In the mountain peaks and sloping lowlands of the Needle Mountain Range roams a nationally recognized herd of wild horses with a Utah heritage much older than most of ours. These horses draw their bloodlines from the old Spanish Type, the first horses brought to America by the Spanish explorers in the late 1500s. Through time, the Sulphur Herd has bred with escaped ranch livestock, but most still hold many of the Spanish Barb traits. There are only three other wild horse herd areas in the United States which exhibit a high concentration of Spanish characteristics. The original Colonial Spanish Type horse displayed some characteristics of the extinct wild tarpan horse. Horses of the Sulphur herd exhibit many of those early traits. Dominant colors include dun, buckskin, and grulla (a grey or mouse color). Other colors found throughout the region include bay, black, sorrel, palomino, and various roan's (blue, red, strawberry, etc.). Physical characteristics include ears that curve in like a bird's beak, dorsal stripe, bi-colored mane and tail, tiger-striped legs, and occasional chest barring. Additional features might include a sloping croup, low-set tail, deep body, narrow chest, broad forehead, but narrow face and muzzle from a frontal view.
The Sulphur horse was virtually unnoticed by conservationists until the early 1990's. In 1993, Dr. Phil Sponenberg was invited to evaluate several of the Sulphur Horses that had been recently captured and adopted to private individuals. He summarized his analysis as: "The Sulphur Herd Management area horses that are present as adopted horses in the Salt Lake City area appear to be of Spanish phenotype. The horses were reasonably uniform in phenotype, and most of the variation encountered could be explained by a Spanish origin of the population. That, coupled with the remoteness of the range and blood typing studies, suggests that these horses are indeed Spanish...This is one population that should be kept free of introductions from other herd management areas, as it is Spanish in type and therefore more unique than horses of most other BLM management areas." Genetic testing by Dr. Gus Cothran of theUniversity of Kentucky has revealed that, as Dr. Cothran stated: "They (the Sulphur horses) definitely have Spanish ancestry and possibly are primarily derived from Spanish Horses". Additional testing by BiopsytecAnalytic has verified Drs. Sponenberg's and Cothran's evaluations.
The Colonial Spanish Horse derives from old Iberian breeds, and horses of the Sulphur Springs herd are one of the types that retain many of the traits of the endangered Sorraia. Dominant colors include several shades of zebra (bay) dun, red (chestnut) dun and grullo (black dun; the word "grullo" is Spanish for "crane" and is used to describe a horse the color of a Blue Crane). The dun horses have dorsal stripes and many have bi-colored manes & tails, tiger striped legs, and occasional chest barring. Other colors found though out the region include bay, black, chestnut, and a few palominos and roans. Physical characteristics include hooked ears that curve inward at the tips, a sloping croup, low-set tail, deep body, narrow chest, flat or convex facial profile, and a broad forehead, but narrow face and muzzle from a frontal view. They range in size from 13.2 to 15.3 hands, and 750 to 950 lbs. although there are a few excellent specimens under or over this height and weight. Many Sulphur horses exhibit curly traits, and a few display a classic curly coat.
The Needle Range is characterized by steep slopes and narrow ridges. Access to the ridges and surrounding area is good, provided you are driving a vehicle capable of traversing rough, back country roads. You will find most of the horses in the Mountain Home portion of the range. An extensive dirt-road system provides access throughout the entire area for those properly equipped. Typically, roads wander through sagebrush flats and forests of pinyon and juniper. The high country of Mountain Home Peak is a particularly pleasant destination, providing outstanding views of Hamlin Valley and Great Basin National Park.The best access to the road network within the herd area is Utah Highway 21. Approximately 45 miles west of Milford on U-21 look for a BLM sign marked Pots Sum Pa. Turn south on this road to enter the northeastern portion of the Sulphur Herd Management Area.
Pictures all taken by Jared Nield and are copyrighted