Yellowstone: Why Kayce’s Son Was Buried With A Horse

Yellowstone season 5 depicts the Indigenous tradition of burying horses with the dead, a common practice among the Comanche, Ute, and Apache.

In Yellowstone season 5, Kayce’s son is buried alongside a recently deceased horse, which Mo explains is in accordance with Indigenous tradition. Notably, it was the personal horse of John Dutton – the one that Rip had to kill out of mercy because of its broken leg, which happened due to inexperience of its rider Carter (Rip and Beth’s adopted son). Rip helps Mo and several others with burying the horse next to the grave of baby John Dutton – Kayce and Monica’s son – but Mo refused to elaborate exactly why this had to be done.

At the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch’s main house, Rip tells John his theory about the horse burial – “so the boy has something to ride in heaven,” which actually isn’t that far off from the truth. Just like how Yellowstone uses the wolf as a symbol of the natural order, the horse – on which the entire ranching industry is dependent – is a powerful symbol in the show and in real life. Here’s everything else viewers need to know about horse burial in Indigenous American tradition and what it means in the show.

Is Yellowstone’s “Horses In Heaven” Burial A Real Tradition?

Burying horses alongside human remains is a common practice among many Indigenous American nations, including the Comanche, Apache, and Ute. As part of revering the dead, their possessions – including favorite horses – were buried with them, and were sometimes killed on-the-spot as sacrifices for the deceased, with the quantity of buried possessions being congruent with their status. For instance, according to the Forest Service of the USDA, the Utes buried between 5 and 15 horses at the burial site of Chief Wakara. Moreover, there’s evidence that Indigenous Americans have been doing this long before the founding of the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch, or before any Europeans came to the continent.

What The Horse Burial Signifies In Yellowstone

Baby John Dutton being buried with a horse signifies his connection to the land as a member of the Confederated Tribes of Broken Rock – but it also foreshadows the Duttons losing their stewardship over the wilds of Paradise Valley. As seen in Yellowstone season 4’s 1883 flashback, Kayce and Monica’s son isn’t the first Indigenous American buried on Dutton land. However, baby John is not only the first Dutton with Indigenous blood to be buried on the ranch, but also the first to be buried with a horse. While Kayce and Monica’s union gave birth to the first Indigenous American Dutton, his immediate death reflects how these bloodlines contrast.

Though Yellowstone never outright states it, baby John’s death could be the reason why John is giving up the Dutton ranch by putting a conservation easement on the property. While this could allow the Duttons to retain formal ownership of the land, a conservation easement designates the entire ranch as a protected area by the state of Montana, which is actually congruent with the Indigenous American mandate of protecting the land at all costs. With a traditional horse burial now part of the history of the Dutton Ranch, this actually strengthens Governor John Dutton’s position of putting the largest contiguous ranch in the U.S. under a conservation easement.


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