Nevada is home to nearly half of America’s free-roaming horse population. Though the state is expansive, many of these horses are part of the Virginia Range herd, which occupies a region in the western part of the state. This famous herd is often referred to as “Annie’s Horses,” after the decades-long crusade of “Wild Horse Annie,” or Velma Johnston. Johnston worked to protect free-roaming and feral horses across America, and she hailed from Nevada. These horses, allegedly, inspired her campaign.
Annie and these horses also inspired The Wild Horse Annie Act. Johnston became aware of the ruthless manner in which feral horses were rounded up in Nevada; ranchers, hunters, and “mustangers” were responsible for harvesting wild horses for commercial purposes, pointing up an important lapse in animals rights upholding. Johnston’s grassroots campaign, which primarily involved school children, worked to bring these topics into the public eye.
The campaign worked—the public became enraged by the issue—local and national newspapers published articles about the exploitation of the feral horses. Finally, in January of 1959, Nevada Congressman Walter Baring introduced a bill prohibiting the use of motorized vehicles to hunt wild horses and burros on public lands. The bill unanimously passed and became public law in September of 1959.
Visitors can see these magnificent horses by hiking the trails east of Reno. They gather around watering holes, so tread lightly near water. For more information about Wild Horse Annie and her spectacular mustangs, see the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros’ website. Travelers will delight in the hiking, beauty, and accessibility of this U.S. horse destination.