Native American Horse Breeds

The Nokota

The 'Nokota' is the 'Honorary State Equine' of North Dakota. Several states have designated a breed as their State horse including Missouri (Missouri Fox Trotter), Kentucky and Maryland (Thoroughbred), Idaho (Appaloosa), North Carolina (Colonial Spanish Mustang), Vermont and Massachusetts (Morgan) and Tennessee (Tennessee Walking Horse).

The wild horses of North Dakota had been documented as early as the 1830s. At the time, North Dakota was a centre of international commerce and colonialism. Trade goods flowed in and out of the villages along the river and horses were an important commodity.

Most of the earliest horses in the area had Spanish origins and the Indian tribes built up large herds. Inevitably horses escaped and gradually the number of wild horses increased. Through natural selection, they became tough and hardy.

Nokota FilliesCredit:

The Nokotas are descendants of the last wild horses of North Dakota. For over a hundred years, these horses existed in the Little Missouri badlands in the south-west corner of the state. Until the 1870s, the badlands and surrounding country was home to a diverse and populous group of animals. With the virtual extinction of the bison and the forced removal of the Indian tribes onto reservations, the range cattle industry expanded into the area.

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The Marquis De Mores was a French entrepreneur who founded the town of Medora (named after his wife). The Marquis and his wife loved all things Western. His ranch and enterprises were highly successful. He purchased horses which had been confiscated from Sitting Bull's herd at Fort Buford and range-bred them on his land. In 1884, he sold sixty mares to the huge HT ranch owned by H T Huidekoper. These mares were bred to Thoroughbred and Percheron stallions and the progeny were used for polo, racing and ranch-work. Descendants of these horses formed part of the badlands herds.

It was then that brothers Frank and Leo Kuntz Jr. began buying up the horses from the NPS round-ups. The Kuntz family bred horses and ponies for a range of activities. They also competed in a cross-country racing league called 'The Great American Horse Race'. They had been so impressed with the stamina, soundness, intelligence and good bone of the Park horses that they didn't integrate them into their own breeding lines as had been intended but kept the Park horses pure.

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They coined the name 'Nokota' and began a breed registry. The historic 'Z4' brand from the HT ranch was acquired and the brothers worked tirelessly to promote and publicise the breed. People were intrigued by their appearance and their history, and support gradually grew.

In 1993, the Nokota horse was designated North Dakota's 'Honorary State Equine' and, in 1999, the Nokota Horse Conservancy Inc was established with the primary aim of acquiring land for a sanctuary for these animals.