Some horse breeds are flourishing in today’s world. Others are struggling to survive. Although there are several endangered horse breeds, there is also a lot of hope. Many of the most popular horse breeds today were also once endangered, often not that long ago. In just 50 years, many breeds have made an incredible recovery.
These are the next endangered breeds that many hope will make a similar recovery in the near future.
#1. American Cream
The American Cream is a draft horse and it is the only draft horse breed that is native to the United States. It’s unique coloring comes from a combination of chestnut and champagne genetics instead of the potentially hazardous all-white coat genetics. Fewer than 100 of these horses are believed to exist in the world today.
Another drafting horse is incredibly endangered, with fewer than 1,000 known to exist at the moment. All of them have a chestnut coat, though there can be varying shades of it. It is one of the few remaining horses that was specifically bred for regional farm work needs. The Suffolk region is filled with wetlands and marshes, so this breed was adapted to those conditions. It’s also one of the few draft breeds that has not been adapted to riding or driving.
#3. Cleveland Bay
One of the oldest recognized endangered horse breeds hovers around the 1,000 marks as well in terms of population. This horse breed was often used to transport goods between religious institutions. Today it is a carriage horse, riding horse, and can be competitive in dressage and show jumping. They have a smooth gait, a sensitive personality, and generally have a dark brown or chestnut coat.
In the 1960s, this Iranian horse breed almost went extinct. It’s more of a miniature horse than a pony, especially since the average height tends to be between 9-10 hands. Most of the horses in this breed reach their full height around 6 months of age.
#5. Exmoor Pony
This horse breed is the foundational breed for many of the modern pony breeds, but it is also quite endangered. After World War I, there were fewer than 50 horses remaining to this breed. Although the numbers are still quite restricted, there are an estimated 2,000 horses in the world today. There is even a feral herd that roams in Exmoor. When domesticated, they are often used for driving or riding.
This draft horse was originally used for farming and agricultural work. When war broke out, their mild-mannered nature and larger size made them an attractive war horse. 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.
In the 17th century, the Canadian breed was one of the most popular in the world. They were exported globally because of their extreme versatility. They were war horses, farm horses, and carriage horses primarily, but could be called upon to do almost anything. This versatility also eventually contributed to their eventual almost-extinction, as only a small pool of purebred horses were left in Canada.
Since the 1970s, there has been a large push to preserve this strong and sturdy horse.
#8. Dales Pony
This is a hardy breed that is native to England. Often used in the mining industry, their numbers have continued to dwindle since World War II. There are believed to be fewer than 3,000 of them in the world today.
#9. Przewalski’s Horse
This is the only breed of horse that is recognized as being a wild horse. All other horses are considered to be feral, including Brumbies 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. This is not the case for Przewalski horses.
There are only a few hundred of these horses in the world today and they are all protected. They would be completely extinct if a zoo hadn’t maintained a single stallion and a handful of mares to preserve it. You’ll find this horse in national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and even in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
#10. Florida Cracker Horse
Similar to the Spanish Colonial Horses, this breed is a direct descendent of the horses that were brought to the United States in the 1500s during the beginning of the Colonial Era. The name comes from the work that the horses were asked to do instead of the food that they like to eat. Cowboys in Florida during the 1930s were referred to as crackers.
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.
#11. Marsh Tacky
Native to South Carolina, this is another horse breed that is directly descended from Spanish colonists in the 1500s. It is a smaller horse, but has adapted well to the lowland swamps of the region. Fewer than 300 of these horses are currently known to exist. To help protect the breed, DNA testing was conducted in 2006-2007, leading to a closed stud book to be created in 2010.
Most of the horses in this breed stand about 14 hands in height, with up to 15 hands being considered normal. The original breed had Pinto coloration in addition to all other color varieties, but the Pinto pattern was not selected for breeding, so it has been phased out of the breed. It has a gait that is comparable to a fox trotter and is known for being sure-footed with a good stamina.
This breed has one of the most unique coats in the entire equine world. It has a sheen that almost appears to be metallic when seen from a distance. 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.
#13. Black Forest
This horse breed was almost exclusively developed in the Black Forest region of Germany. The history of this breed dates back for almost 600 years because of the need for agricultural help in the region. After mechanization reduced the need for farms to have working horses, this breed dropped in popularity almost immediately. By the early 1980s, fewer than 200 horses remained. That’s when the German government stepped in to create a preservation program.
There are now about 1,000 horses in this breed and its popularity continues to bring it back from the brink of extinction. It is strong, gentle, and an excellent carriage or riding horse.
Another one of the oldest horse breeds in the world today is one of its most endangered. They tend to be somewhat feral, tending to prefer living in the wetlands of Southern France. 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.
Some believe the origins of this breed could date back over 17,000 years. It is known that these horses were present before Roman and Celtic occupations. Local land owners help to control herd size and structure.
One of the most unusual miniature horses is the Falabella, which is one of the smallest horses in the world. Most stand less than 32 inches tall at the withers. 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.
Originally from Poland, the goal of this horse breed was to reproduce the qualities of the Tarpan breed, which has been extinct since 1910. Bred with Przewalski horses, Icelandic horses, and others that have a similar coat color, these horses are typically used for wetland grazing projects throughout Europe. 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. Sometimes that comes from private efforts, while sometimes the local government may need to step in to help. With diversity, the equine world is stronger. By promoting awareness of these breeds, that diversity can continue to be encouraged.