The Kiger Mustang is a stunning and intelligent horse that was recently discovered in southwest Oregon in the United States. The Kiger Mustang has an interesting history which finds its bloodline in the distant past. This horse resembles the modern day Spanish Sorraias as they share the same DNA type.
The Kiger Mustang breed was first discovered in 1971. The discovery took place during routine herding of wild horses in the Steen Mountains in southwestern Oregon. The discovery is attributed to Ron Harding, then an Oregon State Bureau of Land Management and a wild horse expert. He observed a group of horses that had distinctively analogous coloring and markings. He decided they were different enough to collect a few and send them to the University of Kentucky.
At the University of Kentucky, the horses were genetically tested. These tests revealed that these horses were, in fact, a unique breed of horse. This testing revealed that these horses were descendants of the Spanish Mustang. As they live in the Kiger Mountains of Oregon, the breed was given the name Kiger Mustang.
The Spanish Mustang was introduced into North America by Spanish Conquistadors in about the early 1600’s and the Kiger horse retains some of these distinct characteristics such as their dun markings and a small, compact body. The use of the Spanish Mustang in America was primarily for herding and transportation. The original Spanish Mustang was admired for its endurance and hardiness. These characteristics have also passed genetically to the Kiger Mustang.
The term mustang is often used relative to feral horses of North America. It comes from the term “mesteno” meaning “unclaimed sheep.” American English speakers referred to “mesteno” as “mustang” in slang terms. The Kiger Mesteno Association was founded in 1988 and today has over 800 registered horses. The original lead stallion for this registry was appropriately named Mesteno.
In 1971, after the discovery of the Kiger Mustang, Oregon’s Bureau of Land Management organized an effort to protect these unique horses. In addition to living in the Kiger Mountains, they are also found in the Riddle Mountains of Oregon. There is a total of over 65,000 acres which the state of Oregon strictly manages and preserves just for these wild horses.
The domesticated Kiger Mustang is said to have started in Bend, Oregon around 1978 and the domestic population grew from there. Modern breeders are enthralled with the preservation of the natural characteristics of the Kiger. Despite this protection and interest, the Kiger Mustang remains rare, both domestically and in the wild. However, there have been sightings of them in Montana, Utah, Nevada, and Wyoming.
Today, this versatile horse is used for almost any purpose to include ranch work, endurance riding, parade and exhibition work, driving and hunting. It also has a very flexible personality making it quickly adaptable to different situations. It could work all week herding cattle and then be ready for the show ring on the weekend. It has a very amenable and outgoing personality which makes them a good fit for any level of rider.
One of the most unique characteristics about the Kiger Mustang is the coloring. They are primarily dun which means that there is a gene present which influences the color of the top coat. When dun, or more accurately termed “the dun factor,” is present, there is a visible black stripe down the center of the back from the withers to the tail. The horse will also characteristically have a darker mane, tail, and face than the rest of the body. In addition, the horse will have a slight present of stripes that can be zebra like in nature and starting at the knees the stripes darken as they move down the legs.
The dun factor is present with other colors and the Kiger Mustang in particular comes in red dun, gray, buckskin, as well as many variations of these colors. The Mustang Kiger also has a slight feather on the hocks and the mane may be different in color than the tail and leg markings.
The Kiger is a medium sized horse that stands at 14-15 hands high. Their bones and general build is more petite than most horses which adds to its overall hardiness. The Kiger also has a slender head and jaw. The ears are expressively bowed and may exhibit that characteristic dun marking. The eyes are large and round, set wide on the slender head. Though its feet are extremely small, the hoof walls are very thick which allow it to move swiftly and safely over rocky terrain.