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Dayton O. Hyde

Cowboy - Conservationist - Writer

March 25, 1925 ~ December 22, 2018


The Legacy of Dayton O. Hyde

​Dayton believed he was a cowboy first, conservationist second and writer third. As a kid, he had always wanted to ride a horse and he never turned down an adventure.

He was a man whose wonderful observations bring home the powerful fact that a human being is responsible to the land and is not its master.  All his life his curiosity compelled him to learn all he could about every creature inhabiting the land he nurtured. He felt that man does not have dominion over the earth but rather a responsibility to take care of all our fellow travelers.


As a result, he became an exceptional self-trained naturalist whose experiences enrich us all. Hard work and hardships at The Wild Horse Sanctuary coexist with dedication to principles of conservation and sound ecology.  His exuberant, hard-fisted, often humorous portrait of a rancher’s life is told the way it ought to be told.

In 1987 during a cattle buying trip to Nevada, Dayton saw huge corrals full of sad-eyed wild horses recently captured by the federal government. He was angry over their plight of being rounded-up by helicopters and run in by men on horseback. It was just too cruel to take a wild horse away from their freedom and home and be contained in a corral.  In his mind, he envisioned large tracts of land with well-conceived fences so the wild horses could be given their freedom again.


                                 When South Dakota Governor George Mickelson heard of Dayton’s idea of a sanctuary for wild

                                  horses he asked Dayton to visit South Dakota to see a tract of land known as Chilson Canyon

                                  in the Southern Black Hills.  Ultimately, a partnership was formed between Dayton Hyde,

                                  the Governor, the Bureau of Land Management, and South Dakota Community Foundation.

                                 With the promise of this partnership, Dayton O. Hyde founded The Institute of Range and the

                                  American Mustang (IRAM) on this large tract of land in South Dakota.

                                  Finally, in the early

                                  fall of 1988, after building many miles of fences on this piece of land, the first truck load of horses arrived. The horses rushed off the trucks in to this piece of heaven - their new forever home. One of the mustangs on the truck was a beautiful blue roan two year old filly named Prairie Lark, who became Dayton’s partner in exploring the sanctuary land and welcoming hundreds of horses to their newfound freedom.

All Proceeds from Sales Directly Benefit the Efforts of the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary

Today Dayton’s largest conservation project is privately owned by the nonprofit IRAM organization and is located on the 11,000-acre Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary.  On the Sanctuary hundreds of mustangs, along with the native wildlife, enjoy their quality life of freedom. Dayton had envisioned this property as a piece of land worth saving and considered the wild horses as his partners in saving this land forever.

Dayton said, "One old cowboy can do quite a bit but it is up to us to Carry on the Dream of Keeping these Wild Horses Running Free". Please support the Dayton O. Hyde Legacy Fund to ensure that Dayton's mission will continue long into the future and the wild horse herds and all the wildlife will have a home at the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary forever.

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