Nokota Horses

Nokotas can excel as both trail and work horses. These rare horses have a square-set, angular frame.

by Dani Yokhna
PHOTO: François Marchal/Wikimedia Commons

Use: Nokota horses are being used in a variety of disciplines, including cattle work, trail riding, dressage and hunt seat.

History: The Nokota horse goes back to the wild horse of North Dakota, in the Little Missouri badlands. Wild horses in this region are believed to have the blood of Spanish mustangs and that of Canadian Horses that migrated from the north. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, a band of wild horses was accidentally enclosed within the fenced boundaries of the newly formed Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. As wild horses in the northern Plains were captured, the horses enclosed within the park remained the last of their kind. In the 1970s, the National Park Service adopted a policy of removing most of the wild horses from the park, leaving only a very small herd behind for historical reasons. Horses that were removed from the park were auctioned off to local residents. In 1981, a rancher named Leo Kuntz purchased several horses that had been removed form the park. Not long afterwards, the National Park Service released Quarter Horse stallions into the park to breed with the remaining mares in an attempt to make the horses more marketable for auction. In 1986, Leo Kuntz and his brother Frank purchased 54 horses at auction in an attempt to preserve the genetic integrity of the original park horses. The Kuntz brothers purchased more horses that were rounded up in 1991. By 1997, nearly all the horses of the original bloodlines had been removed from the park and purchased by the Kuntz brothers. The Nokota Horse Conservancy was formed in 1998 to help preserve the bloodlines of the original park horses. When the last remaining horse with original bloodlines was removed from the park in 1999, supporters of the Nokota horse Conservancy purchased him at auction. Today, the Nokota Horse Conservancy is working to promote and preserve the breed, and has established a registry.

Conformation: Nokota horses have a square-set, angular frame; a tapering musculature; and a V-shaped front end. Their shoulders are angular and they have prominent withers. The croup is sloped and tail set low. Ears are often slightly hooked at the tips, and many have feathered fetlocks. Nokotas mature slowly, and some have ambling gaits. Nokota horses inherited many of the Spanish coat colors, including roan, frame overo, and dun.

Special Considerations/Notes: Nokotas are a rare breed.

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