A female Mustang horse is called a mare. This term refers specifically to an adult female horse that has reached sexual maturity and is able to breed. The male counterpart is called a stallion, while a young female is called a filly.
What are some key facts about female Mustang horses?
Here are some key facts about female Mustang mares:
- Mares become sexually mature between 1.5-3 years of age
- Gestation period is approximately 11 months
- Mares come into heat during spring and summer
- Estrus cycle is around 21 days
- Mares can give birth until age 20 or older
- Mares care for their foals for about 6 months
- Wild mares live in tight-knit families called bands
- Domestic mares can be used for riding, racing, and breeding
What are the origins and history of Mustang horses?
Mustang horses are descendents of horses brought to the Americas by Spanish explorers in the 16th century. Many escaped or were released and formed large feral herds, mainly in the American West. The name “Mustang” comes from the Spanish word “mesteño” meaning wild or stray.
Some key points in Mustang history include:
- Brought to Americas on Columbus’ second voyage in 1493
- Further imported to Mexico and Florida by Hernán Cortés in 1519
- Escapees multiplied and migrated northward over the next 300 years
- Estimated 2 million Mustangs roamed western US by late 19th century
- Targeted by ranchers viewing them as competition for livestock
- Heavily hunted and captured, with numbers dropping to 17,000 by 1971
- Protected under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971
Today around 82,000 Mustangs remain, with most living in Nevada, California and Wyoming. About 36,000 are in government holding facilities awaiting adoption.
Why were Mustangs so heavily hunted?
As the American West was colonized in the 1800s-1900s, Mustangs came to be viewed as a nuisance by ranchers and farmers. Reasons included:
- Competition with cattle and sheep for grazing land and water
- Eating crops planted on newly-settled farmland
- Reputation for raiding livestock corrals for food
- Hunting for their meat to feed people, pets and livestock
- Capture for use as riding horses
With no regulations protecting wild horses, Mustang numbers dwindled due to excessive hunting. Their populations might have become fully extinct if not for federal protection in the 1970s.
What are some key characteristics of Mustang mares?
Mustang mares share many physical and behavioral traits with other wild horse breeds. Some features include:
- Size – Around 14-15 hands high (56-60 inches), weighing 800-1000 lbs
- Coat – Varying colors including bay, black, chestnut, paint patterns
- Conformation – Sturdy, muscular build with broad chests and strong legs
- Hooves – Hard and durable for covering rough terrain
- Lifespan – 20-30 years in the wild
- Social – Live in cohesive bands of 3-20 horses
- Hierarchy – Live by a dominance hierarchy, led by lead mare
- Intelligent – Excellent memories, ability to problem-solve
- Endurance – Adapted to travel 10-20 miles per day foraging
- Band loyalty – Mares remain with natal band for life
- Maternal – Strong mothers that care for foals together
These physical and behavioral adaptations help Mustang bands flourish in the rugged, arid terrain of the American West.
How do bands function and communicate?
Wild Mustang mares live in cohesive social groups called bands. Here’s how bands function:
- Tight-knit units of 3-20 horses related by blood or friendship
- Led by dominant lead mare who guides activities and movements
- Hierarchies determine access to resources like food and water
- The band works together to raise offspring and protect each other
- Mares communicate with noises and body language
- Stallions defend the herd and breed with its mares
- Offspring remain with the band for life
Band life provides security, socialization and collective knowledge about the land and survival. Mares play an integral role in the band’s success through leadership, rearing foals and passing down wisdom.
What are some notable characteristics of pregnant and nursing mares?
Pregnant and nursing mares display some unique physical and behavioral changes. Some interesting characteristics include:
- Enlarged abdomen and udder in final months
- Personality changes – more aloof, distracted
- Seek calm areas away from herd to foal
- Protective of space in the weeks before foaling
- Birth usually occurs at night when it’s calm
- Mare stands while giving birth; process is quick
- Strong mothering instincts bond mare to foal
- Foal can stand and nurse within hours of birth
- Mare produces milk rich in nutrients, antibodies
- Foal is nursed for 6 months until weaned
- Mare disciplining foal through nips and kicks
- Weaning facilitated by older mares who adopt foal
Band members share duties nurturing foals, forming a tight support network around new mothers. This communal foal-rearing is a key survival strategy.
What roles and responsibilities do mares have in a Mustang herd?
As mature adult females, Mustang mares play indispensable roles in the herd. Their key duties include:
- The lead mare serves as boss and decision-maker
- She guides the band’s movements and activities
- The role passes down to daughters when lead mare dies
- Getting pregnant and giving birth in spring
- Nursing foals until they are weaned
- Teaching foals manners, band etiquette
- Protecting foals from predators
Passing Down Knowledge
- Mares mentor their female offspring
- They teach survival skills like finding food/water
- Mares pass down band histories and migration routes
- This wisdom preserves the band over generations
- Mares form tight, lifelong bonds as bandmates
- Friendships ensure the band functions cohesively
- Bonded mares display affection like mutual grooming
- These ties provide vital emotional support
With their leadership, mothering abilities, wisdom and companionship, mares are truly the glue that holds wild Mustang society together.
How do domesticated mares differ from wild mares?
There are some notable differences between domesticated mares and wild mares:
|Domesticated Mares||Wild Mares|
|Live solitary or in small groups, not large bands||Live in bands of 3-20 horses|
|Human owners control food, water, movements||Self-sufficient in finding sustenance and roaming|
|Stabled part or all of the time||Free-roaming 24/7|
|Bred and give birth according to owner’s wishes||Breed and foal naturally each spring|
|Foals weaned early by owners||Foals weaned naturally around 6 months old|
|Training and handling from very young age||Little human contact or training|
|Routine hoof care, health treatments||Hooves and health self-maintained|
|Work closely with humans for riding, racing, etc.||Interact little with humans outside of roundups|
In essence, domestic mares are fully dependent on human care, while wild mares are self-reliant for all their needs in nature.
What are some common health issues seen in aging mares?
Some common health problems seen in senior mares include:
- Difficulty getting pregnant and carrying foals to term
- Uterine cysts or infections
- Delayed transition into menopause
- Pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (equine Cushing’s disease)
- Insulin resistance and laminitis
- Arthritis causing lameness, stiffness
- Degenerative joint disease
Weight Loss and Dental Issues
- Weight loss from tooth loss or digestive issues
- Chewing inefficiency from abnormal wear or loose teeth
Regular vet checks, dentistry, supplements and adapted exercise programs can help manage geriatric mares’ health issues. A warmer climate and companionship aid comfort in their golden years as well.
What are some common causes of death for wild mares?
Life on the range contains many hazards for wild mares. Common causes of premature death include:
- Predators – mountain lions, wolves, bears
- Accidents – falls, mud, fires, floods
- Lack of food/water in droughts or winter
- Pregnancy/birthing complications
- Illness from disease outbreaks
- Injuries like broken bones, bites, lacerations
- Capture during gathers and transportation
- Effects of aging like arthritis, organ failure
Most mares survive into their late teens or early 20s if not claimed by an early cause of death. The rugged landscape presents a challenging life where only the fittest mares persist.
In summary, a female Mustang is properly termed a mare upon reaching sexual maturity. These wild horses form the core of band societies, serving as leaders, mothers, teachers, and protectors. Their strength, intelligence and devotion to family make mares a vital force among Mustang herds. While mares face predators, injury, illness and scarcity aschallenges in the wilderness, most beat the odds and thrive for decades as icons of the American West.