Endangered Horse and Pony Breeds
Everybody knows we need to save the whales, but how many people are aware that dozens of breeds of livestock are also considered endangered, some of them critically so? This Lens is a celebration of the power and beauty of the rarest breeds of horses in the world.
The Lens photo is a magnificent 2 year old Akhal-Teke named Murgi, photographed by Yann Arthus-Bertrand.
General Rare Horse Breeds Organizations
- Equus Survival Trust
The Trust is a rare breed organization that specializes in the collective conservation of rare breed horses, ponies and donkeys in the North America as relates to domestic and global populations.
Facilitating rare equine breed conservation by connecting people with information and each other. A comprehensive resource for rare equine breeds.
2007 Conservation Priority List
Compiled by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy
In order to be listed by the ALBC, the breed must be a true genetic breed; that is, when mated together, it reproduces the breed type. The breed must also have a significant presence in the United States and conform to certain numerical guidelines:
Critical: Fewer than 200 annual registrations in the United States and estimated global population less than 2,000.
Threatened: Fewer than 1,000 annual registrations in the United States and estimated global population less than 5,000.
Watch: Fewer than 2,500 annual registrations in the United States and estimated global population less than 10,000. Also included are breeds that present genetic or numerical concerns or have a limited geographic distribution.
Recovering: Breeds that were once listed in another category and have exceeded Watch category numbers but are still in need of monitoring.
For more information on inclusion standards, please visit this page
Critically Endangered Breeds
Fewer than 200 annual registrations in the United States and estimated global population less than 2,000.
- American Cream Draft
The only draft horse breed native to the United States. A medium draft breed characterized by an outstanding cream colored coat and an even, trustworthy disposition. For more info, contact the American Cream Draft Horse Association.
One of the oldest and rarest breeds in the world, a small horse with exceptional driving (it was used as a chariot horse by the ancient kings of Persia) and jumping ability. For more information, see this page.
- Cleveland Bay
A hardy, versatile, and friendly sport horse originating from Yorkshire, the population of Cleveland Bays was decimated by their uee as artillary horses in World War I and they re still rare today. Unimormly a handsome bay color. For more information, contact The Cleveland Bay Horse Society of North America.
Descended from the wild native ponies of Britain, the Exmoor is an exceptionally hardy and sturdy little pony especially well-suited to cold climates and poor forage quality. For more information, contact Exmoor Pony Association International or Exmoor Enthusiasts
- Florida Cracker
A small, agile gaited horse descended from horses brought to America by the Spanish conquistadors and traditionally used for working cattle in Florida. For more information, visit this page.
- Suffolk Punch
One of the few draft breeds bred specifically for agricultural work rather than for use as chargers in medieval warfare, the Suffolk Punch was especially hard hit by the mechanization of agriculture. A handsome, bright chestnut horse, Suffolks are renowned for their easy, willing disposition, strength, hardiness, and great "heart." For more info, contact the American Suffolk Horse Association.
Exmoor Pony Video
Cleveland Bay Video
Fewer than 1,000 annual registrations in the United States and estimated global population less than 5,000.
One of the most unique horses in the world, the Akhal-Teke is an outstanding sport horse from the arid deserts of Turkmenistan. Akhal-Tekes hold the world record in endurance, a group of 15 having traveled 2600 miles in 84 days on a forced march from Ashkhabad to Moscow, including 3 days with no water at all while crossing the Kara-Kum desert. They are also famous for the unusual metallic sheen of their coats, but are prone to have difficult, "one-person" dispositions. For more info, contact the Akhal-Teke Association of America.
Renowned for their strength, versatility, and easy-going disposition, Canadian horses are great family horses, ideally suited for pleasure riding, driving, farm and ranch work, and many other disciplines. Generally black in color. For more information, visit this page.
- Dales Pony/Fell Pony
Two of the five native pony breeds of Britain, the Dales and Fell are exceptionally hardy and thrifty little ponies, well suited for driving and riding. For more information, contact the Dales Pony Society of North America or the Fell Pony Society.
A sturdy, handsome riding pony with a friendly disposition. Generally dark in color, they are also good driving ponies. For more information, contact the Dartmoor Pony Registry of America or the British Dartmoor Pony Society.
- Hackney Horse
Like the smaller and more common Hackney Pony, the Hackney Horse is a brilliant harness horse, with spectacular action, proud carriage, and an outstanding reputation for soundness. For more information, contact the American Hackney Horse Society.
