Are Draft Horses Endangered

Danielle Fletcher
• Monday, 28 September, 2020
• 28 min read

Many of the most popular horse breeds today were also once endangered, often not that long ago. It is one of the few remaining horses that was specifically bred for regional farm work needs.

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The Suffolk region is filled with wetlands and marshes, so this breed was adapted to those conditions. One of the oldest recognized endangered horse breeds hovers around the 1,000 marks as well in terms of population.

They have a smooth gait, a sensitive personality, and generally have a dark brown or chestnut coat. It’s more of a miniature horse than a pony, especially since the average height tends to be between 9-10 hands.

Their strength allowed them to carry a knight clad in full armor out into battle with relative ease. Although their numbers are estimated to be around the 2,000 mark, they are still used for heavy agricultural work, especially in the forestry industry.

Often used in the mining industry, their numbers have continued to dwindle since World War II. All other horses are considered to be feral, including Rubies and Mustangs, because of how the herds or mobs were originally formed.

Although the current populations are born in the wild, the ancestry of the feral horse is one that includes domestication. They would be completely extinct if a zoo hadn’t maintained a single stallion and a handful of mares to preserve it.

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You’ll find this horse in national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and even in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. In 1989, only three small herds existed for this breed, along with 100 horses owned by private families.

Although an estimated 300 horses are currently registered and numbers are continuing to rise, this rare breed is still considered to be extremely endangered. Native to South Carolina, this is another horse breed that is directly descended from Spanish colonists in the 1500s.

To help protect the breed, DNA testing was conducted in 2006-2007, leading to a closed stud book to be created in 2010. This horse tends to be thinner and lankier compared to other breeds as well, creating features that appear to be quite delicate.

Originally developed in Turkmenistan to be used for transportation and agricultural work, this breed is hardy and athletic. This horse breed was almost exclusively developed in the Black Forest region of Germany.

After mechanization reduced the need for farms to have working horses, this breed dropped in popularity almost immediately. There are now about 1,000 horses in this breed and its popularity continues to bring it back from the brink of extinction.

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They are gray, but appear to be nearly white, and when a herd gallops through the wetlands, it makes for quite a sight. Watching them has become so popular, in fact, that tourism opportunities to take photographs has started to create a resource base that can help to preserve the breed.

The breed originally developed in Argentina in the mid-1800s before being imported to the United States in 1962. They are highly intelligent as a breed, often used as guide or service and support animals for those with physical or emotional disabilities.

They are also one of the longest-lived horse breeds in the world today, with many living longer than 40 years. Their presence is known to restore the balance of a local ecosystem because of their endurance in wetland systems.

Endangered horse breeds can be saved when the right supports are put into place. This is actually a good thing, and means that responsible breeders did not continue to breed during the economic recession when there was no demand for new foals.

The American Cream originated from a mare called “Old Granny” in Iowa, and it is the first (and last) draft horse breed native to the United States. Because Suffolk and Norfolk, England is on a peninsula that was once difficult to access because of marshes to the west, the Suffolk horse has remained remarkably true to the original type–that is, a draft horse bred specifically for farm work, not driving or riding.

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The Cleveland Bay originated in Medieval times from pack horses that carried goods between abbeys and monasteries, and in modern times this adaptable breed can be seen doing everything from driving the British royal carriages to showjumping or foxhunting. This ancient Iranian breed nearly went extinct in the 1960s, but thanks to the efforts of expatriate Louise Fibrous it made a comeback.

Interestingly, most Caspian horses reach their full height by just 6 months of age. The stocky Ex moor pony has had a tough history–from being used as “pit ponies” in mines, to being used for target practice and even food during the first World War, after which only 50 members of the breed survived.

The Hackney horse and pony are distinct types, proportioned differently. Hackney ponies are one of the few breeds developed completely in a controlled environment.

Christopher Wilson wanted a “roadster” bred for style and stamina, and developed the Hackney pony from Hackney horse stallions and Fell ponies in the 1800s. Shire horses come from stock used to carry knights into battle, but the breed was later adapted for farm work and hauling heavy loads over rough terrain–and to this day, some Shires are used in the forestry industry where mechanized vehicles cannot go.

