Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Part 2: Alberta Canada Wild Horses Challenge Painting #381

Wild Horse Origins:
How does
Alberta's Wild Horses come into play?

"Spreading the Joy"
5 by 7 inches Watercolor
by Linda L Martin Artist
Alberta Provence wild horse and foal graze in a clear cut
area of the Queen's Land amid volunteer Lodge Pole Pine saplings.
Not only do the wild horse help to keep the brush down around the
young trees their grazing helps to fertilize the ground and spread seeds.

There are many controversies regarding the origins of wild horses on the North American continent.  Science has seemed to establish that the modern horse has evolved to its present form here in North America.  So far the fossil remains of horses found on the North American continent are the oldest documented horse remains found in the world according to one source. Even to date horse remains from 8,000 to 11,000 years ago have been found in almost every state in the USA where fossils have been discovered.

There seems to be some disagreement as to if the horses became totally extinct on the North American continent  and were reintroduced by the Spanish and subsequent  European settlers or if they migrated to  what is now known as the Canadian province of Alberta during the receding of the Ice Age. The most widely held theory is that  the horse as we know it developed here, migrated to Asia then migrated to the rest of the world via a land bridge between Alaska and Russia. Then supposedly the horses died out due to some unknown catastrophe.

Ken Mcleod, the Canadian photographer collaborating with me for this series of Wild Horse Art, shared some very informative links with me to let me see the latest studies. This  recently published story in Science Daily suggests that some of the animals, including achient wild horses  moved north from the now USA and may have continued to live in areas of Canada and not died out at all. That theory and the evidence supporting it can be read here at the Science Daily Website: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111102161041.htm

If you would like to see  what these prehistory horses  in North America  might look like,  you can see them here: http://www.fossil-treasures-of-florida.com/equus-fossil.html  This is a Florida website that shows living horses believed to be similar to North America’s horses.  There is no doubt that horses existed  in  North America with the last documentation showing them here well over 10,000 plus years ago. On the Florida site, it says that horses were not reintroduced until the 1500s by Spanish explorers.

I have an entirely different thought on the matter. One of the things that I have been noticing  since looking at the numerous( literally thousands) photographs of wild horses since 2009, is that every once in a while, a horse with some distinctly primitive markings will surface.  These markings are not dun factor markings but rather a reddish or yellow brown with light muzzles, bi-colored manes and tails and  light colors on the under side of their bodies and inside of their legs.

In at least one incidence  in the last 10 years  a horse with this pre-history marking was rounded up, and was acting decidedly different from the rest of the mustang horses. From a description of what happened it reminded me of an account someone shared with me years ago of , when  wild asses or zebra were rounded up in remote regions of Africa  and  had had no contact with men except to know them as hunters.  Those equines, like the wild mustang in that one round up, were of such a uniquely primitive mindset, that they could not be tamed or trained. Sometimes they frequently self destructed when in forced confinement.Wild horses such as Przewalski's wild horses (or Mongolian wild horses) had similar reactions when captured via traditional live stock methods.

It is entirely possible that horses of pre-history, or even the bronze age, could have been preserved in the DNA of horses now on the North American Continent in  such remote areas like Alberta's forrested lands.  Many of the supporters  of the Canadian Wild horses agree that that is what they suspect has happened. Obviously from the look of the wild horses of Alberta they have thorough out the years been mixed with the blood of many domestics released by European Settlers and businesses. 

 I had the pleasure of meeting a Heritage animal breeder local to me in Virginia in 2010.  One of the herds she  was working to help restore  is the Tarpan. The Tarpan is  a historic bronz age wild horse. Tarpan’s currently  can only be 99% pure because domestic stock had to be used to retrieve the genes as the Tarpans are extinct in the wild. Its the best any restoration breeding program could do.

Restoration Tarpan mare
I photographed in Virginia in 2011
These horses average 13 to 14 hands
and are predominantly Mousy tan
with reddish bi color manes and tails.
This color supposedly helped
them to blend in the European forests.

The story of the Tarpans is very similar to that of the Alberta Province wild horses. The Tarpan horses were important to the forest and field ecosystems of Europe, yet Farmers considered them as pests and eradicated them in the wild horses by hunting them to extinction.  At one point the only Tarpans were in a Zoo in Germany and a few descendants of the wild horses in private care. The photo stills of those Tarpan horses provided the breed standard for those trying to save  and restore the horses.  At this point these descendants of wild European horses are being used throughout echo-system restoration projects in Scotland, England, and numerous European countries.

Although it is illegal to hunt wild horses in Canada’s Alberta Provence,  according to one source it is an ongoing problem that the Government is having trouble preventing either from lack of manpower or lack of motivation.

There are so many intrinsic reasons to preserve the  wild horses of Alberta . First and foremost because  the history of the country is told in its wild horses. And second the possibility that they if protected, studied  and managed properly,  they might actually be a larger legacy of history.

To read more about what the people of Canada are doing to preserve their wild horses go to: http://www.northernhorse.com/wildhorses/Objectives.htm

A treat from the blogger: I stumbled upon this  video of  the Dixie Meadow Tarpan Restoration herd in Virginia. This video was taken in 2012. The farm owner had been ill and was hoping to find a permanent home for the herd.

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