American Horse Breeds

14 American Horse Breeds [some you never heard of!]

There are many horse breeds that are considered American Horse Breeds. This includes the Appaloosa, Morgan, Tennessee Walker, and the famous Quarter Horse. There are also many others you probably never heard of. These horses have a variety of traits and characteristics, from Curly horses to American Miniature horses.

Many say that Christopher Colombus first brought horses to North America in 1493 but there are fossil records of prehistoric wild horses that date back millions of years on the continent. 

Native American Horse Breeds
Native American Horse Breeds

The horse is one of nature’s most beautiful animals and it can be found all over the world. In the United States, an entire subculture has developed revolving around American breeds. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of these amazing horses.

Native American Horse Breeds

American horse breeds take you on a journey from the early 1800s to the modern day. So saddle up, keep reading and enjoy the ride!

American Bashkir Curly Horse (1)

A rare horse with a very interesting look due to its curly hair! The origins of this horse and how they got to the United States are shrouded in mystery as no one truly knows.

Bashkir Curly Horse
Bashkir Curly Horse

The American Bashkir Curly Horse Registry was started in 1971 to help promote and preserve the heritage of this special breed.

American Miniature Horse (2)

This small horse breed is an American classic! These ‘minis’ are usually only about 33 to 39 inches tall! They are not ponies and despite their small stature, they are considered horses.

Miniature horses are bred to be warm and friendly. They have even been utilized as comfort animals. 

Mini horses are so popular in the United States there are two organizations to promote and conserve the breed. American Miniature Horse Association (AMHA) and the American Miniature Horse Registry (AMHR).

American Quarter Horse (3)

The American Quarter Horse is one of the oldest breeds of American Horse and is often described as the most popular horse in the world!

All American Quarter Horses are said to trace their lineage back to the mid-1800s and a Texas horse named Steel Dust.

The Quarter Horse is famous in horse racing circles and is said to be the fastest horse in the world over short distances.

American Quarter Horse
American Quarter Horse

Learn more about the great American Quarter Horse at the American Quarter Horse Association website.

American Paint Horse (4)

Although the American Paint Horse resembles the Pinto, they are not the same. 

The major distinguishing feature between the two is that only a Thoroughbred horse or Quarter Horse can be considered an American Paint Horse.

Sometimes called the American Indian Horse, painted ponies were highly regarded by Native Americans. They were often considered magical in nature due to their beautiful colors and markings. 

Although many people mistake this horse for a color breed, it is actually considered a true breed. It has definitive bloodline requirements and it has very particular breed characteristics.

  • American Paint Horse Size and Physical Characteristics:

    The American paint horse stands from 14 to 17 hands tall. These popular horses are generally distinguished by their coloring which comes in a number of varieties.
  •  American Paint Horse Coloring and Coat Pattern:

    Every American Paint Horse is a combination of white and some other color. These colors include dun, chestnut, brown, bay, black, grulla, palomino, sorrel, buckskin, roan, or gray.
American Paint Horse
American Paint Horse

The resultant markings can be found anywhere on the body of the horse and can be of virtually any size and shape.

There are three coat patterns.

  • Overo
  • Tobiano
  • Tovero

The Overo is covered with white on the underside but may possess color on its legs. There is usually a good deal of white on the head and sometimes have blue eyes.

The Tobiano usually has white on their back and legs as well as on the knees and hocks. However, their head is usually a solid color interrupted by a blaze, snip, or star. The tail and mane are often two colors.

Finally, the Tovero is a combination of the other two types.

  • American Paint Horse Uses and Skillset: These are a great sport horse used for pleasure riding as well as a number of other disciplines like reining, western riding, barrel racing, and equestrian discipline.
  • American Paint Horse Origin and History:

    The ancestry of the American Paint Horse traces back to the spotted Quarter Horse as well as the English Thoroughbred.

    Spanish explorers, followed in turn by English Settlers, brought multi-colored horses to the Americas. These horse became Mustangs.

According to, “The Spanish breeds – Barb, Andalusian, and Arabian Horses – eventually formed the foundation for the wild Mustang herds found throughout  the American  West.”

The animals of the English Settlers also influenced these herds as well.

The Mustangs were later sought out for their stamina and good minds. They were used as trail and ranch partners.

American Saddlebred Horse (5)

The American Saddlebred is one of the most popular horse breeds and rightfully so. Often called the horse that America made, they have an excellent temperament and are great riding horses. 

They were also used to pull carriages. Today, as the premier American saddle horse they are widely used in horse shows due to their elegant looks and superior gait.

