Horse Runners & Mustangers

In the Great Basin


The Buckaroo Hall of Fame, in Winnemucca Nevada offers a glimpse of history on early settlers of the Great Basin and those that followed.  The buckaroo style of handling horses and cattle came from the vaqueros out of California as they came into the Great Basin with the first herds of horses and cattle.  About One hundred men of character who were known and admired for skills as a Buckaroo have been inducted into the Buckaroo Hall of Fame.   My dad and granddad, who are both inductees, spent their lives handling cattle and horses in South Western Oregon.  Both were excellent ropers, knew how to handle cattle and horses and were horse runners that got the job done. 

Some of the inductees came to the Great Basin in the mid 1800’s to early 1900’s bringing horses and cattle with them.  About twenty-five percent of the Honorees have horse raiser or horse runner mentioned in their Bio’s and offers a window on the history of horses in the Great Basin. 

The following is taken from the Buckaroo Hall of Fame website. 

In 1868 Bill Nelson’s family settled in Dun Glen, Nevada on a placer mine claim, but having no luck with the mine, they were soon raising horses and cattle on the John Nelson ranch located near Dun Glen, between Mill City and Winnemucca.

Frank Button and his uncle bought six-hundred head of cattle and came to Humboldt County, Nevada in 1873 and settled in the Midas area 50 miles east of Winnemucca.  Frank soon switched to raising horses.  They were worth more cattle.  In an 1887 recorded sale of livestock seventeen head of cattle brought an average of $14 while the sale of a six-year-old mare brought $135.

Bob Wilkinson was born October, 19, 1874 in Hancock, Delaware County, New York. He was raised on the Ten Mile ranch north of McDermott, Nevada, which was homesteaded by his parents.  Bob homesteaded Little Meadow ranch where he raised a few herford durham cross cattle, but spent most of his time running mustangs.

” Running mustangs was much like running cattle, in that they were rounded up, branded and castrated. The younger ones were broke to sell as saddle horse, and the older heavier ones went for chicken feed.”[1]

Arther Drummond was born in 1874 and came to Idaho and Oregon in 1882 then settled in Owyhee County.  Arthur became known to many as the “King of the Mustangers.”  The Drummond Outfit became one of the largest horse operations in the Owyhee Desert.

In 1880 Ambrose Maher was born 16 miles from Jordan Valley, Oregon on the Lone Tree Ranch.    He left home at 17 and among other work ran horses and broke colts before he homesteaded Dougherty Springs at Cliffs, Idaho.

Corey Smyth was born in 1883 and as a young man he was needed on his dads cattle and horse ranch.  Every spring they would gather the wild horses to brand and castrate the colts.  On these outfits horses were ran like the cattle were.

Lawrence Ralph Stanford was born in Owyhee County at Reynolds Creek in 1890.  In 1912 the family moved to Jackson Creek where his mother’s family had homesteaded.  Ralph became a buckaroo, horse breaker (both saddle and work horses) and a horse runner.

Charlie Loveland was born in 1892 at the Loveland Ranch on Crooked Creek in Malheur County, Oregon.  In the early 1900’s Charlie began helping his dad run horses.  They made their living gathering and selling horses.

”When the Loveland boys were growing up there were horses everywhere. Some of them were mustangs and some were horses that had gotten away from some of the previous mustang runners and were a good breed of horse that had gone wild.”[2] 

Bill Loveland was born in 1899 and raised on the Loveland Ranch at Crooked Creek in Malheur County, Oregon.  He began working on the ranch at an early age helping his brothers and dad run horses. 

“Bill was the twelfth of a large family of thirteen children. He started working at a very young age, helping his brothers and Dad run horses. They would start in the spring, gather up the horses, part out the ones they wanted to keep, brand the colts, castrate the horse colts then turn them loose for another year. The ones they kept were sold to the army for the cavalry. When the horse running was finished he worked on ranches in the area, breaking horses to ride, to work, and putting up hay; then in the winter time he would work at feeding the cattle.  They would start in the spring, gather up the horses, part out the ones they wanted to keep, brand the colts, castrate the horse colts then turn them loose for another year. The ones they kept were sold to the army for the cavalry. He and”[3] 

Taft Miller was born in 1893 at the Double O about twenty miles south of Burns, Oregon.  At fourteen he was working for Eaf Sizemore helping the 7T outfit run horses.

There is a lot of interesting history at the  Buckaroo Hall of Fame.  From these bits and pieces taken from the bios of Honorees it is easy to see the term wild horses had a different meaning in the late 1800s than it does today.  Those horses were owned, gathered, branded, castrated and sorted with some being turned back out, some broke to ride or work with the rest being offered for sale.

Stop and think about it for a minute, isn’t that what the Wild Horse and Burro Program does today?  Only today the horses are owned and managed by the US Government.  There are no wild horses in the Great Basin, only owned and managed horses, the same as in the late 1800s.

Copyright © 2016-2019 Gerald Miller. All Rights Reserved.

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