35 Rare Horse Breeds


There are many rare horse breeds in the world with declining poulations. It’s important to learn about each of these rare breeds of horses and support their conservation efforts. Here is a list of some of the most critical and threatened (in alphabetical order).

List of Rare Horse Breeds:

Akhal-Teke

Place of Origin: Turkmenistan
Height: 14.2 – 16 hands
Coat Colors: Golden buckskin, palomino, bay, black, chestnut, and grey (often with a metallic sheen)
Bred For: Dressage, show jumping, eventing, and endurance riding
Population: Approximately 6,600
Status: Threatened

The Akhal-Teke is a modern athlete with an ancient heritage dating back more than 3,000 years. The breed has been treasured throughout history for its great endurance, personable nature, and unearthly grace.

International Association of Akhal-Teke Breeding (MAAK)
Bashkir Curly - Rare Breed

American Bashkir Curly

Place of Origin: America
Height: 14 – 16 hands
Coat Color: Any coat color with a wavy or curly texture
Bred For: Pleasure riding
Population: Approximately 4,500

The model North American Curly Horse has a curly coat of hair, very noticeable in winter, less apparent when short in summer and the coat is hypoallergenic for many allergy sufferers. People allergic to other horses can own and ride Curly Horses with amazing success

The International Curly Horse Organization

American Cream Draft 

Place of Origin: America
Height: 15 – 16.3 hands
Coat Colors: Light, medium and dark cream and “gold champagne”
Bred For: Farming, wagon and carriage rides
Population: Less than 2,000
Status: Critical

The American Cream Draft Horse is the only breed of draft horse that can claim to be native to the United States. The roots of this rare breed go back to the early 1900’s and “Old Granny”, a mare of draft breeding with a cream-colored coat, pink skin, and amber eyes, three defining traits resulting from the Champagne gene.

American Cream Draft Horse Association

Banker Horse

Place of Origin: America
Height: 13 -14.3 hands
Coat Color: Any color
Bred For: Breed preservation
Population: Less than 200
Status: Critical

Banker horses are descendants from domesticated Spanish Mustang horses that were probably brought to America in 16th century by explorers and abandoned on the Outer Banks of North Carolina which is where their name “Banker” was derived. The horses were originally domesticated. However, since they were abandonded and left to fend for themselves, they’ve become feral.

Horse Breeds of the World

Black Forest Horse

Place of Origin: Germany
Height: 14.3 – 16 hands
Coat Color: Chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail
Bred For: Agriculture and forestry
Population: Less than 2,000

One can only speculate about the origin of the Black Forests in horse breeding in Baden-Württemberg. The roots go back centuries. In 1896 the first Black Forest horse breeding cooperative was founded. Organized breeding begins with this. The main breeding area is the southern Black Forest with the adjacent regions. The horse breeding association maintains the original studbook for this horse breed.

Schwarzwälder Pferdezuchtgenossenschaft eV (translated)
Camargue Horse - Rare Breed

Camargue Horse

Place of Origin: France
Height: 13 – 14.3 hands
Coat Color: Gray
Bred For: Traditional mount of the Camargue “cowboys” (known as the “Gardians“)
Population: More than 2,000

The Camargue Horse is a small rugged intelligent animal renowned throughout France for its strength and versatility. Over the centuries the Camargue Horse has survived the extremely harsh environment of the Rhone Delta, exposed to extremes of hot sun and insects in the summer and the cold of the legendary Mistral wind in the winter.

British Camargue Horse Society
Canadian Horse - Rare Breed

Canadian Horse (Cheval Canadien)

Place of Origin: Canada
Height: 14 – 16.2 hands
Coat Color: Black, bay, dark brown and chestnut
Bred For: Light farm work, trail riding and driving
Population: Approximately 7,000
Status: Critical

This hard-working horse that long toiled in the agricultural and forest industries has yet to fully find its place in the 21st century’s leisure-focused society. But it’s not for a lack of qualities! Its versatility and docile temperament make it an excellent choice for horse owners. It performs just as well riding or pulling, and its courage and work ethic more than make up for its lack of specialization, which is required in some of the most challenging disciplines and is acquired through generations of rigorous selection.

Le Cheval Canadien

Carolina Marsh Tacky

Place of Origin: America
Height: 14 – 15 hands
Coat Color: dun, grullo, black, bay, roan, and chestnut
Bred For: Light farm work, trail riding and driving
Population: Approximately 400
Status: Critical

The Marsh Tacky is a unique strain/breed of Colonial Spanish Horse found only in South Carolina and is one of the most endangered horse breeds in the world. They once roamed freely by the hundreds through the South Carolina Sea Islands and Lowcountry but their numbers neared extinction as tractors, trucks, and development took the place of horsepower.

Carolina Marsh Tacky Association

Caspian Horse

Place of Origin: Iran
Height: 9 – 11.2 hands
Coat Color:  black, bay, grey, dun and chestnut
Bred For: Harness work and children’s mounts
Population: Less than 2,000
Status: Critical

It is a versatile performer and excels at jumping and in harness, with the quality and action that enable the Caspian to compete successfully in the show ring with any member of the family. The Caspian is an ideal mount for small children, narrower than native breeds, possessing the elegance, intelligence and love of people attributed to the Arab.