The breed nearly went extinct in the 1950s and ’60s, but today they are more popular than they have been in decades despite their small numbers. “Colonial Spanish” is not a breed in itself, but a group of about 15 breeds or strains that descend from Spanish stock brought to the United States, and which have had a strong influence on American gained horses.

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These War Horses were crossed with Flemish stallions and Dutch Frisians and eventually gave rise to the Lincolnshire Black. The modern Shire Horse breed was established around 1790 by a livestock breeder named Robert Bake well.

The worldwide population of Cleveland Bays is about 900 horse throughout North America, Australia, Europe, Japan, and Pakistan. Now very few breeders produce purebred Cleveland Bays, but a few organizations around the world are dedicated to keeping the breed alive.

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons Like most of the horses on this list, the Dales Pony is from England. The Dales Pony came about after the largest, strongest, and most active Scotch Galloway's were bred with native herds to produce the best horses for working in lead mining.

In the 18th century, Dales Ponies were used to pull stagecoaches and deliver mail because of their speed and agility. Over the years, the population of Dales Ponies has declined because they are no longer needed to work in various industries.

After the birth of a stallion named Silver Lace in 1932, breeders became more interested in Old Granny’s cream colored bloodline. Photo source: Wikimedia Commons The Newfoundland Pony is also one of the most critically endangered horse breeds on this list.

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Photo source: horsebreedspictures.com The Galileo is a critically endangered horse that has a long history in the Americas. It is estimated that there are fewer than 100 pure Aliens left, making this the rarest horse breed in the world.

These Iberian horses were brought over the New World by Christopher Columbus as well as Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortes. Through natural selection when these Iberian horses bred in their new environment, the Galileo breed was born.

It's characterized by a dense golden mane that pops against the rich chestnut color of their coat. Be prepared to fall in love with this light draft breed that's evolved over centuries in the Black Forest of southwest Germany.

Black Forest Horses have immense strength, but they are also gifted with incredible patience and a gentle temperament. This makes them an ideal choice for first-time or novice horse owners.

These gorgeous horses are typically used for driving, but many rely on them for pleasure, too, such as carriage riding. And through careful breeding, there are hopes to see those numbers increase in the near future.

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There are many individuals dedicated to growing the breed's numbers, so they will never become a thing of the past. According to TheEquinest.com, an association was formed in Germany in 1896 to preserve and protect this rare breed of horse.

Share the Black Forest Horse with other equine enthusiasts you know, so they can learn something, too. Alexia Khrushchev / Shutterstock.Comte Akhal-Teke is a recognizable rare breed on our list due to their striking appearance: slender with a shiny, metallic coat, these horses often make the rounds on the Internet as the most beautiful horses in the world.

But even beyond their appearance, the Akhal-Teke occupies a special place as a versatile and resilient breed that’s great for endurance races and sports. Coming from the deserts of Turkmenistan, the Akhal-Teke is one of the oldest existing breeds and one that was extremely prized in Asia for centuries.

Coming from the Black Forest of Germany, from where the breed takes its name, it is fairly unknown to the world at large. Their main use is forestry, as fits the region they come from, but as draft horses, they’re great for all sorts of agricultural and harness work.

The breed registry accepts only horses that are chestnut with flaxen mane and tail. After World War II, the number of Black Forest Horses decreased so significantly they are now considered endangered.

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Lisa Becker / Shutterstock.Comte Cleveland Bay is a rare horse breed, dating from the 17th century England. These horses are very strong with short legs in relation to their body size, and immense power.

Although it does have some protection, the rare breed almost met its demise due to increasing mechanization and the wars that plagued the early 20th century. Fortunately, some have survived and the breed is slowly increasing in numbers, especially since the Cleveland Bay Society earned the patronage of Queen Elizabeth II in 1977.

Estimates show the breed is still critically rare, however, with fewer than 900 Cleveland Bay horses still living worldwide. Some people claim that this rare horse breed has been purebred since the ice age.

Not only is this horse breed super cute, but it’s also used for a variety of equestrian activities and is well known for its hardiness and endurance. Ernie / Shutterstock.Comte Risky pony is a small and rare horse breed from Scotland, in the Hebrides.

