The largest known herd of Nokota horses is being dispersed. The family of Leo Kuntz has begun selling horses from his herd of nearly 200 after the 69-year-old rancher died in August from an ATV accident on his ranch in southcentral North Daktoa.
Nokota horses are a hybrid of the Northern Plains that trace part of their ancestry back to the ponies of Sitting Bull, which were confiscated when the Hunkpapa Lakota leader surrendered at Fort Buford, North Dakota in 1881.
According to a report on The Forum by Patrick Springer, Kuntz, a life-long bachelor, was dedicated to the Nokotas, which were named the honorary state equine in 1993. Now, his family members are forced to sell horses because they can't afford to keep such a large herd.
A gofundme page was established to help the Kuntz family “save Leo's lifetime of work in these majestic Nokota horses.” As of Oct. 15, donations have totaled $5,300 of a $50,000 goal.
A combat veteran of the Vietnam War, Kuntz began following the wild horses at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the 1970s, eventually buying horses from the park after roundups. His herd grew in time to 275 horses. His brother, Frank Kuntz, and the Nokota Horse Conservancy, a nonprofit that the Kuntz brothers and others formed, also maintain herds of Nokota horses.
Over the years, Nokotas have attracted owners and supporters around the country, as well as in Europe. The horses are sturdy, intelligent and gentle, making them suitable for a variety of uses.