December 19 2007
No, it's not me, but today's history lesson looks back at someone who, a hundred years ago, was a day's endurance ride away from here.
The "Horse Queen of Idaho" was Kittie Wilkins, born in Oregon in 1857, lived in Oregon, Washington and California before coming to Owyhee County in her 20's. She was partners with her father and brothers in the ranching business, eventually taking over the horse business from her father. Theirs was one of the largest horse ranches in the world at the time, the Wilkins Horse Co, on a ranch near Mountain Home in the Bruneau Valley.
Kittie was known as an excellent horsewoman (this was sidesaddle back then, mind you), riding the range with her buckaroos, helping during the roundups, and breaking horses.
The horses they raised were a mix of Morgans, Hambletonians, "Black Hawks," French draft horses (including Percherons), and mustangs. They were sold all over the country, with Kittie eventually taking over all the sales. Every year she'd load up hundreds at a time onto freight trains with a few hands, and she'd conduct all the sales and even ride the horses for demonstration in her stylish riding clothes.
Her horses sold to farms and ranches and the US Cavalry; some ended up in Buffalo Bill's wild west shows.
Her opinions on horse slaughter: "The killing of horses for food, which has lately been introduced in this country and in some of the foreign countries, is an enterprise that I cannot too severely condemn. No lover of the most beautiful animal ever created will ever submit to having him killed and eaten. I would almost feel like a cannibal should I attempt it."
Kittie's father died in 1904, leaving the running of the ranch to Kittie and her mother. When kittie's ma died in 1917, Kittie was 60, and apparently lost interest in her horses and ranching, as the car came into being, and horses weren't worth much anymore. Herds of horses were shipped off for chicken feed and rustlers made off with many others.
The "Horse Queen of Idaho" died of a heart attack in 1936 at 79, her obituary reading, "famous Idaho stock grower who once had a herd of 4000 Broncs."
The vacancy for new Horse Queen is still open. I'd apply, but I'm having a hard time keeping up with just 6 horses, and none of them buck.