Rare Horse Breeds: 4 of the World's Rarest Horses Breeds

Updated on June 20, 2019
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Donna partners with Dr. Cathy Alinovi, a retired veterinarian, to create informative pet health articles.

There are many breeds of rare horses in the world, and these rare heritage breeds are being pushed out of existence by the demands of today’s society. Farmers abandon their working farm animals, like horses, in favor of tractors and other mechanized inventions to increase productivity and supply consumer demands. Here are the stories and histories of four of the world's rare horse breeds.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Caspian horse at playRare horse breed American Cream Draft horse in harness at paradeLook at the sheer size and magnificent conformation of this American Cream Draft horse!Cleveland Bays in harness
Caspian horse at play
Caspian horse at play | Source
Rare horse breed American Cream Draft horse in harness at parade
Rare horse breed American Cream Draft horse in harness at parade | Source
Look at the sheer size and magnificent conformation of this American Cream Draft horse!
Look at the sheer size and magnificent conformation of this American Cream Draft horse! | Source
Cleveland Bays in harness
Cleveland Bays in harness | Source

The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy Priority List

The mission of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy is:

  • “Ensuring the future of agriculture through genetic conservation and the promotion of endangered breeds of livestock and poultry.”

Let's look at some heritage breeds from their Conservation Priority List (CPL) that are listed as critical:

  • Caspians
  • American Cream Draft Horses
  • Cleveland Bays
  • Colonial Spanish Breeds such as Spanish Colonial Mustangs

Drawing an American Cream Draft Horse

The American Cream Draft Horse

The American Cream Draft horse is the only Native American draft horse breed. They originated in 1905 with the foundational mare “Old Granny” and were recognized as a breed by the National Stallion Enrollment Board and the Iowa Department of Agriculture in 1950. “Creams” faced extinction due to the mechanization of the agricultural industry and the popularity of such farm equipment as tractors.

In 1982, C. T. Rierson and others began to revive the breed. He bought the best cream colts available and documented their pedigrees. Eventually, he helped found the American Cream Horse Association of America (the name was later changed to the American Cream Draft Horse Association). In the same year, the American Cream Horse was listed as endangered by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.

The American Cream Draft is distinguished by three traits:

  • Cream color
  • Amber eyes
  • Pink skin

They are approximately 15.3 hands (63 inches or 1.6002 meters) and are easy to train, eager to please, and good in harness. According to the ACDHA, the number of these in existence is less than 400.

Habitat of Caspian Horses

Caspian Sea:
Caspian Sea

get directions

Present day range of Caspian horses

Elburz mountains:
Elburz Mountains, Iran

get directions

Video of a Caspian Stallion

The Caspian Horse

According to the Caspian Horse Society’s website:

  • “The Caspian is probably the most ancient domestic breed of horse in existence.”

This statement is borne out by the wealth of artifacts, stone drawings, and ancient writings depicting Caspian-like horses. The breed, once thought to be extinct, was rediscovered on the Caspian Sea’s shore—a remnant of approximately 50 horses—and revived by the efforts of Louise Firouz. It is listed as a critically endangered species by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and as an endangered species by the Rare Breed Survival Trust. As of 2008, there were approximately 1600 Caspians left in the world, with only about 500 of those located in the United States.

The Caspian is an excellent small breed standing about 10.2 (42 inches or 1.0668 meters) to 12.2 (50 inches or 1.27 meters) hands tall. They are excellent for jumping and driving, while their diminutive stature makes them a perfect child’s mount. Fast and agile, yet gentle-tempered and easy to ride, the Caspian has much to offer.

Video of a Cleveland Bay

The Cleveland Bay Horse

The Cleveland Bay dates to the 17th century and is Britain’s’ oldest horse breed. They were originally working animals for the monasteries and were used to haul packs of goods, and then later found a welcome place in the agricultural and transportation world hauling wagons, carts, and carriages. They are listed by both the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and the RBST as critical, with less than 500 in the world and fewer than 200 in the United States.

