It's estimated that horses first arrived in Wyoming around 1740 after Native American tribes drove Spanish explorers north from present day New Mexico. The descendants of those horses still roam free in the Red Desert of southwestern Wyoming.

Over the years, horses have become a symbol of pride for the Cowboy State, from dude ranches to rodeos to our iconic bucking horse and rider logo.

By the late 1800s, Wyoming bred horses were considered among the best in the world and were commonly purchased as war horses by the United States, France and Great Britain. Thousands of horses were shipped from Wyoming to Europe to aid allied forces during World War I.

Here's a look back at five of the most famous horses in Wyoming history.

Wyoming State Archives Steamboat in the center of a corral.
Wyoming State Archives

1. Steamboat - Born in 1896 near Chugwater, Wyoming, Steamboat was widely considered among the best bucking broncos in rodeo history. Nicknamed "the horse that couldn't be ridden", the black gelding was christened Steamboat after a nose injury caused the horse to make a whistling sound whenever he bucked.

Steamboat died in 1914 and was later immortalized with the legendary bucking horse and rider symbol. Since then, he has been inducted into the Professional Rodeo Hall of Fame, the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and even represtented Wyoming on the commemorative state quarter.

2. Sir Barton - While Steamboat is Wyoming's most famous horse, Sir Barton is one of the most famous horses in the entire world. In 1919, this thoroughbred became the first race horse to ever win the Triple Crown; a feat that has only been duplicated eleven times since.

Originally bred in Kentucky, Sir Barton was purchased by a Douglas rancher and retired to stud here in Wyoming. Following his death in 1937, he was laid to rest at Washington State Park in Douglas.

3. Khadafy Skoal - The three-time Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Bareback Horse of the Year and Professional Rodeo Hall of Fame inductee was originally named S.S.Salty Dog and bred as a racehorse.

At the age of 4, he was sold and renamed Khadafy Skoal. After throwing several jockeys to the ground, his new owners quickly discovered he would make a better bucking horse than a race horse.

Following his debut at Cheyenne Frontier Days in 1989, Khadagy Skoal consistently ranked among the best bareback horses on the rodeo circuit for over 15 years. In 2004, he was retired and returned home to Pavillion, Wyoming, where he spent the final nine years of his life before passing away in 2013.

Meyers Collection, Wyoming State Archives
Meyers Collection, Wyoming State Archives

4. Gin Fizz - Bred by legendary Wyoming stock contractor and Professional Rodeo Hall of Famer C.B. Irwin, Gin Fizz followed in the footsteps of Steamboat (also trained by Irwin) to become one the top draws on the rodeo circuit in the early 1900s.

In an era where the horses were more famous than the riders, Gin Fizz was described by photographer J.E. Stimson as "one of the best performers" in 1908. "He is known as a high bucker from start to finish, usually landing his rider before exhausting his different stunts," Stimpson noted.

5. Desert Dust - Scientists have traced the ancestry of wild horses in southwestern Wyoming's Red Desert all the way back to the 17th century, when they were introduced to the west by Spanish explorers.

Perhaps the most famous of Wyoming's wild mustangs was Desert Dust. The stallion was captured by renowned Glenrock horse wrangler Frank Robbins during a roundup.

Photos of the polomino were sent to newspapers and magazines across the country and were published in many outlets including The Denver PostNational Geographic and Western Life.

In 1946, a painting of Desert Dust was commisioned for the Wyoming State Capitol. Later that year, Universal Studios reenacted his capture in the film "Fight of the Wild Stallions".


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