Developed for royalty, the Lipizann is a breed of exceptional elegance and dignity. Almost uniformly a handsome grey color, Lipizanns are sturdy, powerful animals with an innate sense of rhythm that makes them especially well-suited to dressage and the arts of the haute Ã©cole, for which they are famous. However, with their versatility and willing disposition, they are also commonly used for driving, pleasure riding, and even ranch work and the Western disciplines! For more information, contact the Lipizann Association of North America.
- Spanish Mustang
Descended from horses brought to America by the Spanish conquistadores, Spanish Mustangs are an exceptionally hardy and intelligent breed with outstanding endurance. Although they have a wild animal's intolerance of abuse, they are extremely loyal when treated well. For more info, contact the Spanish Mustang Registry.
Hackney Horse Video
Since the car replaced horse-drawn carts and carriages as the primary means of transportation, some breeds developed as driving horses have declined greatly in number. Fortunately for them, pleasure driving is returning as a popular and relaxing hobby.
Fewer than 2,500 annual registrations in the United States and estimated global population less than 10,000. Also included are breeds that present genetic or numerical concerns or have a limited geographic distribution.
A British draft breed made famous by Budweiser Beer, the Clydesdale is an especially handsome animal well-suited to driving, riding, and farm work. Clydesdales are exceptionally sound have have showier action than many of the other draft breeds. For more inof, contact Clydesdale Breeders of the USA.
An ancient Swedish pony breed, Gotlands are hardy, athletic, and intelligent, used most commonly for driving and as children's mounts. For more information, contact the Gotland Russ Association of North America.
- Mountain Pleasure/Rocky Mountain Horse
Mountain Pleasure and Rocky Mountain Horses are closely related gaited breeds that actually hail from the mountains of Appalachia. Somewhat variable in physical type, they are marked by their easy, comfortable gaits and calm, friendly dispositions. For more information, contact the Mountain Pleasure Horse Association or the Rocky mountain Horse Association.
The largest breed in the world, the powerful Shire was originally bred for use as a war horse by medieval knights. Later, it was used primarily for agricultural and draft work. Despite its massive size, the Shire is an exceptionally gentle animal and has good action. for more information, contact the American Shire Horse Association.
Mountain Pleasure/Rocky Mountain Horse Video
Breeds that were once listed in another category and have exceeded Watch category numbers but are still in need of monitoring.
The most popular draft breed in America, the Belgian is an immensely powerful animal of gentle temperament and willing disposition. For more information, contact the Belgian Draft Horse Corporation of America.
Originally a light draft or carriage horse, Friesians have experienced a renaissance in recent years due to their magnificent appearance, brilliant action, and excellent disposition. Versatile and willing, they are good pleasure or driving horses and are becoming increasingly familiar as dressage horses and jumpers. For more information, contact the Friesian Horse Association of North America or the Friesian Horse Society.
A handsome, powerful heavy draft breed of French origin, with a calm, gentle disposition and willing nature. For more information, contact the Percheron Horse Association of America.
Farming with Horses
The populations of many draft horse breeds, like Belgians, Clydesdales, Suffolks, and Shires, declined dramatically when farmers began switching to mechanized tractors and other equipment. Fortunately for these now-rare breeds, farming with horses has undergone a revival in recent years.
- Rural Heritage Online
RURAL HERITAGE, a bimonthly journal in support of small farmers and loggers who use draft horse, mule and ox power.
- Draft Horse Journal
The world's foremost heavy horse & mule publication
- Tillers International Home
Tillers International strives toward sustainable agriculture and international development by studying, preserving and teaching historical and adapted small farm skills such as animal-powered farming, blacksmithing and woodworking.
Belgian, Percheron, and Clydesdale Video
Learn More About Horse Breeds
Rare Breeds Organizations Around the World
- American Livestock Breeds Conservancy
United States rare breeds organization
- Heritage Breeds Conservancy
New England rare breeds organization
- Rare Breeds Survival Trust
British rare breeds organization
- Rare Breeds Canada
Canadian rare breeds organization
- Canadian Farm Animal Genetic Resources Foundation
Canadian rare breeds organization
- Rare Breeds Trust of Australia
Australian rare breeds organization
- Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand
New Zealand rare breeds organization