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Enthusiast Pays High Price for Kiger Mustang

Retired wildlife biologist Bob Smith didn’t hesitate on Oct. 24, 1999, to bid $19,000 for a wild horse rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management.  At a time when others were advocating slaughtering thousands of feral horses, Smith’s winning auction bid was a shocker.

Native horses roaming the Pacific Northwest during the Pleistocene period became extinct about 12,000 years ago. Beginning in the 16th century, the Spanish introduced mustangs to Mexico, and they gradually spread to the north.
The BLM began rounding up feral horses in 1971 to keep them from overgrazing public range land.  Horsemen soon recognized colors and traits of various Spanish horses, including the Kiger mustangs living on the flanks of Steens Mountain in Southeastern Oregon.  Genetic testing confirmed their link to Spanish mustangs. 
For Smith, buying his filly at the first auction of Kigers at the Harney County Fairgrounds in Burns, Ore., was a dream come true.  He told a reporter, “I’ve wanted a real bona fide mustang most all of my life.”  Another Kiger enthusiast added, “It looks like… people are finally beginning to realize the value of these horses.  It isn’t just the Kiger.  It’s all wild horses.”
Sources: "History of Wild Horses." Oregon Explorer. OSU: Lake Basin Explorer Natural Resources Digital Libary , Web. 13 Aug. 2013. http://oregonexplorer.info/lakes/WildHorses/HistoryWildHorses; Barnard, Jeff. "Filly Fetches Top Dollar at Auction." The Associated Press (Los Angeles Times) 29 Oct. 1999. Web. 13 Aug. 2013. . http://articles.latimes.com/1999/oct/24/news/mn-25753

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.