The Nokota horse is descended from American Indian ponies and ranch stock that got loose — or were turned loose — and took refuge in the labyrinthine Little Missouri River Badlands.
Efforts to preserve the Nokota breed, which is the official North Dakota equine, were placed in jeopardy three years ago when Leo Kuntz died unexpectedly.
Frank Kuntz stepped in and bought many of Leo’s horses, with an eye for important breeding stock that would help keep the Nokota line going. He now owns a herd of about 220 horses. He also cares for 84 horses owned by the Nokota Horse Conservancy.
The approximately 300 horses on his ranch near the bluffs of the Missouri River represent the largest breeding repository of Nokota horses, whose owners are scattered across the United States and parts of Europe.
But a troublesome question nags those who care about the Nokota horse: What will happen to Frank Kuntz’s horses when he’s gone?
At 70 years of age, battling cancer and now without Leo, Kuntz doesn’t entertain any illusions about his mortality.
“I’m looking for another good 10 or 12 years,” he said.