top of page
A Brief History Of The Gila Herd

Long before Arizona was a state or even a territory explorers came and with them they brought horses that were amazingly adept at surviving the brutal heat as well as being able to travel many miles carrying the explorers and supplies. These same horses had survived a long ocean journey to get to the new unchartered land. Suspended in slings below the decks they sailed across the oceans. At times when there was no wind many of them were brought to the decks and jettisoned off into the waters to lighten the loads so that the ships could continue onward.

In the travels of Father Kino to establish missions, he too brought the horses with him and he would leave behind small herds of the horses at his missions.

These are the ancestors of the herd once known as the
Painted Rock Wild Horses that are now called the Gila Herd Wild Horses.

 Unique in many ways, this herd displays many of  the characteristics of the Spanish colonial horses or Spanish mission Horses. Their manes are tri-colored with shades of red, browns and blacks. They have a distinctive dorsal stripe down their backs that extends.through their tails.  Perhaps one of their most distinct and striking features are the stripes or bands on their legs.


They have the look of an exotic horse from a time long ago.


 For many years they lived peacefully in isolation in the deserts of Southern Arizona until  humans moved in to their areas and planted crops and brought in livestock. Due to these circumstances  they suffered brutal roundups by people known as Mustangers. But even worse the ranchers/farmers shot at and many were killed.


In 1996 they suffered the ultimate betrayal by humans. They were gathered up and removed from their homeland. They ended up in a state far away from the warm climates of Arizona.


For many years they seemed to have disappeared and were forgotten except for the occasional newspaper or magazine article.


In 2016 the herd was front and center of an unfortunate event that created the possibility of them being sent to auction and to enter the slaughter pipeline. no longer were they forgotten. But it was at great cost to this herd many perished because of harsh weather conditions and starvation. 


Due to the efforts of many wild horse advocates coming together this herd and others were ultimately saved from another betrayal by humans. The Gila Herd Wild Horses were placed in a sanctuary in California.

We invite you to join us to learn more about this small herd and to be part of their future and to help us to see that they regain their place in Arizona history as one of the oldest documented wild horse herds.

The Gila Herd Foundation of Arizona

PayPal ButtonPayPal Button
April 2018

The Gila Herd Foundation has received confirmation that they have been accepted a 1-year funding grant from a major cosmetics brand. 

Summer of 2018

The Gila Herd Foundation will be hosting a booth at several public venues to increase awareness of not only this herd but other wild horse herds


2604 W Palmer Drive

Payson, AZ 85541   

​Telephone: 928-978-3417 


  • Wix Facebook page

April 21st, 2017

The "founding four" Gila horses arrive at the Gila Herd Foundation of Arizona. Kino, Isabella, Aragon and Diego have come home to Arizona.

March 10th, 2017

Our 501(c)(3) non profit organization is official/application is approved!

December 19th, 2016

The Gila Herd Foundation of Arizona is formed to preserve the remaining Gila horses. 

bottom of page