Between the mountains, gullies, and plateaus of the Western United States, upwards of 71,000 wild horses live free. On windless days, you can hear their soft neighs and thundering hooves. They raise their foals in the wild landscape, forage for food in all weather, and spend most of their days avoiding human contact. These wild horses of the American west are a symbol of survival and freedom. They’ve captivated countless hearts, and out of the thousands of horses, there’s one in particular that embodies their true spirit. That horse’s name is Picasso, and he’s the most famous wild mustang in America.
The Spirit of Sand Wash Basin
For over a decade, this strikingly beautiful stallion has inspired a special kind of devotion to the wild horses of Sand Wash Basin. His striking markings and two-toned mane make him stand out, but this wild mustang is more than his looks. Sheathed in muscle and spotted with scars, he is a powerful representation of what it takes to survive and persevere.
At an estimated 30 years old, Picasso has lived his three decades as a competitive stallion in an extremely harsh environment. Most wild stallions never reach old age. They either succumb to the unique tribulations of life in the wild or are killed by other stallions fighting for a mare. Picasso has likely been involved in hundreds of battles, has fought through winters with sub-zero temperatures, and survived scorching summers in the high desert of Colorado. But through it all, he has defied the odds.
For the first part of his life, Picasso was just another horse among hundreds. But with time, his reputation grew. Tourists and wild mustang enthusiasts started spotting him from afar and taking his picture. According to Denver7 News, a worker from the Humane Society noticed the strong stallion during a BLM roundup in 2008. They described the horse’s markings as looking like a Picasso painting, and the name stuck.
The Most Famous Wild Mustang
From there, people started posting their own pictures of Picasso to social media. As more people joined Facebook and Twitter, more people fell in love with Picasso. Today, Picasso is a celebrity. He is the most famous wild mustang by far, and he has several Facebook groups dedicated to tracking his movement.
People travel hundreds of miles for the rare chance of seeing Picasso in his natural home. They paint his likeness onto canvas, compose poems about his beauty, and write songs about his life. People have studied his habits, followed his roaming, and made detailed charts of his family tree. Even as Picasso ages, he retains his legendary status.
In the wild, Picasso has been the leader of several bands. A band usually consists of one stallion along with a few mares and their yearlings. Stallions compete with each over control of the bands, and many of those competitions are fights to the death.
Picasso has sired dozens of offspring and has had relationships with several mares. He traveled with his favorite mare, Mingo, for a few years, and it’s clear to observers that the other wild horses also recognize Picasso’s leadership. Patti Mosbey describes a once-in-a-lifetime moment when she spotted two bands of horses make a path for the famous mustang as if they were making room for a legend. He stands a few hands shorter than the tallest stallions, but Picasso’s fighting spirit won him many challenges in his youth.
A Legend of Survival
While his strength and bravery were notable, Picasso possesses another characteristic that has helped him reach his old age. He is willing to stand up for himself, but he also knows when he’s been beat. While other stallions fight until their last breath, Picasso has the wisdom to survive. He knows when a fight is not worth his life.
True to the harshness of life in the wild, Picasso is no longer the unbeatable band leader he once was. In 2014, he ran with four mares and their various yearlings. But when a younger challenger took the band, the famous mustang was cast out. He eventually tried to take up with a young filly, but a weeks-long fight with a competing stallion ended that romance, too.
Today, Picasso roams on his own. His age is catching up to him, and recent photos show him looking more haggard and skinny. Many people have expressed opinions that Picasso should be adopted and shielded from a difficult life in the wild. But his many fans disagree.
There’s no denying that life as a wild mustang in the Sand Wash Basin is challenging. Horses face countless risks every day, and every winter sees strong horses lost to extreme weather and injury. But even so, they are free. Picasso is the epitome of spirit and freedom. His home is in the wild. And when he dies, he’ll die with a legacy that lives on in every gallop, kick, nuzzle, and neigh of America’s wild mustangs.
All images via Canva
h/t: Denver7 News
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