13 Most Popular American Horse Breeds

The New World has a fair few of its own native horse breeds, plus some others that have been developed in the country. There are a lot of them! Read on to find out more about a few of the American horse breeds.


appaloosa horse
Source: Pixabay

The well known, distinctive spotty coat of the Appaloosa comes from the Leopard Complex mutation. These horses have been around since prehistoric times, as evidenced by cave paintings in Europe and artwork from Ancient Greece and China. There is much variation between individuals because many different breeds make up the breed as we know it today. They are generally between 14 and 16 hands, and a great deal of differences of coat color are permitted within the breed.

American Quarter Horse

American Quarter Horse
Source: Pixabay

The Quarter Horse’s name comes from its ability to outdistance most other horses in quarter mile races. Some of these speedy horses have been clocked at 55mph! They usually stand between 14 and 16 hands, but some hunter types may grow as tall as 17 hands. They come in just about any color, but are most commonly sorrel. These days the American Quarter Horse is well known as a show, racing, rodeo, reining and cutting, or ranch horse. They have innate “cattle sense” which makes them ideal for large ranches.

Blazer Horse

Developed in the 1950s and 60s, the Blazer was bred to be a gentle ranch horse. They can be as small as 13 hands, and never exceed 15 hands. They come in many colors including black, bay, chestnut, dun, palomino and buckskin, and are bred specifically for their gentle temperaments. They are versatile enough to be used in sport competition as well as ranch work.

Choctaw Horse

This breed is now rare, and it was originally used by the Choctaw tribe of Native Americans, to whom it symbolized wealth, honor, gory and prestige. They are stocky and strong, and range between 13.2 to 14.2 hands. They come in all colors, but pinto patterns are the most common, and they are used for working with cattle due to their innate “cow sense”. Their strength makes them suited to pack horse work, though they are also agile enough for speedy western events.

Curly Horse

The name of this horse comes from its unique gene that causes curled hair. Curlies can stand between 14 and 16 hands, and are mainly chestnut, but every other coat color can also be found – from solid to spotted to pinto to dilute shades. They have fantastically quiet temperaments, so are ideal for the weekend rider or those starting out, but they also excel in dressage and show jumping. The curly coat is apparently hypoallergenic, so they are suited to those who are allergic to horses.

Florida Cracker Horse

The Florida Cracker is similar in stature and build to the Spanish horses which were brought to the US in the 16th century. They were first used as cow herding horses by the cowboys (known as “Crackers”, a nickname which came from the sound of their whips cracking). The Florida Cracker today stands between 13.2 and 15 hands, and are mainly bay black and gray – though grullo, dun and chestnut also exist. Numbers of this horse fell in the mid-2oth century, as they were replaced by Quarter Horses, but efforts are being made to keep the breed alive.

Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse

Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse
Source: Wikimedia.org

This horse is related to the Tennessee Walking Horse and other gaited breeds, and was developed by farmers who wanted a horse that could be comfortable to ride as well as strong enough to perform farm duties. There are two categories of this horse – Class A, which must stand taller than 14.2 hands, and Class B which stand between 11 and 14.1 hands. They come in all colors, and they exhibit an ambling gait which replaces the trot and is very comfortable to ride. These days they are used for general riding as well as showing and showjumping.

Mountain Pleasure Horse

Another gaited horse, this one comes from the Appalachian Mountains and is descended from gaited ponies from the British Isles. This horse stands between 14.2 and 15.2 hands, and comes in most colors, with palomino being very common. The breed is listed as endangered, but there are enough of them that they are used as family horses, because of their quiet, kind temperaments, and for endurance and trail riding.


mustang horse
Source: Wikimedia.org

Thee Mustang has descended form the Spanish horses that were brought to the Americas in the 16th century. There is much controversy about the wild Mustangs, because they are technically and introduced, rather than a natural species, and as such it is necessary to control their numbers. Some are rounded up and adopted, but the number of horses born far outweighs the numbers eventually domesticated.

National Show Horse

This horse came about as a result of a cross between an Arabian and an American Saddlebred. They stand between 14.3 and 16.2 hands, though some individuals are smaller or larger. They come in a variety of colors, including the traditional bay, gray, chestnut and black which comes from the Arabian ancestry, along with pinto and palomino markings from the saddlebred’s. They are used for many disciplines including jumping, dressage, endurance and Western riding, as well as for saddle seat riding.

Nokota Horse

The Nokota is a semi feral breed that roams the North Dakota. It was created by the crossing of Spanish horse, Thoroughbreds and harness horses with Native American horses, and was nearly wiped out in the early 20th century before the creation of the Theodore Roosevelt national park. The smaller members of the breed are generally between 14 and 14.3 hands, while the larger, “ranch type” stand between 14.2 and 17 hands. The breed exhibits the “Indian Shuffle” – an ambling gait which is comfortable to ride. They are usually blue roan, though can be black and gray.

Racking Horse

This breed, derived from the Tennessee Walking Horse, is known for its ambling singlefoot gait. They stand around 15.2 hands, and can be all colors. The rack gait can be extremely fast, up to 30mph, though they are generally not used for racing but for pleasure riding as well as saddle seat, in hand showing and endurance.


Source: Pixabay.com

This horse is similar to its ancestor the Thoroughbred, but is more muscled and heavier built. They average being between 15 and 16 hands and are usually bay, brown or black, though chestnut, gray and roan are also found. They are most commonly used for harness racing, as they are the fastest-trotting horses in the world. They are also used for pleasure riding and horse shows, and are favored by the Amish to pull their vehicles.

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