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Mustang Horses – Types Uses & Breed Characteristics

Last updated: April 4, 2023

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

My grandson’s passion for wild mustangs was ignited by a documentary on the history of the American West. He was captivated by these free-spirited animals and wanted to learn everything he could about them. Together, we embarked on a journey of discovery into the fascinating world of Mustang horses.

As we dug deeper into their history, we learned that mustangs were first brought to America by Spanish conquistadors. These wild and feral horses have since become an integral part of the American landscape, evoking a sense of freedom and wildness that is unique to them.

Mustangs are a type of light horse with incredible strength and muscular bodies. They have evolved over time to survive in harsh environments, making them well-suited for life in the wild. But despite their resilience, mustangs face numerous challenges today, from overpopulation to habitat loss.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the history, physical characteristics, and behavior of Mustang horses, as well as the challenges they face in the modern world. Whether you’re an experienced equestrian or simply a horse lover, we hope this journey into the world of Mustang horses will captivate your imagination and deepen your appreciation for these incredible animals.

Mustang Horses and Their Breed Characteristics

Mustang horses are a versatile and dynamic breed renowned for their high energy and stamina. What makes Mustang horses is their distinct physical characteristics and innate skill for adapting to different environments.

With strong, sturdy legs that help them traverse rugged terrain with ease, these horses are exceptionally well-suited for survival on the American frontier. Additionally, Mustang horses have an extremely tough constitution and a finely honed sense of self-preservation; they are unafraid of taking risks in order to secure nourishment or avoid danger.

Whether you’re looking for a spirited ride or a dependable companion, Mustang horses are truly a force to be reckoned with. So if you’re considering adding one of these legendary creatures to your herd, look no further – Mustang horses truly embody the spirit of adventure.

Picture of mustang horses in the wild.
Wild Mustangs


Although the Mustangs have Spanish bloodlines, no other horse breed is more American than this breed. Unfortunately, we will never know the exact history of this majestic breed because it is shrouded in many myths and folklore.

The word Mustang comes from the Spanish word musteno, which means ‘stray or wild.’ This Spanish word itself comes from the Latin ‘mixta,’ which means mixed. And that is precisely what the Mustang is: a mixture or an amalgamation of strays and mongrels.

Today’s American Mustang embodies the cultures and influences of different nationalities that came to the West. Today, you cannot look at the Mustang without thinking of the Old West.

Here are some salient features of the breed’s history:

  • Christopher Columbus brought the first load of horses to the New World in 1493.
  • From here, horses were carefully and selectively bred in the Caribbean.
  • By 1501, one ranch in Hispaniola had 60 broodmares.
  • By 1539, there were horses on the Outer Banks, North, and South Carolina, and by 1541, they spread to Quebec.
  • By 1900, the estimated Mustang population was 2 million!
  • As time went by, Mustangs became a blend of every type of horse brought to the USA, Mexico, and Canada.
  • Before the Wild Annie Bill of 1972 was passed, ranchers killed many wild Mustangs to curb their overpopulation.

Breed Characteristics

Mustang horses are a type of feral horse that originally came from Spanish stock. Mustang horses are well-known for their stamina and sure-footedness. Mustang horses come in many different colors, including bay, black, chestnut, dun, grulla, gray, roan, and palomino.

Mustangs typically stand between 14 and 16 hands high and weigh between 800 and 1200 pounds. They are very intelligent and have strong survival instincts. Most Mustang herds include up to 30 animals.

The lead mare is the leader of the herd and makes all of the decisions for the herd. The lead stallion protects the herd from predators and other stallions. Mustang horses graze on grasses, leaves, and twigs. Mustang horses can travel up to 50 miles per day in search of food. Mustang horses can live up to 25 years in the wild.

Mustangs are a wiry, tough breed with strong, hard feet. Because of their endurance, they make excellent ranch horses. Here is a list of characteristics of Mustang horses:

  • Other Names: Wild Mustang, American Feral Horse.
  • Description: The Mustang has variable morphology with a rather large head. It has a straight or convex profile, a strong neck, straight shoulders, and short, solid legs.
  • Height: 13.2- 15 hh (hands high). A 15-hh Mustang is considered to be quite large.
  • Place of Origin – America, Great Plains
  • Unique qualities: Tough, hardy, intelligent, adaptable.
  • Gait: Naturally smooth gaited but some display and ambling middle-to-fast gait.
  • Color: Mustangs come in various colors. Pinto, bay dun, and black/brown dun are the most common.

Types of Mustangs

The following types of Mustang are popular:


A Comstock Mustang is a unique breed of horse that was developed in the Comstock region of Nevada in the late 19th century. These hardy horses are famous for their low-maintenance, easy-to-care-for nature, which made them an ideal choice for ranchers and other rural residents working on the harsh frontier.

Comstock mustangs are typically tall and lean, with long legs that allow them to trot and run for long distances at high speeds. Their distinctive coloring, which includes palominos, bays, and chestnuts, is also thought to have been an important factor in their popularity among Comstock ranchers.

Today, Comstock Mustangs remain a beloved part of the Western heritage and continue to be treasured symbols of rugged American strength and determination. However, they are not deemed “wild” under Federal law because they mostly live on private properties.

