The Comanches Lived on the Backs of Horses

You know those books that you love, then you find get tiresome, and then, one day you just pick up a random page and it starts to be fascinating again? Well that’s what I think of American Nomads by Richard Grant. I turned to a page that told the story of a people who once ruled a 250,000 square mile territory. It was the Comanches who overthrew other tribes and with their skill at horsemanship and hunting, chased their rivals the Apaches and Sioux away and conquered their lands.

At one point pioneers in Texas were discovering that bibles and other books were being stolen by the illiterate Indians. It turned out that the paper made an excellent bullet-proofing for their bison-hide war shields. According to Grant, the Comanches were the only tribe who successfully bred horses for speed, endurance, striking colors and patterns. They used to have the biggest herds. Even ordinary warriors would own 200 horses, while a Sioux war chief might have his own equine armada of about fifty. No one kept more horses than the Comanche. One band was said to consist of 2000 people and a herd of 15,000 horses.

They lived on horseback. Eating, fighting, sleeping and even defecating was done on horseback. The Huns did the same. They distained walking. In many ways, says Grant, they were America’s version of the Huns or The Scythians, who were the first recorded nomadic warriors in history.

The Comanches terrorized Mexican towns, raiding, raping, and dragging woman, children and more horses back north across the border. Today, the genetic legacy haunts the small number of surviving Comanches. Seventy-five percent of the tribe has diabetes and a quarter have had amputations of limbs resulting from the disease.