The breed is likely of direct descent from the Celtic and Norse horses brought to the Hebrides, and appear in Pinkish imagery. Today, it’s considered to be in a critical condition as a purebred, although a small population still resists.

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Oles ya Akiva / Shutterstock.Comte Malware is a rare horse breed from the Mar war region of India and is most well known for its inward ears. Malware horses used for riding, packing, light draft, and agricultural work.

Since 2008, temporary travel visas for the Malware Horse breed have been available in small numbers. Old Granny’s own breeding is unknown, but she was a champagne mare with pink skin and amber eyes.

A fast, elegant trotter, the Dales Pony is a great harness horse. Created in the Penning Range, from Derbyshire to near the Scottish border, these ponies were a major source of power for the farms in that region.

It was World War II, however, that took this breed to near extinction, as the Army confiscated them for heavy-duty work, and few ever came back. The Dales Pony is predominantly black, but can also be found in brown, bay, gray, and roan.

You can learn more about this rare horse breed at the Dales Pony Society website. David Wieczorek / Shutterstock.com Sorrier ponies are considered the rarest horse breed with only 200 left in the world.

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Strong efforts exist to preserve and recover this endangered horse breed, which was virtually unknown until the 20th century. The Sorrier is small (14.1 to 14.3 HH), stocky, and has strong primitive characteristics, such as a convex profile and dun coloring, often with the typical striping, dark muzzle, and black-tipped ears of a Grille, also.

Currently, the Sorrier exists only in Portugal and in Germany, with horses kept for breeding purposes. Extreme weather, encroaching human settlements, and livestock infringing on their habitat pushed the horses as far east as the steppes of the Gobi Desert in China and Mongolia.

Conservationists report that the species is extinct in the wild, and only an estimated 2,000 individuals remain in zoos and reserves, including the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia. Every Przewalski’s horse descends from 12 wild ancestors, so they’re in dire need of increased genetic diversity, reports Jonathan Women for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“A central tenet of the Frozen Zoo… was that it would be used for purposes not possible at the time,” Oliver Ryder, director of genetics at the San Diego Zoo Global, said in a statement released last month. After 40 years of being frozen in time, scientists thawed the stallion’s cells and fused one with an egg from a female domestic horse, who would later be Kurt’s surrogate mother.

His successful cloning provides hope for conservationists that one day they can restore the population of Przewalski’s horses in their native range. “This colt is expected to be one of the most genetically important individuals of his species,” Bob Wise, chief life sciences officer at San Diego Zoo Global, said in last month’s statement.

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Country of originated StatesTraitsDistinguishing featuresCream color, medium-heavy bewildered standards American Cream Draft is the only draft horse breed developed in the United States that is still in existence. A rare horse breed today, it is recognized by its cream color, known as “gold champagne”, produced by the action of the champagne gene upon a chestnut base color, and by its amber eyes, also characteristic of the gene; the only other color found in the breed is chestnut.

Like several other breeds of draft horses, the American Cream is at risk for the autosomal recessive genetic disease functional epidermolysis bulls. The breed was developed in Iowa during the early 20th century, beginning with a cream-colored mare named Old Granny.

The mechanization of farming in the mid-20th century led to a decrease in the breed's population and the registry became inactive for several decades. However, population numbers are still considered critical by The Livestock Conservancy and the Equus Survival Trust.

American Creams have refined heads, with flat facial profiles that are neither concave nor convex. They have wide chests, sloping shoulders and short, strong backs.

Their ribs are well sprung, and they are short-coupled with well-muscled hindquarters and with strong well-proportioned legs set well apart. According to enthusiasts, the breed has a calm, willing temperament, particularly suited for owners who are new to handling draft horses.

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Mares stand 15–16 hands (60–64 inches, 152–163 cm) high and weigh 1,500–1,600 pounds (680–730 kg), while stallions and geldings stand 16–16.3 hands (64–67 inches, 163–170 cm) and weigh 1,800 pounds (820 kg) or more. The ideal coat color for the breed is a medium cream with pink skin, amber eyes and a white mane and tail.

The characteristic cream color of the breed is produced by the champagne gene. Recognized colors include light, medium and dark cream, with amber or hazel eyes.

