Nevada is home to almost half of our nation’s free-roaming wild horses, and many of these elegant animals have decided to make the grazing lands around Reno their neighborhood.
Steeped in the history of the Comstock Lode, the ancestors of today's Virginia Range herd were the motivation for Velma Johnston in her fight to gain federal protection for wild horses. This diminutive Reno secretary, who became known as “Wild Horse Annie,” is credited with the passage of the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. Ironically, the Virginia Range herd was not afforded federal protection because the Virginia Range is primarily private land. Responsibility for managing the herd falls under the Nevada Department of Agriculture.
The historic Virginia Range herd, over 1,400 strong, can be found living wild and free between Virginia City, Reno, Dayton and Carson City. When hiking the desert trails east of Reno or taking shade under a pinyon pine atop the Virginia Range, you’re likely to spot a group of young bachelors play-fighting as they grow to be wild stallions. Listen carefully and you might hear a wild mare calling out to her adventurous foal. Photographic opportunities are endless, especially if you’re lucky enough to find the herd enjoying a hidden watering hole.
For visiting federally managed wild horses, head northwest of the Black Rock Desert to find several designated herd management areas.
If you want a wild horse or burro to capture your heart, twenty-five miles north of Reno is the Bureau of Land Management’s National Wild Horse and Burro adoption center at Palomino Valley. Generations of living in rugged landscape has provided these horses with strength and stamina beyond that of horses raised in captivity. Those who must be removed from the range make stellar companion horses when given proper training. Proud adopters show off their skills at the Western States Wild Horse and Burro Expo held annually at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center.
*Tours can be arranged through Sonny Boy Tours.