International Caspian Society
Choctaw Horse - Rare Horse Breed

Choctaw Horse

Place of Origin: America
Height: 13.2 – 14.2 hands
Coat Color: All colors, including pintos
Bred For: Ranch work
Population: Less than 200

The history of the American Indian Horse is a long and colorful one. It is generally agreed by historians that the Spanish brought the horse to the new world in the 1500s. These horses were a mixture of Barb, Arabian and Andalusian blood and were considered the best horses in the world at that time.

American Indian Horse Registry: AIHR

Cleveland Bay

Place of Origin: England
Height: 16 – 16.2 hands
Coat Color: Bay
Bred For: Driving and sport
Population: Less than 2,000
Status: Critical

The Cleveland Bay is England’s oldest breed of horse with a history that goes beyond a time when records were kept. It is an incredibly versatile horse that can turn its hoof to all disciplines, a legacy of its need to adapt through the ages to the changing face of civilisation. It is a horse with substance, activity, stamina and a temperament that is unsurpassed by any other breed of horse.

Cleveland Bay Horse Society (UK)

Colonial Spanish Horse (Spanish Mustang)

Place of Origin: Spain/America
Height: 13.2 – 14 hands
Coat Color: All solid colors
Bred For: Endurance and western events
Status: Threatened

The Spanish Mustang helped shape the USA as we know it. Descended of the horse of the Conquistadors, Indian buffalo hunters and war ponies, to wild horse of the West, this breed has a rich and illustrious history that forms an important part of our American Heritage.

Spanish Mustang Registry

Dales Pony

Place of Origin: United Kingdom
Height: 14 – 14.2 hands
Coat Color: Bay, grey, black and roan
Bred For: show jumping, dressage, eventing and driving
Population: Less than 5,000
Status: Critical

The Dales pony is one of the United Kingdom’s native mountain and moorland pony breeds. The breed is known for its strength, hardiness, stamina, courage, intelligence, and good disposition. The history of the modern Dales pony is strongly linked to the history of lead mining in the Dales area of England, from the Derbyshire peaks to the Scottish borders.

Dales Pony Society

Eriskay Pony 

Place of Origin: Scotland
Height: 12 – 13.2 hands
Coat Color: Grey, bay or black
Bred For: Light harness work and children’s mounts
Population: Less than 1,000

As family ponies their friendly characters come to the fore. Some Eriskays work as therapy ponies for children and adults with additional needs and PTSD, and as RDA ponies. Many are also popular as Pony Club ponies, taking part in activities from jumping and games to tetrathlon and dressage.

The Eriskay Pony Society
Exmoor Pony

Exmoor Pony  

Place of Origin: United Kingdom
Height: 11.1 to 12.3 hands
Coat Color: Bay
Bred For: Riding and driving
Population: Less than 5,000
Status: Critical

Historically, the Exmoor pony was used by the hill farmers to undertake all kinds of work from being ridden for shepherding to being used in harness for ploughing, harrowing, taking feed to stock and the farmer’s family to market and church. Today, their sturdy build makes them excellent family ponies being small enough for a child but with enough substance and length of stride to make an excellent mount for a small adult.

Exmoor Pony Society

Falabella

Place of Origin: Argentina
Height: 28 and 34 inches
Coat Color: Black, bay, palomino, pinto
Bred For: Showing and pets
Population: Approximately 2,000

The Falabella is an exquisitely unique horse that has always been rare due to the limited number within its pure ancestry gene pool. Estimates indicate that only a few thousand Falabellas exist in the entire world. The most desirable feature of the Falabella and its primary value is that of its rarity and pure Falabella ancestry. Falabellas are very prestigious to own and are highly prized by those who have them.

Falabella Miniature Horse Association

Fell Pony

Place of Origin: England
Height: 13 to 14 hands
Coat Color: Black, bay, brown, or gray
Bred For: Driving, jumping and trekking
Status: Threatened

As a hack and general riding pony, the Fell’s fast walk and easy paces make it a pleasant and comfortable ride, and its sure footedness ensures a safe passage over the roughest country. 

Fell Pony Society
Florida Cracker Rare Horse

Florida Cracker Horse

Place of Origin: America
Height: 13.2 to 15 hands
Coat Color: Mostly bay, black, and gray
Bred For: Farm work
Population: Less than 2,000
Status: Critical

Florida cowmen were nicknamed “Crackers” because of the sound made by their cow whip cracking the air. This name was also given to the small agile Spanish Horse essential for working Spanish cattle. Over the years, Cracker Horses have been known by a variety of names: Chicksaw Pony, Seminole Pony, Marsh Tackie, Prairie Pony, Florida Horse, Florida Cow Pony, Grass Gut and others.

The Florida Cracker Horse Association

Galiceño

Place of Origin: Mexico
Height: 12 and 13.2 hands
Coat Color: Black, bay, chestnut
Bred For: Western games
Population: Less than 500
Status: Critical

Although Galiceños are of pure Iberian heritage, they are a “landrace” distinguished from other Colonial Spanish Horse breeds and strains by their small size and gait.

