Horse Trading Among Nations

In the West, horses dispersed quickly along Native American trading routes—first from the Pueblo to the Navajo, Ute, and Apache. The Comanche on the southern Plains traded them north to their kinsmen the Shoshone. These were among the first tribes to incorporate horses into their way of life.

By 1700 horses had reached tribes in the far northwest—the Bannock, Nez Perce, Cayuse, Umatilla, and others. Trading links sent them east to the River and Mountain Crow and Missouri River tribes.

The Pueblo, Navajo, Apache, Ute, Comanche, and Shoshone were some of the first Native peoples to acquire horses. The objects shown here represent the lasting bond between them and their mounts.

What Was a Horse Worth?

In the early 1800s, on Native trade routes, the going rates for horses were:

  • 1 ordinary riding horse = 8 buffalo robes
  • 1 fine racing horse = 10 guns
  • 1 fine hunting horse = several pack animals
    • OR 1 gun and 100 loads of ammunition
    • OR 3 pounds of tobacco
    • OR 15 eagle feathers
    • OR 10 weasel skins
    • OR 5 tipi poles
    • OR 1 buffalo-hide tipi cover
    • OR 1 skin shirt and leggings, decorated with human hair and quills