William Ranney, Hunting Wild Horses, 1846, oil on canvas, 36 x 541/ inches. Courtesy Museum 2 of the American West, Autry National Center, Los Angeles. Peter H. Hassrick* "T he zoology of the Prairies has probably attracted more attention than any other feature in their natural history," wrote the western chronicler Josiah Gregg in the immensely popular account of his frontier travels, Commerce of the Prairies, in 1844. Leading off a chapter on the animals of the Southwest was what Gregg considered "by far the most noble" of the beasts, the "mustang or wild horse of the Prairies."1 More than the wily gray wolf, the fleet and nimble antelope, or the ubiquitous buffalo, the wild horse exemplified the venerated notion of freedom on the expansive southwestern grasslands. America's James Boswell, Washington Irving wrote about his brief tour of that region nearly a decade earlier, championing the wild horse as the "free rover of the prairies" and extolled the innate "pride and freedom of his nature."2 The Indian painter George Catlin had ridden across the southern plains in 1834 and was, after direct observation, compelled to claim that there existed "no other animal on the prairies so wild and
Southwestern Historical Quarterly – Texas State Historical Association
Published: Mar 28, 2007
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