The Sulphur HMA, is located in Southwestern Utah. The Needle Range is 40 miles long and is located east of the Nevada-Utah border. The mountains that make up the Sulphur HMA, are the Mountain Home Range on the north and the Indian Peak Range on the south. The highest elevation in the Mountain Home Range is 9,480 feet. Indian Peak has an elevation of 9,790 feet. Hamblin Valley is on the west, Pine Valley is on the east and the Escalante Desert is on the south. Antelope Valley, the Burbank Hills and Great Basin National Park are on the north. Elevations of the surrounding valley floors are between 5,000 and 6,000 feet. The Sulphur Herd Management Area is approximately 142,800 acres and covers the entire Needle Range. Most of the area is unfenced.
According to D. Philip Sponenberg, DVM, PhD, of Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and Technical Coordinator, American Livestock Breeds Conservancy: "The Sulphur Herd Management area horses that are appear to be of Spanish phenotype. The horses were reasonably uniform in phenotype, and most of the variation encountered could be explained by a Spanish origin of the population. The remoteness of the range and blood-typing studies, suggests that these horses are indeed Spanish. As such they are a unique genetic resource, and should be managed to perpetuate this uniqueness. The Sulphur Herd, is Spanish in type and therefore more unique than horses of most other BLM management areas." He later states: "The fact that the horses were so consistently Spanish type is evidence that these horses have a Spanish origin. This evaluation therefore establishes the Sulphur horses as Spanish in appearance".
"The studies that Dr. Gus Cothran conducted, in particular, have shown that the "markers" in a particular kind of blood test show that these (Sulphur) Horses appear to be direct descendants with no apparent influx of other blood, to the Spanish Horses which were brought to the California Missions by the Spaniards. Genetic marker data indicates the Sulphur Herd has a clear Spanish component in it's ancestry. These mission horses were of Sorraia, Jennet and Andalusian breeding. "The Sulphur herd in general appears to have strong Spanish links. What I can tell you is that the Sulphur horses have the highest similarity to Spanish Type Horses of any wild horse population in the U.S. that I have tested. They definitely have Spanish ancestry and possibly are primarily derived from Spanish Horses.
"A Wild Iberian Horse Among Mustangs" by Hardy Oelke: Where the connection of the Iberian Horse to the American mustang is? Can one really believe that these horses survived among Mustangs? And how did they get there in the first place? What we know is:
1. That Sorraias all have a typical DNA pattern, one rarely found in other horses.
2. We know that Columbus made at least one shipment of horses to the New World which most likely were identical to those we call Sorraias today; and if that happened once, there is a good chance it happened more than once.
3. There are some mustangs that have the Sorraia DNA pattern.
4. And we know, and can see it with our own eyes, that among America's mustangs there are horses of the Sorraia phenotype. Some (Sulphurs) resemble the Sorraia so much that one cannot tell them apart. Oelke found the same form as the Iberian horse in the Sulphur Springs horses of Utah, proof of the purity of Spanish descent.
To some, the wild mustangs of the American West are just a nuisance, but to many, they are a treasure, a living legend and symbol of American history and of the free spirit of the West. It was this "Spanish Mustang" who deserved, above all, the preservation granted by the U.S. government as a symbol of American history. Hardy Oelke has always had a profound interest in the world's primitive horses. He has traveled North America extensively since 1975 in order to study its horses and horse culture. He was not prepared to find among the Wild Horse herds that resembled the Sorraia.
The earliest reference to horses being in the southwestern Utah area is from the journal made by Father Silvestre Velez de Escalante during the 1776 Dominguez-Escalante expedition. Horses were referred to were those taken on the expedition. Escalante also refers to "the horse herd" in his journal, which would also suggest many animals. On October 2, while in an area south of Delta, Utah, the horse herd wandered off due to thirst, but was recovered. On October 8, in an area north of Milford, Utah. The Dominguez-Escalante expedition were in areas fairly close to the Mountain Home Range. This is just speculation.
The Old Spanish Trail, launched in the late 1700s to serve as a connecting link between two of Spain's colonial outposts, from New Mexico to California. Thousands of horses were driven over this trail from southern California to New Mexico. Part of the route led across the Escalante Desert, south of the Needle Range. Horse Thieves liked the mission and ranch horses. They were produced by careful breeding, were more highly prized. By 1832 raids on the herds of missions and ranches had become so frequent and devastating that Californians were alarmed." The most documented horse raid is about Pegleg Smith and Ute Indian chief, Walkara, in 1840. Chief Walkara died in 1855. As a rule, stolen horses were sold in Utah or taken directly to Santa Fe. A fur trader, traveling from California to Utah, traveled across the Escalante Desert north to the Sevier River, when the horses saw a chance to get away, they ran into the Utah Mountains that were nearby.