Spirit Horse right at home on Dancing Crane Ranch

Spirit Horse right at home on Dancing Crane Ranch

Nearly extinct, the Spirit Horse is a unique breed.

Dancing Crane Ranch sits on 380 acres in Sawyer, Minn., and is home to chickens, a sheepdog, a couple ponies, a herd of about 12 bison, and now, a Spirit Horse.

Shy Boy, the Spirit Horse, came to Dancing Crane Ranch for the Wise family to foster in May.

“They’re a really unique breed. They’re one of the most rare horses in the world, actually,” David Wise said.

They nearly went extinct. According to Wise, there are only around 200 Spirit Horses left in the world.

“In the 1970s, they were down to only four mares. And they were rescued by a group of men from the Bois Forte reservation,” he said. “There were no known studs left of the breed, so they utilized the wild mustang so that — they figured that would be the closest thing to them because … it might be a negative term, but they’re kind of considered a feral horse.”

The breed was reportedly developed by Ojibwe people in Canada and northern Minnesota. They were a working horse, used for both pulling and riding.

“They have extra hair in their ears to keep them real warm in the winter. And then they have a nose flap so that they can breathe the cold air without damaging their lungs,” Wise said.

But to him, Shy Boy also feels like a companion.

“If I had to compare him to a dog breed, I would say he’s kind of like a Black Lab,” Wise said. “He’s super friendly, and he loves pets and affection.”

Shy can’t be bred because he’s a gelding, but the Wises hope to participate in the Spirit Horse breeding program by using Shy Boy as an ambassador and potentially hosting more Spirit Horse mares and even a stud to breed on their land on the Fond du Lac reservation.

“Whenever we introduce a new animal like a new horse, we’ve noticed they all have their own different personalities,” Wise said. “And some of them were scared of the bison. But he was just like – almost like he had a memory of the bison. He just went right over there and hung out with them.”

Shy Boy seemed to be right where he belongs.

“We’ve seen how cool of an animal they are,” Wise said. “We love our other horses, but to tell you the truth, I think he’s cooler than most other horses I’ve ever met.”