Coats are always bay but may show color variations such as bright bay (reddish), ordinary bay, dark bay, or light bay with dark points and no white markings except a small forehead star. They stand 16 hands tall (64 inches or 1.6256 meters). They are prized for their intelligence, hardiness, and endurance, and today they are used for farm work, driving, hunting, as police mounts, or for showing.

The Spanish Colonial Mustang

Spanish Colonial Mustangs are just one rare breed of horse that is in danger of extinction
Spanish Colonial Mustangs are just one rare breed of horse that is in danger of extinction | Source

The Colonial Spanish Horse

The Colonial Spanish breeds is a grouping designated by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy for horses of Spanish ancestry. In their words, “The Colonial Spanish horse is a group of closely related breeds that descend from horses brought to the Americas in the 1500s.” Some of the commonalities of this breed are:

  • Size: 13.2 hands (54 inches or 1.3716 meters) to 15 hands (60 inches or 1.52400 meters)
  • Weight: 700 to 900 pounds

The Colonial Spanish breeds are typically easy-going as well as good-natured and are used for farm work, showing and riding. They are listed as critical by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.

Why Preserving Rare American Heritage Breeds Is Important

Preserving the genetic diversity, integrity of the gene pools, and breed attributes of the world’s rare horse breeds are vital. These historic breeds are a part of the world’s agricultural culture and history.

The populations of many of these breeds are increasing, but more work needs to be done. For more information on the preservation of endangered equine species, visit your local library or the websites of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy or the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2011 Donna Cosmato

    Share Your Thoughts on Rare Horse Breeds Conservation

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      • norlawrence profile image

        Norma Lawrence 

        3 years ago from California

        Very good. The information was great and so were the pictures.

      • DonnaCosmato profile imageAUTHOR

        Donna Cosmato 

        8 years ago from USA

        Yes, natures47friend...it is heartbreaking that if we don't make a concerted effort to save them, some of these rare breeds of horses (and even other animals) will simply cease to exist.

      • DonnaCosmato profile imageAUTHOR

        Donna Cosmato 

        8 years ago from USA

        Cat R, thank you for taking time to share your thoughts about this hub on rare breeds of horses:) It is indeed a sad commentary on our stewardship of the Earth that we are so cavalier about these precious creatures.

      • natures47friend profile image


        8 years ago from Sunny Art Deco Napier, New Zealand.

        Really interesting...its sad that extinction looms for such beautiful animals....great hub.

      • DonnaCosmato profile imageAUTHOR

        Donna Cosmato 

        8 years ago from USA

        Hi Donna, it is hard to believe that technology could cause such a ripple effect, isn't it? We live in a rural area and still see some horseback riders or horsedrawn carriages, but even those numbers are dwindling. How sad to see these rare horse breeds (and other rare breeds) being pushed from existence:(

      • Donna Sundblad profile image

        Donna Sundblad 

        8 years ago from Georgia

        Interesting hub. I have a photo of my great-grandfather in a wagon with a team of two horses. Never thought of this type of horse going into extinction in the wake of technology! Voted up!

      • DonnaCosmato profile imageAUTHOR

        Donna Cosmato 

        8 years ago from USA

        Thank you for the nice compliment/comment, pstraubie48! I'm always in awe of the sheer power and majesty of animals like these rare horse breeds. Watching them gallop and prance is like watching a well-choreographed dance is it not? I'm so glad you enjoyed this hub:)

      • Cat R profile image

        Cat R 

        8 years ago from North Carolina, U.S.

        Sad that we, the 'intelligent' and 'humane' ones, are so careless about those entrusted into our care!

      • pstraubie48 profile image

        Patricia Scott 

        8 years ago from North Central Florida

        Donna Cosmato: Thank you for sharing this informative article about rare horse breeds. I am Marion County, Florida, 'horse country', and while I am not very knowledgeable about the breeds I admire the beauty...Thank you again for giving me more insight into these beautiful creatures.

      • DonnaCosmato profile imageAUTHOR

        Donna Cosmato 

        8 years ago from USA

        Thanks,Sara101...I like horses too, especially these rare breed horses and ponies. It is incredibly to comprehend that there are so few of these beauties left in the world:(

      • Sara101 profile image


        8 years ago

        I like horsies! 11


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