education. “What is almost never mentioned is that it was market forces-ranchers, hunters, tourism developers, railroaders, and philanthropists-that ultimately saved the buffalo as well.”

There is a market for slaughtered horses. Domestic horses are routinely slaughtered and rendered for various purposes, including the meat, which is sold largely overseas though same may be sold to zoos. The U.S. has banned the sale of horse meat for pet food.

A free market could provide a protection for and control of the population of horse herds and relieve the taxpayer of huge costs.

Wild horses being warehoused at Palomino Valley near Reno. (Photo by Jo Mitchell)


19 comments on “Wild horses could be saved the same way as the buffalo: a free market

  1. Rez says:

    “Wild horses” are not native wild animals. They are feral domestic horses, and were they not such a handy political football, they’d be regarded as an invasive species and accordingly eliminated.

    But yes, putting them into private hands to do with as they will, that would be improvement. Chances are in a couple generations they’d be down to the few that are actually trainable horses (not real common, lacking the long selection toward trainability that our domestic horses have had) and the problem would go away on all fronts. If that means most of them end up as dog food, so be it… what do you think happens to most privately-owned bison, anyway? they go to slaughter, producing value in exchange for people keeping the species alive.

    Tho “wild horses” are in absolutely no danger of extinction, given that the horse is plentiful enough as a domestic species. Preserve lines of mustangs as you please, but don’t pretend they’re a problem the rest of us should pay for.

  2. Patrick says:

    Really Thomas? Private enterprise “saved” the buffalo after private enterprise brought them to the verge of extinction?

    Little like claiming a serial killer gets credit for “saving” one of his victims because he decided he’d just use her as a sex slave instead isn’t it?

  3. Really.

    The Native Americans might’ve wiped them out if Europeans had not come along to finish the job.

  4. Patrick says:

    Exactly what do you base that on?

  5. If all else fails, follow the links.

  6. Steve says:

    What? He doesn’t read stuff, he only makes up stuff to use as his sham plea!

  7. John L. Smith says:

    And we always thought Mr. Mitchell hated the French. Turns out he’s a closet horse meat eater. That kind of thing will get you kicked out of Texas.

    Formerly known as John L. Smith


  8. How do you think early Nevada explorers survived?

  9. Rincon says:

    I don’t think private market has much to do with it. Once the decision is made to slaughter horses for food, a socialist nation could eat them just as readily. It is the right way to go though. Some people get pretty irrational when animals are involved. That’s what caused the problem in the first place.

  10. Steve says:

    Cruz never had a chance. He’s just Donald “light”.
    Looks like your Republican Democrat nominee will be back in the Whitehouse next year.

  11. Patrick says:

    Sorry to go way off topic here, but this got a WOW out of me and I figured I’d share.

    Keep in mind that this decision came out of Italy’s SUPREME court.


  12. Steve says:

    From the article,
    Corriere Della Sera noted in an opinion piece that statistics show the ranks of Italy’s poor grow by 615 people daily and that it was “unthinkable that the law should not take note of reality,”

    Well, isn’t Italy one of those so called “successful socialist” OECD countries you guys all want the USA to be?

    Here, we have a lot of places for those very people to go and get food just for showing up. No need to steal it. It’s fully paid for and freely provided.

    And yet, you peeps will still insist the USA doesn’t have enough socialism, we should be more like Italy and other similar bastions of “successful socialism”.

    Like Venezuela.


  13. Bill says:

    It is impossible to appeal to logic when it comes to the issue of animals and their use as food. Rather than warehouse horses at great tax payer expense, they should be viewed as a food source. Horses are regularly eaten in many countries but for some reason, in the United States, for some reason based perhaps in religioon or cultural, we actually have laws that prohibit the slaughter and sale of horses for human consumption. Of course, we also prohibit the same for cats and dogs but there is no basis in science or logic for the existence of such laws, or perhasps someone can explain it to me.

  14. Steve says:

    Wall St. opens lower as private jobs data weighs

    The ADP private sector employment report showed that 156,000 jobs were added in April. The number fell way below the 196,000 jobs estimated by economists who were surveyed by Reuters.

    I blame that successful corporate subsidy program, Obamacare!

  15. Rincon says:

    The number of jobs added isn’t very relevant at this time, since we’re at nearly full employment.

    Since Obamacare coincides with a slowing in the growth of medical costs, it seems unlikely that it is having a harmful effect on jobs – unless you’re mourning all of those potential new health care jobs which were never created.

  16. Rincon says:

    If the court decided that this Italian man was stealing only as an alternative to starvation, does that mean that Italy has listened to the Conservatives and discarded its welfare system? Have Conservatives here thought about how we should deal with starving people stealing food for sustenance? Can’t just slap them on the wrist because they will do it again. Jail is expensive. Capital punishment, perhaps?

  17. […] Management — this one to John Ruhs, Nevada state director of the BLM— Gov. Brian Sandoval again takes issue with the proposed restriction on grazing due to over population of wild horses on the range, […]

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