Because of this, they do not enjoy the same protection as Mustangs do. Some Associations are trying to protect the Comstocks.

Picture of Pryor Mountain Mustangs.
Pryor Mountain Mustangs

Pryor Mountain Mustangs

The Pryor Mountain Mustang is a small, compact horse that is well-suited to life in the rugged Pryor Mountains of Montana and Wyoming. Mustang experts believe that these horses are descended from Spanish horses that were brought to North America by early explorers.

Over the centuries, the Pryor Mountain Mustangs have adapted to their harsh mountain environment, and today they are known for their sure-footedness and endurance.

These wild horses play an important role in the ecology of the Pryor Mountains, and they are also popular tourist attractions. More than 10,000 people visit the Pryor Mountains each year to see these amazing creatures in their natural habitat.

Pryor Mountain Mustangs have a straight, convex profile that is slender towards the muzzle. Common colors are black/brown, bay dun, bay, black, chestnut, or roan. Pryor Mountain Mustangs are intelligent and brave and are known for their endurance on long treks.

Coyote Canyon Mustangs

Coyote Canyon Mustangs are a type of wild horse that roams the Coyote Canyon area in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. These mustangs are descendants of Spanish horses that were brought to the Americas by explorers and settlers centuries ago.

Today, there are an estimated 400 Coyote Canyon Mustangs living in the wild. These horses are typically brown or black in color, and they have a thick coat of fur that helps protect them from the cold winters in the mountains.

Coyote Canyon Mustangs are known for their hardiness and sure-footedness, which makes them well-suited for life in the rugged terrain of the Sierra Nevada foothills. These are the last Mustangs of Southern California. They have large eyes and large ears.


The Abstang is the cross between Arabian horses and Mustangs. They are smaller horses and typically measure around 14 hands, and are available in various colors.

Abstangs are sure-footed, strong, and have very high endurance, making them a popular choice in treks and endurance races.

Spanish Mustang

This type descended directly from the Spanish and Barb horses. They have a straight or convex profile, long ears, and a narrow chest. This old-style Mustang is very intelligent and is notable for endurance races.

Spanish Mustangs are further classified as Kigers, Cerbat, Sulphur Spring, and Colonial Spanish Horse. Since very few of these horses remain today, they all come under protection from various Associations, especially the BLM (Bureau of Land Management).

The temperament of Mustang Horses

The temperament of mustangs varies greatly. For example, Mustang breeds like Kigers have especially proven themselves to be affectionate and trustworthy companions. However, this isn’t true for Pryor Mountain Mustangs; they typically are easily spooked and try to avoid human contact.

Generally, Mustangs are smart and headstrong animals, and unlike other domesticate-raised horses, they heavily relied on instincts to survive in the wild. This is why it’s important that you build trust early– or working with them will be difficult!

Here are salient features of Mustangs as far as their temperament is concerned:

Wild but trainable

Mustangs have a genuinely wild temperament, but you can mold them into lovable companions with firm handling and consistent patient training. The Mustang Heritage Foundation runs a training incentive program (TIP), that pays individuals to take in and halter break mustangs.

Could have a stubborn streak

Many Mustangs have a rebellious streak in them. They can turn out to be feisty, and that is why you must establish a clear pecking order and hierarchy when training horses.

Check out my guide on How to Establish Your Role as a Horse Leader.

The age of the horse matters too.

As with any horse breed, training a younger Mustang is much easier than training an older one. Once you earn your horse’s trust, you can easily turn it into a loyal, loving, and affectionate companion that forms a deep bond with you.

Are Mustangs Dangerous?

Wild horses can be dangerous if they are not socialized with humans. They will perceive a human as a threat, and that could make them dangerous. With proper training and socialization, one can train a Mustang to be an affectionate herd mate that respects and trusts its humans. Many horse trainers specialize in training Mustangs.

These days, the BLM, or the Bureau of Land Management, has taken it upon itself to manage wild horses. This is an important government initiative that protects areas where wild Mustangs roam free. The TIP training program is a venture to transition wild mustangs to prospective owners.

Over-grazing in these areas has finished the food available for horses, which is why these iconic horses are under threat. Under the BLM initiative, though, they are protected; many people even adopt trained Mustangs from them.

Reluctantly, Mustangs become friendly. In the United States, there aren’t many truly wild horses left. The only truly wild horses are the Przewalski horses found in Central Asia.

Are Mustangs Good for Beginners?

Mustangs bred in the wild do not make good horses for riding for beginners because they need firm and experienced handling and training. However, once they are used to working with humans, they make affectionate and personable companions capable of taking care of themselves.

They also display uncanny wisdom and intelligence compared to any horse breed. These qualities can come in handy while training. You can also buy a trained and socialized Mustang from BLM.

FAQs on Mustangs

What are Mustang horses known for?

Mustangs are known for their wild natures, intelligence, and free spirits. Say the word Mustang, and one undoubtedly conjures up images of wild horses running free without the constraints of the saddle.

Are Mustangs fast?

 Mustangs are not particularly known for their speed. If you want a faster horse, then The American Quarter Horse would be a better choice.

How much does a Mustang cost?

The average price of a Mustang is between $200 and $5000, depending on its age, color, breeding, and bloodlines. You can also adopt a Mustang from the BLM. They have trained, and untrained mustangs for sale.