Last Updated on May 1, 2022
If you’re a fan of Western cowboy movies, you will be familiar with the agile and speedy American Indian horse breeds. But what types of horses are they? Let’s find out all about the most famous American Indian horse breeds!
What Horses Do American Indians Ride?
American Indians are renowned as expert horse people, and some of the most famous horse breeds today owe their origins to historic native American people. These tribes have been selectively breeding horses for many years, picking only the best horses to breed from.
The result is a number of horse breeds with similar traits. These are all medium-sized horse breeds, able to carry a medium-weight adult with ease. They are sure-footed and agile, able to traverse rough terrain and steep hills.
The horses favored by American Indians were also prized for their incredible stamina, able to cover many miles with ease. They were able to accelerate, stop, and turn with ease, which was hugely beneficial when herding animals and other horses.
There are also some interesting color variations that have come about from the breeding of American Indian horses. While other breeders around the world favored horses that did not have any white in their coats, the indigenous people of America preferred these horses. As a result, horses descended from these ancient breeds have a much wider range of interesting coat colors and patterns.
Famous American Indian Horse Breeds
Here are some of the most famous breeds of horse linked to American Indians:
American Paint Horse
Historically, American Indians preferred colorful horses, and would selectively breed from any with unusual markings. This led to the increase in horses with white pattern markings, as these traits were passed on genetically. For this reason, the American Paint Horse is one of the few horse breeds that can boast pinto coloring amongst the vast majority of its population.
American Quarter Horse
Now one of the most popular horse breeds in the world, the American Quarter Horse is descended from local Chickasaw horses, crossed with the English Thoroughbred. They are one of the fastest breeds of horse in the world over a short distance, which is how they got their name.
The Chickasaw horses were first obtained in the 16th century from the Spanish and were fast and stocky, but only around 13 hands high. The Thoroughbred bloodlines gave the breed height, as well as increased speed and endurance.
The Appaloosa is one of the most famous Native American horse breeds, developed by the indigenous Nez Perce people from Idaho. This breed is famed for its spotted coat and is now hugely popular around the world.
This now endangered horse breed was produced hundreds of years ago by the Choctaw tribe of southern Mississippi. This breed was prized for its extreme levels of endurance, able to go on long hunting trips. It is relatively small in size, and is similar in built to the Spanish Mustang.
Florida Cracker Horse
The Florida Cracker Horse can trace its origins back to the ponies of the Chickasaw tribe. This horse became a popular mount with cattle herders in Florida, and its name comes from the sound of the cowboy’s whips. These horses were the predecessors to the American Quarter Horse and had two special gaits – the amble, and the running walk.
Read more about What Is A Grey Dapple Horse?
Nez Perce Horse
From the same tribe as the Appaloosa, the Nez Perce horse is more sporty than its spotty relative, thanks to Akhal-Teke bloodlines. It is highly sought after for jumping and long-distance riding. They are also naturally gaited and are able to perform a running walk.
The ancestors of the Nokota horse were bred by the Sioux tribe in North Dakota. This breed is prized for its blue roan coat, and many Nokota horses exhibit the Indian shuffle gait. Latterly, bloodlines of Thoroughbred, Spanish, and harness horses were introduced to this breed.
You may not immediately associate the Spanish with American Indian horses, but Spanish horses are actually the foundation breeding stock for the majority of American horse breeds! The Spanish Mustang bloodlines can be found in many American Indian horse breeds, thanks to horses brought over by Spanish settlers many years ago.
So, as we have learned, the most famous native Indian horse breeds are those that are descended from horses bred by ancient American Indians. These include the American Quarter Horse, the Appaloosa, and the Paint Horse. In fact, many American horse breeds owe their origins to the horses specially selected and bred by indigenous American Indians.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on native Indian horse breeds! Are you a huge fan of one of these particular breeds? Or maybe you’ve got a question about what the right horse breed is for you? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
What Were Indian Horse Breeds Called?
American Indian tribes were excellent horse breeders, and each tribe has a particular breed of horse. The Sioux tribe bred the Nokota horse, the Florida Cracker horse is descended from horses of the Choctaw tribe, and the Nez Perce tribe bred both the Appaloosa and the Nez Perce horse.
Which Indian Horse Breed Is Best For Riding?
The most popular horse breed descended from American Indian horses is the American Quarter Horse. This versatile breed can be used for many equestrian disciplines.
What Is A Cherokee Horse?
A Cherokee horse is a direct descendent of the horses that travelled with Cherokee tribes when they were forced to move from their homelands. For many American Indians, their horses were their most prized possessions, and many took their horses with them and continued to breed them in their resettled lands.
Did Choctaw Use Horses?
The Choctaw did use horses, and their horses were thought of as symbols of wealth, honor, glory, and prestige. The Choctaw horse breed is still in existence, although it is very rare. They are highly prized for their sensible and quick-thinking nature when working with cattle.
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse
care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since
she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local
stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She
has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in
various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the
patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went
on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in
the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of
horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for
educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN REVN RVN A1