Last Updated on November 18, 2022
If you’re a fan of the famous ‘Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron’ movie, you have likely wondered what kind of horse is Spirit? Does a horse like this exist in real life, or was it created just for this animated movie? Let’s find out everything you need to know about what kind of horse is Spirit, and whether it is possible to get a horse like Spirit for yourself!
What Kind Of Horse Is Spirit?
Made in 2002, the now iconic ‘Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron’ movie was intended to replicate as closely as possible the lives of wild horses that went into captivity. The producers wanted the horses to be as realistic as possible, and in order to do this they tracked down a stallion who they thought embodied the characteristics and appearance of Spirit, the lead character in the film.
The horse that got this role was a Kiger mustang stallion called Donner. Although mustangs are widespread across many areas of America, Kiger mustangs are relatively rare and have a very distinctive appearance.
Donner, now called Spirit, is a majestic dun-colored stallion with a broad, muscular body and long, flowing, black mane and tail. The producers fell in love with his majestic appearance, with a high, noble head carriage and floating movement. And so Donner, aka Spirit, became the model for the animation artists working on the film.
Would you like visit the Spirit real-life mustang horse? Well, the horse that inspired Spirit now has a forever home at Return to Freedom’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary, where he serves as an ambassador for this majestic horse breed.
What Color Is Spirit The Horse?
The Spirit the horse in the movie is the same color as his real-life counterpart, dun. He is a particularly dark dun, with a golden brown coat and long, black mane and tail. He has a distinctive dorsal stripe, and darker shading to his legs and muzzle.
Although dun is one of the more common mustang horse colors, this coloring is much more prevalent in Kiger mustang horses. So, if you want a horse that looks like Spirit, it is worth investigating breeds that are similar to Kiger mustang horses.
What Are Kiger Mustang Horses?
OK, so we know that Spirit was based on a Kiger mustang stallion, and we’d like to learn a bit more about this incredible breed of horses.
Mustang horses are well-known in America, but what many people don’t realize is that there are different types of mustangs based in different regions. Mustangs are famous for their free-living lifestyle, often roaming free across vast areas of unpopulated land. Although may people think that mustangs are wild horses, they are in fact descended from domesticated horses that either escaped or were released into the wild.
This led to some interesting interbreeding between different groups of horses, most of which were brought into America from elsewhere. The strongest genetic influence on mustang horses comes from Spanish colonial horses, but over the years other bloodlines such as ranch horses, Thoroughbreds, and even draft horses have been introduced.
This has led to a wide genetic diversity within mustangs as a whole, but there are some isolated pockets of mustangs that have not been influenced by the genetics of other horse breeds.
One of these is the Kiger mustang herd, found in the high desert of southeastern Oregon. These horses were discovered in 1977 and government officials soon realized that they had found a very unique group of horses. To protect them, the horses were moved to Kiger Gorge, at the north end of Steens Mountain.
The Kiger mustangs range in height from 13.3 to 15.2 hands, so they can be slightly taller than the average mustang horse height. Most of these horses are dun in color, like the stallion who inspired Spirit, but you may also come across other colors such as black, roan, red dun, grullo, and bay.
This horse breed also boasts an color rarely found in other horse breeds; a blend of dun and cream. Because Kiger mustangs tend to be dun in color, many of these horses have a strong dark dorsal stripe. You may come across Kiger mustangs with white markings, but these are generally discouraged.
Kiger mustangs have a short, muscular body and strong, atheleitic legs. They boast thick, long manes and tails, and a smooth yet dense coat.
The face of the Kiger mustang is one of its most distinctive features, with a broad forehead, elegant straight muzzle, and small, hook-shaped ears. They are proud and noble in appearance, and breeders hope to preserve these prized characteristics of this breed.
Genetic tests have identified that the Kiger mustang is directly descended from the Colonial Spanish Horse, and many Kiger mustangs are descendents of a single stallion called Mesteno. The breeding population of Kiger mustangs still lives in the wild, but are tightly managed by various breed associations and government organizations.
Every 3 to 4 years, the feral herds of Kiger mustangs are rounded up and any surplus stock are sold at auction. The best examples of the breed are returned to the wild for breeding. The breeding stock consists of two main herds, which cover an area of over 60 thousand acres of land between them.
Summary – What Kind Of Horse Is Spirit?
So, as we have learned, the animated star of the film ‘Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron’ was based on a real-life Kiger mustang stallion called Donner. Donner, now called Spirit, is a majestic dun-colored stallion with a broad, muscular body and long, flowing, black mane and tail. The horse that inspired Spirit now has a forever home at Return to Freedom’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary, where he serves as an ambassador for this majestic horse breed.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on what kind of horse is Spirit! Have you ever come across a horse that looks like the real-life version of this famous animated horse? Or maybe you’ve always dreamed of visiting the majestic Kiger mustangs in the wild and want to learn more about this protected breed? Leave a comment below and we will get back to you!
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE