HorsesOnly Bookshelf : Equine Books, Stud Books, Historic Catalogs, Out-of-Print Books

Born Survivors
on the Eve of Extinction

Can Iberia's Wild Horse Survive Among America's Mustangs?

by Hardy Oelke

(1997) 8 x 10.5" Hardcover, 95 pages, over 90 spectacular full color photos. Extensive bibliography. $29.95 plus $5.05 Priority Mail to US addresses.
Click to email for International shipping cost.

A book about the amazing discovery of Iberian wild horses in the American West. These Sorraia mustangs  first came to the New World with Columbus and a few pure remnants have managed to survive in remote areas of the West. German author, Hardy Oelke, recognized and identified these nearly extinct Sorraia (Spanish) horses which constitute a zoological rarity, and has put out a passionate effort for their preservation. Continued survival may ultimately depend upon public awareness of their plight.

This very convincing, thought-provoking book presents strong scientific evidence and documented historical facts to support the theory that some of our mustangs are, in fact, Sorraia horses, the purest representative of the primeval form-III horse that existed during the Ice Age. The form-III horse is the basis of all of today's warmblood breeds and the Thoroughbred. Page after page of magnificent photographs of these Sorraia horses in their natural habitat demonstrate their primitive dun and grulla coloration and characteristic conformation.

A very well written book laced with adventure as Oelke describes stalking wild horses with his telephoto lens, capturing on film the seldom seen natural behavior of wild stallions protecting their harems. An astute horseman, he shares keen observations with readers about his cherished wild Spanish horses. 
Truly a masterpiece!

..... Young Kiger Mustangs in the holding pens in Burns, Oregon ......

"The mustang herd that may have received the most publicity and acceptance by horse people is the Kiger herd in Oregon, due to their Spanish traits, and the efficient way they have been managed and promoted. The Kiger herd is the most uniform mustang herd today. This is partly due to the way they have been managed, and partly due to the dominance of their genes."

..... Grullo Sorraia stallion, living half wild at Herdade de Font'Alva, Portugal, the estate of the d'Andrade family .....

"The Sorraia has absolutely no history of a domestic breed, only that of a wild animal, and even as such it had fallen into oblivion and become almost extinct until its rediscovery earlier this century. If it breeds stronger than domestic breeds, if horses are born with its characteristics after hundreds of years and without man's selective influence, it simply cannot be the power of an old breed with an ingeniously fortified genetic makeup, but can only be the inheritance of the wild forefather."

..... A bunch of selected Pryor Mountain Mustangs
living wild on a privately owned range .....

"The Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range was created in 1968 as the America's first wild horse range and consists today of 46,800 acres at the Wyoming/Montana state line. It lies adjacent to the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, and is, with the exception of some river bottom land and some plateau land, extremely rugged. Elevations within the range, which is home to in excess of 100 mustangs, vary from 3,900 feet to 8,000 feet."

..... "A band of Kiger Mustangs have noticed something disturbing and are watching intently. So far, fear has not taken over, but it won't take much more and the whole group will either quietly disappear or stampede" .....

One of the many beautiful double spreads of wild horse scenes throughout the book

..... "To watch the little foals at a roundup can scare you stiff, not so much during the actual gather, but rather when the horses are penned up and crowd themselves whenever somebody gets too close to the fence. The baby looked like it was going to be trampled to death, but fortunately, it survived the ordeal without injury." .....

If you would like to contact the author, Hardy Oelke,
he has kindly provided his e-mail address.

Please tell others about these special horses, and share the information from this site. Ask your local library to make this book available to animal lovers, horsemen and concerned citizens in your area. Anything that you can do to make people aware of these rare and important horses will help to assure their preservation.

following is written by Prof. Dr. Rainer Willmann
II Zoological Institute and Museum
Georg-August-University Gottingen
May 1997

FOREWORD: (Born Survivors on the Eve of Extinction)

Mustangs! Who wouldn't associate this word with wild herds of splendid horses, with an impressive landscape for a backdrop, a touch of freedom, the gracefulness of powerful action, and perhaps also a trace of romance? Not very many people know, however, that mustangs vary distinctly, and some mustangs represent, as is outlined in this book, something very special.

In regard to the development of our culture, there is hardly another animal of greater importance than the horse, and hardly one one more praised. And yet, we have treated him badly and have done him great injustice: We have all but wiped out the horse as part of Nature. We have changed him through selective breeding to conform with our ideas and needs, and all too often we deprive him of more of his freedom than we realize, because today, we have lost that understanding of the horse as a creature inseparably tied to his natural environment. Recently, this has been felt by many, and therefore, many feel a strong and intimate attraction to the primitive horses. Mustangs are, however, ferel horses.

At this time, we don't know for certain how many different forms of horses existed before man started to exert his influence. The discussions about the origin of our domestic horses won't stop. According to one theory, there was only one single root -- the horse we know today as the Mongolian Wild Horse, often called "Przewalski horse." Other authors see the cradle of our domestic horses in a variety of primitive horses. Whatever the final word may be in this discussion -- the wild horses adapted superbly to all conceivable factors in their environment, gave to our domestic horses the genetic basics which permitted the breeding towards diverse abilities. They were also endowed with valuable inherent qualities which by now our domestic horses no longer possess.

Whenever in any region remainders of a primitive race of horses are discovered, it deserves our utmost attention, because in a time as fast-moving as ours, it may be a matter of just a few years and something irretrievable might be lost.

This book is about such a case. As late as the middle of the 20th century, it became known that Iberia must have had its own form of horse -- today known as Sorraia horse. Very few of these horses still exist today, but Hardy Oelke reports that many of the characteristics of the Sorraia horse are found among the North American mustangs. What's more: Many mustangs resemble the Sorraia!

This lends an extraordinary importance to some mustangs, because they bring to our eyes a facet of the original wealth of forms of European wild horses. As the remaining Sorraias in Europe are so few, we must not miss out on the opportunities this discovery holds for us. There is immediate need for action: Along with the efforts to control the total number of mustangs, the existence of the Sorraia mustangs is in jeopardy.

By focusing on this aspect, and describing it so vividly, this book becomes one of the most important and especially responsible works published about horses in recent years.

One can only wish that the book in hand will find the broadest attentiveness and hope that Hardy Oelke's urgent call for help will meet widely with response and recognition. May this book inspire many people -- not just the horse enthusiast among us -- to become instrumental in securing a future for the Sorraia mustangs.

Born Survivors on the Eve of Extinction
(1997) 8 x 10.5" Hardcover, 95 pages, over 90 spectacular full color photos. Extensive bibliography. $29.95 plus $5.05 Priority Mail to US addresses.
Click to email for International shipping cost.

sites with information on Sorraia horses are:
Sorraia Web Site, Stud Book and Magazine online 
The Sorraia Horse ...The Link To Antiquity ... Endangered in its Homeland and in America
Breeds of Livestock ... Sorraia ... University of Oklahoma
Molecular Genetics and Native Horse breeds management