Nokota Horses
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About Nokota HorsesAbout Nokota Horses



Nokota horses are feral and semi-feral horses located in thernbadlands of southwestern North Dakota in the United States. They get their namernfrom the Nokota Indian tribe that inhabited North and South Dakota.

Nakota horses are often blue roan, which is a color rare inrnother breeds, although black and gray are also common. Other, less common,rncolors include red roan, bay, chestnut, dun, grullo and palomino. Pintornpatterns such as overo and sabino occur occasionally.

rnrn rnrnThey have an angular frame with prominent withers, a slopedrncroup, and a low set tail.

rnrnThere are two general types of Nokota horses. The first isrnthe traditional Nokota, known by the registry as the National Park Traditionalrntype. They tend to be smaller, more refined, and closer in type to the ColonialrnSpanish Horse, and generally stand between 14 and 14.3 hands (56 to 59 inches,rn142 to 150 cm) high. rnrnThe second type is known as the ranch-type or National ParkrnRanch type. They more closely resemble early foundation type Quarter Horses,rnand generally stand from 14.2 to 17 hands (58 to 68 inches, 147 to 173 cm).

rnrnBoth types often exhibit an ambling gait, once known as the Indianrnshuffle. Nokota horses are described as versatile and intelligent. They havernbeen used in endurance racing and western riding, and a few have been used inrnevents such as fox hunting, dressage, three day eventing, and show jumping.

They were developed in the southwestern corner of NorthrnDakota, in the Little Missouri River Badlands. Feral horses were firstrnencountered by ranchers in the 1800s, and horses from domestic herds mingledrnwith the original feral herds. Ranchers often crossbred local Indian ponies,rnSpanish horses, and various draft, harness, Thoroughbred, and stock horses. Therngoal was to develop make hardy, useful ranch horses.

In 1884, the HT Ranch, located near Medora, North Dakota,rnbought 60 mares. The mares were from a Sioux Indian herd of 250 that was originallyrnconfiscated from Sitting Bull and sold at Fort Buford, North Dakota in 1881.rnSome of these mares were bred to the Thoroughbred racing stallion Lexington,rnalso owned by the HT Ranch.rnrn 

rnrnBy the early 1900s, the feral horse herds became the targetrnof local ranchers looking to limit grazing competition for their livestock.rnMany horses were rounded up, and either used as ranch horses, sold forrnslaughter, or shot. From the 1930s through the 1950s, federal and staternagencies worked with ranchers to remove horses from western North Dakota.rnHowever, when Theodore Roosevelt National Park was established in the 1906,rnduring construction, a few bands of horses were accidentally enclosed withinrnthe Park fence, and by 1960 these bands were the last remaining feral horses inrnNorth Dakota. Nonetheless, the Park fought to eliminate these horses, and inrnthe 1970s won exemption from federal laws that covered other free roaming horsernmanagement actions.

In the late 1970s, growing public opposition to the removalrnof feral horses prompted management strategy changes, and today the herdsrnwithin the Theodore Roosevelt National Park are managed for the purposes ofrnhistorical demonstration. However, the Park added outside bloodlines in thern1980s with the aim of modifying the appearance of the Nokota. The dominant herdrnstallions were removed and replaced with two feral stallions from the Bureau ofrnLand Management's Mustang herds, a crossbred Shire stallion, a Quarter Horsernstallion, and an Arabian stallion. At the same time that the stallionrnreplacements took place, a large number of horses from the park were rounded uprnand sold at auction.

rnrnIn 1993, the Nokota was declared the Honorary State Equinernof the state of North Dakota. In 1994, researchers conducted a study of thernhorses in the park, and discovered that none of the horses in the park hadrncharacteristics consistent with Colonial Spanish Horses. Since then, the horsesrnon the Kuntz ranch have been bred to maintain and improve their Spanishrncharacteristics. Nokota horses can be found in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Montana,rnand Oregon, as well as North Dakota.rnrn 

rnrnTheodore Roosevelt National Park has continued thinning thernherd, with several roundups conducted throughout the 1990s and 2000s. In 2000,rnthe last horse to be considered of traditional Nokota type was removed from thernwild. The National Park Service currently maintains a herd of 70 to 110 horses.

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