Plans by the US federal government to reduce by half the number of wild mustangs in the West have met growing opposition.

Bobbi Royle, president of the campaign group, Wild Horse Spirit, based in Nevada believes this will bring the numbers down to around 12,000. At the turn of the 20th century, estimates put the numbers at around 2 million.

She says: ” It’s a tragedy. They are the only horses that have any genetic background of longevity and strength. It’s all been bred out of today’s domestic horses, which suffer so many diseases.

She believes that the horses are being moved off the land because of pressure from the cattle lobby. “This administration is hell bent on destroying the wild horses because of the strong cattle lobby.

“They say that the mustangs are trashing the land, but horses only drink what they need and move on – with cattle you have to move the water to move them.

Many of the wild mustangs, which roam across 10 states in the American West trace their ancestry to those brought to the New World by the conquistadors in the 16th century. Others are traced to horses released by farmers and the US cavalry over the past 150 years.

For more information on the plight of the mustangs, visit www.wildhorsespirit.org