RENO, Nev. (AP) -- American history textbooks teach generation after generation that wild horses roam the Western plains as a result of the European explorers and settlers who first ventured across the ocean and into the frontier.
But that theory is being challenged at archaeological digs and federal courtrooms as horse protection advocates battle the U.S. government over roundups of thousands of mustangs they say have not only a legal right but a native claim to the rangeland.
The group In Defense of Animals and others are pressing a case in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that maintains wild horses roamed the West about 1.5 million years ago and didn't disappear until as recently as 7,600 years ago. They say DNA evidence shows that today's horses are genetically linked to those ancestors.