American Saddlebred Horse
American Saddlebred Horse

Learn more about them at the American Saddlebred Horse Association website.

Appaloosa Horse (6)

Appaloosa horses are a spotted horse breed developed by the Nez Perce Indian (Native American) tribe. 

It originates from the Western United States near the Palouse River in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

  • Appaloosa Horse Size and Physical Characteristics:

    The Appaloosa is another popular breed whose members stand anywhere from 14 to 15 hands tall.

    Most Appaloosas weigh roughly 800 to 1000 pounds. They possess strong legs and rear quarters and have become an increasingly popular animal.

The sclera (white part of the eye) of an Appaloosa is a prominent white and usually much more visible than the sclera of other breeds.

Another feature of the Appaloosa is its distinct stripes (light or dark) on the hooves. Lastly, Appaloosas also have mottled skin, which is skin that is spotted with darker pigmentations in addition to the normal pinkish color.

  • Appaloosa Horse Coloring and Coat Pattern:

    Appaloosas are most readily distinguished by their colorful coat patterns. These include striped hooves, white sclera, and mottled skin (see above).
Appaloosa Horse
Appaloosa Horse

The Appaloosa Horse Club recognizes thirteen basic colors.

  • Bay
  • Bay Roan
  • Black
  • Blue Roan
  • Buckskin
  • Brown (Dark Bay)
  • Chestnut
  • Cremello
  • Dun
  • Gray
  • Grulla
  • Palomino
  • Red Roan

There are seven types of coat patterns.

  • Blanket
  • Blanket with spots
  • Roan
  • Roan Blanket
  • Roan Blanket with spots
  • Solid
  • Spots
  •  Appaloosa Horse Temperament:

    The Appaloosa horse breed is both intelligent and disciplined. They possess a docile temperament.
  • Appaloosa Horse Origin and History:

    The Appaloosa Horse is another breed with an ancient ancestry.

    The Nez Perce Indians, a tribe located in the Northwest of the United States, are credited with developing the Appaloosa War Horse from wild Spanish horses they captured.

    They bred the Appaloosa with the intent of creating a faster, stronger, more sure footed animal to use in battle.
  •  Appaloosa Horse Uses and Skillset:

    The Appaloosa is a well trusted horse of great strength and remarkable speed.

    They excel in a number of equestrian disciplines from pleasure riding to racing, show jumping and just pleasure riding.

    The Appaloosa has enjoyed success in both movies and on television.

Tennessee Walking Horse (7)

The most distinguishing characteristic of the Tennessee Walking Horse is its smooth gait, “The Running Walk.” In the Running Walk gait, the front foot hits the ground a moment before the rear diagonal foot. 

Additionally, the hindfoot moves six to eighteen inches beyond the front foot. The footfall pattern is similar to a normal walk, just a lot faster.

A regular walk allows the horse to move from four to eight miles per hour, while the Running Walk allows for speeds as high as 20 miles per hour.

Tennessee Walking Horse
Tennessee Walking Horse
  • Tennessee Walking Horse Size and Physical Characteristics:

    The Tennessee Walking Horse has a head with pointed, well-shaped ears, a tapered muzzle, and clear, alert eyes.

    It has a long, graceful neck with muscular shoulders and a well-proportioned chest. The Walker also has a sloping croup (top of the hind quarters) and well-muscled hips.
  • Tennessee Walking Horse Temperament:

    The Tennessee Walking Horse is noted for having an excellent disposition with an even temperament.
  • Tennessee Walking Horse Origin and History:

    The foundation sire of this American horse breed was a horse named Allan F-1 (alternatively, Black Allan) from Kentucky. He was foaled in 1886.

It was originally bred for farm use, but during the American Civil War, it became a very popular horse breed used as a mount for many of the generals, largely due to its smooth gaits.

It is widely believed that Traveler, the mount of General Robert E. Lee, was part Tennessee Walker.

  • Tennessee Walking Horse Uses and Skillset:

    As we said above, the Tennessee Walking Horse is most widely known for its remarkable gait called the “Running Walk.”

This gait was developed, in part, to give a rider a smooth, comfortable ride. It allows the rider to remain seated securely with very little effort or movement.

Interestingly enough, due to careful breeding practices, this particular gait is now an inherited characteristic

The Tennessee Walking Horse is very popular in horse shows.

Missouri Fox Trotter Horse (8)

This horse is prized for having a smooth gait and being wonderful to ride, much like the Tennessee Walking Horse.

