Wild Horses in Nevada! KBR Wild Horse and Burro Information Sheet


Nevada is home to most of the nation's wild horses and burros. In fiscal year 1988 the estimate was 26,160 horses and 1,318 burros. Many herds have grown significantly since then.

Most of these horses are located on public lands administered by the BLM's Battle Mountain, Winnemucca, Las Vegas and Carson City Districts. Las Vegas District has the highest population of burros in Nevada. There are also over 1000 head of non-BLM wild horses, primarily in the Virginia Range, that are administered by the Nevada Department of Agriculture. The Virginia Range encompasses Storey County and parts of Washoe and Lyon Counties.

In Nevada, wild horses and burros are found in about 100 BLM Herd Management Areas and the state managed Virginia Range. These areas are managed to balance a multiplicity of uses of the range, the horses being one component of these ecosystems.

One area, the Nevada Wild Horse Range has been established to be managed primarily for wild horses. This 394,000-acre range in the northeast corner of Nye County is cooperatively managed by the BLM, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Air Force, the Nevada Division of Wildlife and the Department of Defense.

Early explorers' journals indicate horses were found in northern Nevada in the 1820s. Peter Ogden's 1828 journal talks of discovering and capturing horses apparently abandoned by Indians.

In several areas of Nevada, ranchers turned loose many breeds including Shires, Percherons, Hambletonians, Morgans and Irish stallions and mares to set a standards and patterns in the herds that roamed nearby. As the cavalry, ranchers or miners demanded horses, many were trapped and trained for the purposes of man.

Burros were first brought to the "New World" by early Spanish explorers and were used by prospectors and sheep herders.

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The BLM has established management goals for its wild horses and burros. The state has similar policies and goals.

Goals for horse and burro management in Nevada over the next five years include:

  • Assure safe and humane treatment of animals.

  • Bring population numbers to a level which ensures a "thriving natural ecological balance."

  • Base management proposals on quantifiable background information about the animals and their habitat.

  • Implement positive habitat and population management practices which are technically sound.

  • Inform and educate the public on all aspects of the management program.

Most gathers of excess animals in Nevada utilize a helicopter, although some animals are gathered by "water trapping" or "bait trapping." When a helicopter gather is in progress the BLM has inspectors on-the-ground and/or in a monitor helicopter to oversee safe and humane practices. Representatives of recognized wild horse groups are typically present at state gathers.

Most excess wild horses and burros gathered in Nevada by the BLM are brought to the National Wild Horse and Burro Center in Palomino Valley, north of Sparks, where they are readied for adoption. The animals receive an identification number (freeze mark), vaccinations, the age is determined and they are classified for adoption.

State (non-BLM) horses are usually brought to the horse holding unit at the Northern Nevada Correctional Facility in Carson City, also known as the Stewart Conservation Camp or the Carson Prison Farm.

Once the horses are processed they either go to the prison training program at the Warm Springs Correctional Facility to be gentled and saddle started, or are made available directly to adopters through a network of wild horse groups that are approved adoption agents. (Click here for adoption information.)

A typical band of horses awaiting processing

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US Army mount, "Riley"
Among some of the more visible horses adopted from Nevada origins are the mounts of the Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard. The Guard appears in parades throughout the West, including the Rose Parade in Pasadena. Four of the Guards' palominos are adopted wild horses. The United States Army uses adopted wild horses in its Commanding General's Mounted Color Guard. Adopted wild horses are used for everything from pleasure horses to mounted police horses, even for use as handicapped riding program horses.

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An unusual horse, the Bashkir Curly, is found in some herd areas in central Nevada. Some of these animals, which are descendants of Russian horses, have been adopted and are seen in parades and horse shows. Look for an unusual coat of tightly curled hair, a kinky mane and a wavy tail.


In 1971 Congress passed legislation to protect, manage and control wild horses and burros on the public lands. The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act declared these animals to be "living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West."

Congress further declared it is the "policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death..." and that they are "...an integral part of the natural system of the public lands."

Bureau regulations require that herds of wild horses and burros be considered comparably with other resource values within the area. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) maintains and manages wild horses or burros in "herd management areas."

In the ten states where BLM manages horses, there are 270 herd areas, but through its planning process BLM has decided to manage over the long-term only 199 Herd Management Areas.


By law, the BLM supervises the removal of horses or burros on designated Federal public lands. These animals are gathered "...in order to preserve and maintain a thriving natural ecological balance and multiple-use relationship in the area."

The Act allows the Secretary of the Interior, and thus the BLM, to offer excess animals for private maintenance and care. Between fiscal years 1972 and 1988, a total of 91,419 animals had been adopted. Leading the states with the most number of horse adoptions are Texas, followed by South Dakota, California, Oklahoma and Oregon. Californians have adopted the most burros. (Since this census, California has become the top adopting state for horses also.)

The BLM maintains a number of permanent centers where animals are available for adoption all year long. Satellite adoptions are sponsored at locations convenient to the public. A typical satellite adoption is held on a weekend in an area where adoption demand has been identified.

To adopt a horse or burro, an individual must be at least 18 years of age, have no convictions for inhumane treatment of animals and have adequate facilities and means of transportation to provide humane care and proper treatment for the animal. Parents or legal guardians may adopt a horse or burro and allow children to assist in caring for and training the animal.

An adoption fee of $125 per horse or burro is usually charged at adoption centers. Unweaned foals accompanying a mare or jenny will be sold only with their mothers. Progeny of adopted wild horses or burros which are born in captivity while under adopters' care are not considered to be "wild and free-roaming" and are, therefore, the property of adopters.

One year after signing an adoption agreement, the adopter may receive title to the horse or burro provided that the animal has received proper care and maintenance.

To adopt a BLM horse in Nevada, write: Palomino Valley Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Center, P.O. Box 3270, Sparks, NV 89432 or telephone 775.475.2222.

State horses are available through participating adoption agents. For a current list of non profit groups working as "hold and place" adoption organizations, please click the link below.



Palomino Valley Adoption Center

Nevada Adoption Schedule

Adoptions at the Reno National Wild Horse and Burro Show


Silver State Industries' Training & Adoption Program

Approved Adoption Group Information

The VRWPA and Wild Horses of Storey County

This is not a BLM or State of Nevada operated site. It is run by private wild horse and burro enthusiasts.

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