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Breyer models to help rare Nokota horses

March 22, 2007

Breyer's new Nokota Horse model.
Model makers Breyer have created a new model of the rare Nokota horse, which will help raise funds for the breed's conservation.

Nokota horses and they are the last survivors of the Northern Plains mustangs. Originating in the badlands of North Dakota, they are a rare strain of mustang tracing its heritage to the Lakota horses that once carried the great chief Sitting Bull. They are threatened by extinction, drought, and overcrowding.

The Nokota Horse Conservancy, a non-profit organization in Linton, North Dakota, is dedicated to protecting the Nokota Horse and raising awareness of its plight.

Breyer Animal Creations commissioned the sculpture of a Nokota Horse stallion from which a portion of the proceeds will raise funds to assist the Conservancy's efforts to support this endangered breed.

Descendants of wild horses that roamed the Little Missouri Badlands of North Dakota, the Nokota horse's bloodlines are traceable to early North Dakota ranch horses and Indian ponies that the US government confiscated from Lakota people in 1881. With the enclosure of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the 1950s, many of these wild horses were unintentionally fenced in.

Threatened first by crossbreeding and later with removal by the National Park Service, these horses began to rapidly disappear, often, sadly, to slaughterhouses.

Two brothers, Leo and Frank Kuntz of Linton, North Dakota, tried to protect the unique strain of mustangs by purchasing as many of the horses from the National Park during round-ups and sales as they could.

They dubbed the breed "Nokotas," a tribute to the North Dakota badlands that they call home. In 1986, the Kuntz brothers joined forces with Dr. Castle McLaughlin, a graduate student and park ranger who researched the horses for the National Park Service. Together, they began a breed registry and breeding programme, and began lobbying for the breed's protection and preservation. In 1993, Nokotas were designated the North Dakota Honorary State Equine.

Today, the last surviving herd lives on the Kuntz Brothers' ranch where their care now requires full-time attention to ensure that the breed survives.

In 1999, Blair and Charlie Fleischmann partnered with McLaughlin and the Kuntz Brothers to establish the non-profit Nokota Horse Conservancy (NHC) after seeing the horses during a vacation in Montana. Now, the NHC, manned entirely by volunteers, raises awareness about the breed's unique place in American history, and raises funds to support the last surviving herd. Money donated to the Conservancy is used to support the daily needs of the horses, but an important goal of the Nokota Horse Conservancy is to create a sanctuary where the Nokotas can live freely without interference.

A portion of the proceeds from the purchases of Breyer's Nokota horse model will be donated to the Nokota Horse Conservancy to help with the purchase of land, feed, water and shelter as well as the development of educational programmes for the public.



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