The Missouri Fox Trotter was developed to be a great dual-use horse. They were strong enough to be excellent working horses rounding up cattle or plowing a field.

Missouri Fox Trotter Horse
Missouri Fox Trotter Horse

While at the same time being sure-footed to easily handle the trails of the Ozark mountains. 

Morgan Horse (9)

The Morgan Horse is a popular horse breed that originates from West Springfield, Massachusetts in the United States. 

Through the years, it has earned a remarkable reputation based on its versatility and its elegance.

The foundation sire, Figure (later Justin Morgan), was owned by a schoolteacher originally from Vermont named Justin Morgan. 

As Figure developed a reputation as a powerful, athletic animal capable of out-distancing and out-pulling many other horses, interest in using him to breed grew. 

  • Morgan Horse Size and Physical Characteristics:

    The Morgan Horse stands around 14 to 15 hands high, and sometimes as tall as 16 hands. They have a distinct head, noted for very expressive eyes, supported by a well-formed, graceful neck.

The Morgan presents a proud and noble bearing and a body that is both muscular and compact. Their weight ranges from 900 to 1000 pounds.

  • Morgan Horse Coloring and Coat Pattern:

    A Morgan Horse can come in virtually any color, although dark and solid colors are the most common. Morgan colors also include black, bay, and chestnut.

    Some breeders produce less common colors such as pinto, palomino, gray, dun, and roan.
  • Morgan Horse Temperament:

    The Morgan is a remarkably cooperative breed that seems eager to please its owners. Its pleasant disposition has given it quite a postive reputation.

    It is friendly even to strangers. At times, it may be spunky and animated, but is generally quite affectionate and very loyal.

The Morgan horse is well-suited to equestrians of all skill levels. Even children have been able to handle this horse.

  •  Morgan Horse Origin and History:

    The Morgan was named after its foundation sire, Justin Morgan (originally named Figure in his youth), who was foaled in 1789 in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

    Justin Morgan, the horse proved to be a remarkable worker building quite a reputation.

This breed enjoyed great success in harness racing for many years. One of the famous Morgan racers was the legendary Ethan Allen.

At the age of 18, Ethan Allen was pitted against the formidable Dexter Hambletonian’s famous son. Ethan Allen won the race and earned a place in equine history.

Morgan Horse
Morgan Horse

Members of this breed also served in the Civil War as respectable, well-regarded cavalry mounts.

  •  Morgan Horse Uses and Skillset:

    The Morgan Horse is best known and regarded for its versatility. It has been used in the horse show ring, in sporting events, in carriage harnesses, and for a number of more general tasks.

    They also have been used as a working horse hauling logs or doing field work.

Narragansett Pacer Horse (10)

This was the very first horse credited with being a true American breed. Originally bred in the 18th century, the Narragansett Pacer became extinct long ago.

Folklore says George Washington owned one of these unique horses.

Rocky Mountain Horse (11)

A rarely heard of breed, the Rocky Mountain horse originated in the Kentucky region back in the 1800s.

This sure-footed horse was used by people in rural areas to deliver the mail, for doctors making house visits, plowing a field, and a variety of other uses.

With the advent of the automobile and the development of roads, they were used less as working horses.

Learn more about this wonderful horse at the Rocky Mountain Horse Association website.

Quarab Horse (12)

Originally bred in the 1960s, the American Quarab is a unique combination of an Arabian horse, a Quarter Horse, and a Paint.

This crossbreed has become very popular due to the wonderful traits a Quarab displays. It is very beautiful and has an excellent temperament.

The Quarab Horse Registry was formed in 1989 to help promote the breed.

Related American Horse Breed Questions

Is the Clydesdale Draft Horse from America?

Many people may think the famous Clydesdale horse used in the Budweiser beer commercials is an American original but they actually come from Scotland. 

Are There Any American Draft Horses?

American Cream Draft Horse (13)

Yes, the rarely seen (or heard of) American Cream draft horse. These are not small horses! They can weigh over 2000 pounds.

The American Cream is said to be declining in population on an annual basis.

American Drum Draft Horse (14)

There is also the American Drum Draft horse which is crossbred with a Clydesdale and other large stock horses.

Is the American Mustang Horse a Breed?

Mustangs are free-roaming horses (mostly in the Southwest USA) that are descendants of horses brought to North America by Spanish explorers. 

Because of this, modern Mustangs have traits of many different horse breeds.

 American Mustang Horse
American Mustang Horse


There you have it, a shortlist of American horse breeds. They are all amazing and beautiful horses.

American Horse Breeds

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