Last Updated on August 21, 2023 by Allison Price
Native Americans have had horses since the 17th century. They used them in all aspects of their daily lives. They either rescued them from the wild or obtained them from Spanish settlers. The Comanche people were one of the first tribes that acquired horses and managed them well.
The Appaloosa Quarter Horse Paint Horse Horse and Spanish Mustang are the most popular Native American horse breeds. Native Americans have influenced many modern American horse breeds, directly or indirectly.
Native American culture was enriched by horses soon after the acquisition of their first horses by native tribes. The tribes relied heavily on horses to fight, hunt, and travel and formed close relationships.
Native Americans preferred spotted horses, and they created many color variations. Native American horse breeds are intelligent, athletic, and resistant because of their extraordinary breeding knowledge.
These are the 9 most popular Native American horse breeds!
Appaloosa, a Native American horse breed, was developed in Idaho by the Nez Perce tribe. They are well-known for their distinctive spotted coats, and they are popular Western riding horses.
In the first half 18th century, the Nez Perce tribe acquired their first horses from Shoshone. They had already started breeding selectively and had herds. The 19th century was the first to notice the spotted pattern.
Nez Perce’s breeding horses at the time were highly valued by white settlers, and sold for high prices. Modern Appaloosas are slightly larger and have a variable body type because they were mixed with other breeds.
Appaloosas compete in nearly every discipline today. They have had a profound influence on many other spotted horse breeds such as the Nez Perce Horse and Walkaloosa.
This Native American horse breed was created by the Choctaw tribe over many years. The Choctaws’ home was in the south of Mississippi today, where they deliberately bred their horses to go on long hunting trips.
These horses were a symbol of honor, glory and wealth for the Choctaws. They are small and can reach 13.2 to 14.2 hands. They have strong hooves and endurance. They can also look like Spanish Mustangs, and they come in a variety of colors, with pinto being the most popular.
The Choctaw Nation relocated their herd in 1831. Unfortunately, the majority of their valuable herd was lost. The breed is now preserved in private farms and sanctuaries, with conservationists striving to protect the Choctaw horse for the future.
Nez Perce Horse
Native American horse breed, the Nez Perce Horse, is named after the Nez Perce tribe of Idaho. They are a cross of the Appaloosa & Akhal-Teke and produce a sporty horse with a spotted hair.
The Nez Perce Horse’s purpose is to reproduce the Nez Perce people’s original high-quality horses. Appaloosa horses were the foundation stock of the breed, and belonged to an ancient pure bloodline.
Nez Perce Horse’s original elegance, athleticism and endurance were restored by the ancient Akhal-Teke breed. The breed excels at jumping and long-distance riding.
Many Nez Perce Horses can run and are able to walk. This trait is also found in some Appaloosa bloodlines. Their coats are often palomino, buckskin with Appaloosa spots and mottled skin.
American Quarter Horse
The American Quarter Horse, a hybrid of English Thoroughbreds and Chickasaw ponies, is a Native American horse breed. Its name derives from its ability to run faster than any other breed over a quarter mile.
The territory of the Chickasaw tribe spread throughout the Southeastern United States. In the 16th century, they first acquired horses from the Spanish. From this, they created a pony with 13 hands that was fast and stocky. This breed was a key contributor to the founding of the colonial Quarter Horse.
The Quarter Horse, today’s most popular horse breed in America, retains many of its Native ancestors. There are three types: the stock, the halter, and racing/hunter.
Quarter horses are well-known for their cow-sense and ability to excel in Western disciplines. They are also excellent all-rounders, and can excel in any discipline.
Another partially Native American horse breed is the Nokota Horse. It was bred in Sioux Tribe, southwestern North Dakota. Many horses have blue roan coats, and some exhibit the Indian shuffle gait.
Ranch horses from Sioux breeding, Thoroughbred, Spanish and harness horses were the foundation stock of the Nokota breed. They were almost extinct during the 20th century but a few herds managed to find shelter in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Two brothers Leo Kuntz and Frank Kuntz purchased horses from the park and established the Nokota Horse Conservancy. There are two types of Nokota Horses today: ranch and traditional.
Nokota horses can be held between 14 and 17 hands, and come in many colors. They are great endurance horses and can also compete in Western and English shows.
The Spanish Mustang is an American Horse breed that was reintroduced using feral horses, Plains tribe herds and ranch stock. They are a descendant of the first horses to arrive in the New World and they have a similar conformation.
A group of horsemen started efforts to preserve colonial Spanish bloodlines by creating a new breed. In 1957, the Spanish Mustang registry was established. It registered horses with Spanish ancestry. A genetic study in 2006 confirmed that Spanish Mustangs were descended from Iberian horses.
The breed’s height ranges between 13.2 and 15 hands. The latter is the highest acceptable height. The most common colors are gray, bay, black, chestnut and bay. However, spotted and dilution colours can also be found. Spanish Mustangs are great endurance athletes and all-rounders.
You can also read our guide to 6 types of mustang horses.
American Paint Horse
Native Americans have had a strong preference to colorful horses for centuries and have selectively bred them. The American Paint Horse is a hybrid of Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds. However, Native Americans are undoubtedly responsible for their creation.
Written records show that the first horses with pinto color traveled to the Americas in 1519 with Hernando cortes. These horses were quickly captured by the Plains tribes, who began breeding more of them.
Contrary to popular belief the American Paint Horse is not a color-breed but also has unique physical characteristics. Paint Horses are skilled ranch workers because of their stocky appearance and low center gravity.
Tobiano, over and tovero are the main colors in this breed. Some Paint Horses are also good at show jumping and hunter competitions, in addition to Western disciplines.
Florida Cracker Horse
The Florida Cracker Horse, a Native American horse breed, was bred from ponies from the Chickasaw tribe. Florida Cracker Horses were Florida cattle herders’ horses and display two unique gaits: the amble and the running walk.
The Florida Cracker is a product of the Colonial Spanish Horses, who accompanied the explorers to Florida during the 16th century. Native American tribes found the horses and began breeding them when they were free to roam. These agile, small horses were the foundation for the Florida Cracker breed. They also contributed to the Quarter Horse.
Named after the crackling sound of the cowboy whip, this breed was used to herd cattle. They were replaced in 1930 by Quarter Horses and their numbers began to fall.
Florida Cracker Horses are between 13.2 and 15. hands tall, and mostly come in solid colors. They are great stock horses and can compete in endurance and Western riding events.
American Indian Horse
The American Indian Horse is a group name for horses that descend from Plains tribes. Breed requirements include either Colonial Spanish Horse ancestry, or conformation that is similar to the original “Indian Horse strong>
The Great Plains, which stretch across central America, was the Plains tribes’ home. These tribes included the Blackfoot, Shoshone and Cheyenne tribes, as well as the Sioux and Shoshone tribes.
To preserve colonial bloodlines, the American Indian Horse Registry was established in 1961. These horses are sturdy and confident, can reach up to 13-16 hands in height and are often pinto- or spotted.
American Indian Horses can be used for Western riding, Gymkhanas and pleasure riding. This breed was also instrumental in the founding of many American horse breeds.