Horses have been around for millions of years, domesticated for thousands, and are ever-evolving and changing over time. There are many different kinds of horses that include different colors, breeds, and behavior. Horses have been man’s longtime companion for as long as their domestication commencement at around 4,000 B.C. Aside from our use of riding horses, we have also utilized them in other areas of our lives including for travel in coaches and wagons, farming labor, in military operations including the world wars, and of course, for recreational and professional competitions and shows.
As time passed, some of these horse breeds decreased in population or went extinct due to a decrease in the need for their various uses such as the development of steam engines leading to a decrease in coaches. Many breeds today are endangered or extremely small in number. The rarest types of horses are now either under conservation and protection by various horse conservation organizations or have long gone extinct. There are many different organizations dedicated to the conservation of various breeds including the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and the American Wild Horse Sanctuary as well as Rare Conservation which all specialize in protecting and breeding some of the rarest horses alive today.
The following are 3 of the most rare horse breeds today. Please do your part in the conservation of these beautiful, intelligent and noble creatures that have accompanied and aided man for thousands of years.
American Cream Draft Horse
The only Native American draft horse breed, the American Cream Draft Horses have been around since approximately 1905. The American Cream is the only horse breed to have developed in the United States that is still alive today. Distinguished by their light cream color and amber eyes, American Cream Draft Horses are bred in both champagne and golden champagne colors. Considered easy to train, American Creams are also known as people pleasers and exotically beautiful in appearance. They were first developed in Iowa, starting with the first cream color mare called “Old Granny.”
Many of the first American Cream Draft Horses can be all be traced back to her lineage. Threatened with extinction during the Great Depression, their breeding was revived in the mid-1940s. In the late 1950s, the American Cream Draft Horse population had significantly decreased due to the mechanization in agriculture which spawned farm equipment such as tractors. The breed was revived and coveted in the early 1980s with the founding of the American Cream Draft Horse Association. Later, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy listed the American Cream Draft Horse as an endangered species. There are less than 400 American Cream Draft Horses in existence today.
The Suffolk Horse is the single draft horse breed that was simply bred and selected exclusively for farm labor. Dating back to the 1500s in eastern England (Suffolk and Norfolk), the Suffolk horse was declared very valuable and therefore was bred pure and changed very little over the past three hundred years. Since this breed was only ever developed and bred for farm work, its characteristics reflect this such as incredible strength, stamina, and easily-trainable dispositions. Suffolk horses are chestnut colored and have strong, rounded, and muscular builds. They were imported to Canada in 1865 and later to the United States in 1880, but declined in population after WWII. Saved by the efforts of a small number of breeders, the Suffolk has lived on, although it is still considered a very rare breed. Today, there are less than 1,000 Suffolk horses in existence.
Cleveland Bay Horse
The Cleveland Bay Horse is the oldest indigenous horse breed of England and dates as far back as the middle ages. Originating in Cleveland, England, a region still known today as one of the top horse-breeding areas of the world, the Cleveland Bay Horse is exclusively bay-colored and considered by many to be extremely calm and economical to keep around. They also tend to live longer than other breeds and are extremely versatile. Cleveland Bay Horses are convenient for use in a variety of areas including as hunter breeds, for farming, as honorable coach horses, and are seen as generally easy and pleasant to ride. The breed is also considered very successful in competitions of any sort. Credited as England’s esteemed coach horses, Cleveland Bay Horses were popular throughout the 1800s and into the early 1900s, but saw a decline with a decrease in the use of coaches which led to the formation of the Cleveland Bay Horse Society. Cleveland Bay Horses are also seen as extremely noble given their history fighting alongside soldiers in both world wars. It is said that 1.5 million horses died in both wars and that the Queen of England herself saved the last 5 of the breed in order to conserve them after WWII. Utilized to improve horse breeds in other countries, Cleveland blood is crossed with many different breeds including the Clydesdale, Holstein, and Russian Vladimir.
Today, Cleveland Bay Horses are popularly crossed with Thoroughbreds to create incredibly adept show horses. Considered very rare, there are only around 1,000 in existence worldwide.
Although human needs change over time, it is important to remember the legacy left to us by these majestic animals. Horses have been a part of man’s history for thousands of years, living and even dying beside us. Their loyalty, trust, beauty and nobility are often limitless and conservation of rare breeds is a must. All animal and horse enthusiasts alike should band together to help these breeds thrive.