A cream mare with dark skin and a light mane and tail may be accepted by the registry as foundation stock, while stallions must have pink skin and white manes and tails to be registered. The appendix will also accept half-bred Cream Draft horses crossed with other draft bloodlines if they meet certain requirements, and the registry provides an upgrade system that uses appendix horses to strengthen genes, increase breed numbers, and allow more diversified bloodlines.

The champagne gene produces diluted color, and the gold champagne body color, light skin, light eyes, and ivory mane and tail associated with the American Cream Draft are produced by the action of the champagne gene on a chestnut base coat. In the adult horse, the skin is pink with abundant dark freckles or mottling, and the eyes are hazel or amber.

Skin freckling is slightly visible around the muzzle of this resting horseChampagne is a dominant trait, based on a mutation in the SLC36A1 gene. The mapping of the gene was announced in 2008, and the American Cream Draft cross was among the breeds studied.

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The authors of this study noted that it was difficult to distinguish between homozygous and heterozygous animals, thus distinguishing champagne from incomplete dominant dilutions such as the cream gene. However, they noted that homo zygotes may have fewer mottling or a slightly lighter hair color than heterozygotes.

Anecdotal reports also note mild differences, including lighter freckling, skin and hair coat, though eye color remains the same. Dark-skinned American Cream Draft horses are actually chestnuts, as the breed is not homozygous for the champagne gene; only one allele is needed to produce the proper color.

The American Cream Draft is never cello or white, and though the gold coat color with a white mane and tail resembles palomino, the breed's defining characteristics are the result of the champagne gene. The autosomal recessive genetic disease functional epidermolysis bulls (JEB) has been found in some American Cream Drafts.

This is a lethal genetic disorder that causes newborn foals to lose large areas of skin and have other abnormalities, normally leading to euthanasia of the animal. It is most commonly associated with Belgian horses, but is also found in other draft breeds.

A DNA test was developed in 2002, and JEB can be avoided as long as two carriers are not bred to one another. The American Cream registry states that it has “been pro-active in testing its registered animals since JEB was discovered”.

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The breed descends from a foundation mare named Old Granny. She was probably foaled between 1900 and 1905, and was first noticed at an auction in Story County, Iowa, in 1911 and purchased by Harry Latin, a well-known stock dealer.

She was eventually sold to Nelson Brothers Farm in Jewell, Iowa. Her cream-colored coat, pink skin and amber eyes are defining standards for the breed, and the color is now known as gold champagne.

In 1946, two years after the breed registry was formed, 98 percent of the horses registered could be traced back to Old Granny. They agreed to let him remain a stallion, and he sired several cream-colored foals, though only one was registered: a colt named Nancy No.

Nancy sired Knox 1st, born in 1926 to an unregistered bay mare of mixed Shire ancestry. From this sire line, in 1931, a great-great-grandson of Nelson's Buck was born, named Silver Lace No.

Silver Lace quickly became a popular stallion in Iowa. However, stallions standing for public stud service in Iowa were required to be registered with the Iowa Department of Agriculture, and this agency only allowed horses of recognized breeds.

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However, his main breeding career coincided with the economic struggles of the Great Depression, and Silver Lace was at one point hidden in a neighbor's barn to prevent his sale at auction. Another significant foundation stallion was EAD's Captain, whose bloodlines appear in about one-third of all American Cream Drafts.

Around 1935, despite the Depression, a few breeders started to line breed and inbreed cream-colored horses to fix their color and type. Reason began buying cream-colored mares sired by Silver Lace and developing the American Cream breed in earnest.

In 1950, the breed was finally recognized by the Iowa Department of Agriculture, based on a 1948 recommendation by the National Stallion Enrollment Board. The mechanization of farming in the mid-20th century led to a decrease in the overall draft horse population, and with Reason's death in 1957, American Cream Draft numbers began to decline.

By the late 1950s there were only 200 living American Creams registered, owned by only 41 breeders. In 1994, the organization officially changed its name to the American Cream Draft Horse Association (AC DHA).

In 1982, owners began blood-typing their horses, and by 1990, genetic testing found that “compared with other draft breeds and based upon gene marker data, the Creams form a distinct group within the draft horses.” Registry records dating to the early 20th century show no bloodlines other than draft breeding.

