The US Fish and Wildlife Service recently rejected petitions by conservationists to list the American wild horse as an endangered species to accord it greater protection. The agency refused listing on the grounds that they believe the wild horse isn't sufficiently unique as compared to domestic and other populations. Here are some reasons why the wild horse population differ from domestic horses and why they need protection:
The wild mustang population has declined precipitously, with common estimates of the drop at an astonishing 40% since President Nixon signed the Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act in 1971. Much of the decline is attributable to forced domestication or slaughter.
The American wild horses have branched off from domestic populations over the centuries and have evolved separately having lived in completely different environments. These horses, as their name suggests, are essentially wild, with markedly different characteristics and needs.
Differences in physiology and character
Conservationists have repeatedly attempted to convince federal agencies of the key differences between domestic and wild horses, highlighting distinguishing physical features and behaviors. Wild horses are noticeably better built, stronger and are psychologically much different from domestic ones.
Federal agencies should in any case take the decline of wild horse populations seriously, whether or not they're convinced of critical differences with respect to domestic horses. The American wild mustangs are iconic and precious, and having already come back from the brink of extinction once, we shouldn't take more chances lest they're lost forever.