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Hay shortage threatens North Dakota's state horse

The Nokota Horse's historic bloodlines are preserved in a herd managed by a nonprofit group.

May 13, 2013

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The descendants of horses used by the Sioux Indian tribes until the late 1800s are considered a historic treasure in North Dakota. Called Nokota Horses, they have been honored as the state's official equine since 1993. But in the wake of economic challenges and a hay shortage in the area, the group tasked with preserving those bloodlines is facing difficult decisions.

The Nokota Horse Conservancy manages a herd of over 100 horses believed to have the purest of the breed's bloodlines. A poor hay growing season last year led to increased prices, and the economic downturn has reduced the group's income through donations.

"This is one of the most difficult situations we’ve been in since the formation of the conservancy,” Executive Director Sally Hauge told The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. "While it’s never been easy, it hasn’t been the struggle it’s been this year.”


The Conservancy believes there are approximately 1,000 Nokota Horses in the world today. Some of them roam the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota. Earlier this year, in recognition of the breed's historical value to the state, the state legislature passed a resolution urging the National Park Service to take steps to help preserve these horses.

Before the breed was recognized, many of its number were rounded up and sold—many to slaughter—by the NPS in the mid-20th century. Public outcry led to the protection of the wild herds with occasional round-ups where some horses were sold to adoptive homes to keep the wild numbers in check. According to the Conservancy, stallions of other breeds, including a Quarter Horse and Arabian, were introduced to the herd to create horses that would be more marketable to buyers at auction.

In 1986, brothers Leo and Frank Kuntz began to purchase selected individuals from the herd in order to preserve what were believed to be the purest original bloodlines. That herd formed what is now the Nokota Horse Conservancy's herd.

To learn more about the Nokota Horse and its history, visit

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Hay shortage threatens North Dakota's state horse

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Reader Comments

julie    Orange County, CA

5/24/2013 7:53:13 PM

out here in Southern California we are short on hay and what we have is expensive, a bale of alfalfa or Bermuda approx 12 flakes, not the best quality is 20.00 a bale, Heard they are selling the best to China. Dont know if that is true

Linda    Dayton, OH

5/23/2013 1:39:47 PM

Many areas were hit by draught last year, Ohio included. With this Spring bringing in fresh grass, surely there is pasture for the horses, with all the farm land up there, I'll bet someone would be willing to turn fallow land to hay

*******    *******, ND

5/17/2013 5:58:43 PM

I live in ND but have not heard anything about the Nakota's being short of hay.....I wish people would inform the public more about these issues so that others could help.

Gee and Haw    Northern Part, CA

5/15/2013 5:36:22 AM

I feel sorry for all the rescues and owners of horses that have no hay.

Just wondering why some people do not leave a comment, other that one "letter" which does not make any sense.

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