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The Equus Survival Trust also considers the population to be “critical”, meaning that there are between 100 and 300 active adult breeding mares in existence today. To help replenish numbers, the AC DHA has developed regulations to permit foals to be registered when produced via methods such as artificial insemination and embryo transfer.

Careful use of the appendix registry also allows numbers to increase. The Official Horse Breeds Standards Guide: The Complete Guide to the Standards of All North American Equine Breed Associations.

Story's Illustrated Guide to 96 Horse Breeds of North America. “Misses Mutation in Exon 2 of SLC36A1 Responsible for Champagne Dilution in Horses ".

“Functional Epidermolysis Bulls (JEB) in Belgian Draft Horses : 4AEP 2003”. ^ “Parameters of Livestock Breeds on the Alec Conservation Priority List (2007)”.

^ “Equus Survival Trust Equine Conservation List” (PDF). Wikimedia Commons has media related to American Cream Draft Horse.

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The first horses were domesticated approximately 8.000 – 7.000 years ago and had an important role throughout history in the development of civilization. It originates from a French stock of horses exported by Louis XIV to Canada.

The breed was almost extinguished during the US Civil War, when many Canadian horses were exported and killed during combat. The Canadian horse is quick, strong and resistant to harsh environment conditions.

The Suffolk Punch was developed early in the 16th century and it has remained very similar in characteristics to its founding stock. It was a popular horse breed for farm work due to its heavy and strong frame and mild temperament.

Unfortunately, once farm work was mechanized, the Suffolk Punch was simply not a breed that horse breeders were interested in. Similar to the Suffolk Punch, the decline of the breed began once farm work was heavily mechanized.

In 1997, it was declared a heritage breed of Newfoundland and Labrador, being protected under law, but the world population is estimated to consist of only 200 – 250 ponies. Valued for its speed, style and hardiness, the Hackney horse was used at harness races during the 19th century.

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The Cleveland Bay is popular for hunting, show jumping, farm work and driving. Cleveland Bays were used in the creation and improvement of other horse breeds, such as the Oldenburg, the Hanoverian, the Holstein or the Vladimir Heavy Draft.

Images of Caspian horses were found in art works dating back to 3,000 B.C., but at some point they were believed to be extinct. The breed was first developed right at the beginning of the 20th century which is partially the reason why it declined fast.

Cars and farm machinery began to be mass-produced, so another draft horse breed was not exactly high in demand at that time. In addition, modern horse breeding management and technologies can increase the rate of conception and successful foaling for obtaining healthy specimens.

These horses are known for their immense strength and the willingness to toil hard. Researches suggest that the protein that causes allergy is missing from the coat of this horse.

Draft horses are horse breeds that have a muscular built and are used for heavy tasks. There are quite a few breeds that come under this category that share some similarities like the strong built and good temperament.

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The characteristic features of draft horses are that they are huge, normally standing between 15-19 hands. They have upright shoulders, broad backs, and powerful hindquarters, which is suitable for pulling heavy load.

Stallions having pink or dark skin with a white mane are also accepted by the registry. American creams are a medium-sized draft breed and have strong feet.

This horse has the ‘champagne’ gene which is why it has a light shade coat, mane, and eyes. There are only few of these beautiful horses left and efforts have been made to increase the numbers.

Origin: Rennes, France Height: 15-16 hands Colors: Chestnut, gray, bay, and roan Appearance: Thick and powerful legs The horse has great temperament and can work in rocky terrain.

Origin: Bashkiria, Russian Height: 13-14 hands Colors: Chestnut, brown, and bay Appearance: Curly coat, small draft horse The curly coat makes it easy for the horse to survive in cold regions.

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Belgian Draft Horse is also called Brabant, the place where it originated. These horses have a strong built, wide nostrils, and a light colored mane.

The markings are because of the gene called ‘Sabine’ and the white fur on the legs can extend till the knees. Because of such good reputation, these are bred with other draft breeds to improve their characteristics.

The physical characteristics are unique because of the upright beautiful mane. Almost 90% of the Fjords are brown dun but there are other shade variations that are recognized.

Back then, this breed was said to have small feet but efforts were made to improve upon its foot structure. These horses are used for various different works but mainly for agriculture and pulling wagons.

Origin: Boutonniere, France Height: 15-16 hands Colors: Gray Appearance: Muscular but elegant The horse is very sturdy and is used for heavy work, but at the same time, it has an elegant trot.

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The Italian Heavy Draft is also known as Rapid Heavy Draft ; and ‘Cavalry Agricola Italian the Trio Peasants Rapid’ in Italian. This breed is famous for the perfect blend of strength and speed that it has.

The Worker also known as the Pinzgauer or Norico-Pinzgauer comes from a mountainous region, and this breed is famous for the great balance it has. This very fact made it easy for the horse to transport goods from one place to the other, in the ancient days.

This is a list of my ten favorite heavy draft horses, with a “bonus breed” at the bottom. It is such a shame that these amazingly gentle, calm, and sweet-natured horses have been bred for purposes such as pulling heavy artillery in warfare and hard laborious tasks such as haulage, forestry, and agricultural work.

A breed that has become infamous for their incredible strength and size, coupled with their beauty and steady, docile, and friendly personalities, has won the hearts of many equine enthusiasts. The tallest horse ever recorded is a Shire horse called Noddy, who stands at 20.2 hands, though normally Shires stand between 16 and 17 hands and weigh around 2000-2400 pounds.

This breed originated from England, but quickly gained popularity worldwide as an excellent working horse. Percheron horses originate from Western France and are an intelligent, hard-working type who have the tranquil nature of most heavy breeds.

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They vary in size, ranging from 15.1 and 18.1 hands and weighing anywhere from 1900-2600 pounds. The exact ancestry of this breed is unknown, but it has been suggested that Arabian and Boutonniere horses were bred to create the Percheron.

Although this breed is stocky, well-muscled, and remarkably strong, they are also graceful and elegant and have drawn many admirers. Clydesdale horses originated from Scotland, where they are still commonly used as haulage and agricultural workhorses.

As well as being used to create other breeds, Clydesdale horses have been used as drum horses by the British cavalry, as they have an unfailingly strong bond to their owners and will obey demands to their last breath. Standing between 16-18 hands and weighing 1900-2200 lbs, this breed is an impressively strong creature characterized by friendliness and intelligence.

Belgium or “Bra bent” draft horses are another sweet, amiable breed who have been used for purposes including war, agricultural, haulage, and mine horses. They are incredibly intelligent and are becoming more popular; their numbers are increasing to reflect this.

The Suffolk Punch is a beautiful, intelligent, and amiable breed that is sadly currently listed as endangered. In appearance, it is similar to a large, more heavily built Harbinger horse, to which it is closely related.

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It is also one of the oldest breeds in existence and has been documented in the early 16th Century. They generally stand around 16.1-17.2 hands in height, and weigh between 1980 and 2200 lbs.

They were used by the Romania people of Great Britain to pull the “caravans” in which they lived. They are extremely intelligent and docile animals, who are renowned for their pie-bald, pinto pattern, and heavy feathering on their legs from the knees down.

They usually stand at 13-16.2 hands and are very popular for their willingness to help and wonderful temperament. Vladimir horses, as you may be able to guess, originated from Russia, and were created through the breeding of heavy draft breeds such as Percheron and Clydesdale horses.

Although this breed usually weighs around 1870 lbs and stands about 15.1-16.1 hands, these horses are incredibly fast and athletic, despite their size and weight. They are known to have a remarkably wonderful temperament as well as being intelligent, friendly, and inquisitive.

Australian draft horses are a mix of Clydesdale, Shire, Suffolk Punch, and Percheron horses. Although less popular than the better-known breeds mentioned above, Australian draft horses have been noted as strong, hardy and intelligent animals who make great companions and date back to around 1854.

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They measure up to 17.2 hands and weigh around 1980 lbs, being lighter and smaller generally than the pure Shire horses, but no less friendly or calm in their nature. Dutch draft horses were developed in 1918 and are the result of crossing Brabant and Rennes horses, in the hopes of capturing the best of both breeds.

These horses can shift astonishingly heavy loads, whilst maintaining an elegant, calm nature. It is one of the most critically endangered animals in the world today, and a great amount of care is being taken to sustain the purity of the breed.

Laurel Johnson from Washington KS on April 25, 2014: A friend of ours used to raise Belgians and I could spend hours watching them frolic and graze.

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