Galiceño Horse Registry

Gidran (Hungarian Anglo-Arab)

Place of Origin: Hungary
Height: 15.3 to 17 hands
Coat Color: Chestnut
Bred For: Sport and driving
Population: Less than 1,000

Among the Hungarian horse breeds the Gidran is the one with the smallest population. This is why the conservation and gene preservation of this breed raise special problems, regarding that it is only Romania and Bulgaria where a smaller population can also be found.

https://agris.fao.org/agris-search/search.do?recordID=HU9600325

Gotland

Place of Origin: Sweden
Height: 11.2 to 13 hands
Coat Color: Dun and bay
Bred For: Driving and children’s mounts
Population: Over 6,000
Status: Threatened

The Gotland is native to the island of Gotland in Sweden, where ponies of this type have been documented as far back as the Stone Age. Also known as Russ or Skogruss (meaning “little horse of the woods”), the Gotland is a primitive breed, having been shaped partially by natural selection.

The Livestock Conservancy

Hackney Horse

Place of Origin: England
Height: 14.2 – 16 hands
Coat Color: Black, bay and chestnut
Bred For: Driving
Population: Approximately 3,000
Status: Critical

The evolution of the Hackney horse into the high performance harness horse, ballerina of the show that we know today has been long and fascinating. The word ‘Hackney’ comes from the French “haquenee”, a language commonly spoken in England in Medieval times. 

Hackney Horse Society  

Highland Pony

Place of Origin: Scotland
Height: 13 to 14.2 hands
Coat Color: Dun, grey, black, bay and chestnut
Bred For: Driving and pleasure riding
Population: Approximately 5,500
Status: Critical

The Highland Pony is one of the two native pony breeds of the Scottish Highlands and Islands. It has adapted over many centuries to the variable and often severe climatic and environmental conditions of Scotland. The winter coat consists of a layer of strong, badger like hair over a soft, dense undercoat which enables this breed of pony to live out in all weathers. This coat is shed in the spring to reveal a smooth summer coat.

Highland Pony Society

Knabstrupper (Knabstrup) Horse

Place of Origin: Denmark
Height: 15.2 to 16 hands
Coat Color: Leopard-spotted, bay or chestnut
Bred For: Show jumping, dressage, pleasure riding
Population: Approximately 600

Knabstrup horses were known for their high spirit and energetic action yet they were not temperamental. They showed no signs of being malicious, and never had vices like cribbing and wind swallowing. The fact that they were never put into stalls, but mostly left outside, accounts for their ruggedness. The Knabstrup horses  got, and still gets, very old.

Danish Knabstrupper Association

Lac La Croix Indian Pony (Ojibwe Pony)

Place of Origin: North America
Height: 12.2 to 14.2 hands
Coat Color: Solid coats with primitive markings
Bred For: Heritage programs
Population: Less than 200

Lac La Croix Indigenous Ponies are described as strong, versatile, and athletic with extremely durable feet and legs with amazing stamina. They possess nose flaps and a thick lion-like forelock and mane in addition to profusely-haired ears to sustain harsh winter climates while repelling insects during the hot summer months. 

Red Pony Stands® Ojibwe Horse Sanctuary

Marwari Horse

Place of Origin: India
Height: 14 – 16 hands
Coat Color: All colors, some with a metallic sheen
Bred For: Sport and polo
Population: Less than 3,000

Marwari is the original desert horse breed of Marwari region of Rajasthan state of India, capable of covering long distances with good speed by virtue of its strong limbs and hooves. . This breed can withstand intense heat and cold and adverse climatic conditions & is known for its elegance, beauty, viguor, endurance, intelligence, alertness, animated gait and peculiar ear tips touching each other.

Marwari Horse Society

Newfoundland Pony

Place of Origin: Canada
Height: 11-14.2 hands
Coat Color: All solid colors
Bred For: Driving and children’s mounts
Population: Less than 400
Status: Critical

The Newfoundland Pony is known for its strength, courage, intelligence, obedience, and common sense. Newfoundland Ponies are hard workers and easy keepers and are a breed unique to this province. 

Newfoundland Pony Society

Nokota Horse

Place of Origin: America
Height: 14 and 14.3 hands
Coat Color: Blue roan is the most common
Bred For: Western riding and endurance
Population: Less than 1,000

​Nokota® horses are descended from the last surviving population of wild horses in North Dakota. For at least a century, the horses inhabited the rugged Little Missouri badlands, located in the southwestern corner of the state. 

Nokota Horse Registry 
Przewalski's Horse

Przewalski’s Horse (Takhi)

Place of Origin: Asia
Height: 12–14 hands
Coat Color: Dun coat with primitive markings
Bred For: Breed preservation
Population: Less than 2,000

Przewalski’s horses, critically endangered horses found in Mongolia, are the last truly wild horse. Once thought to be the ancestor to the domestic horse, they are actually distant cousins. Mitochondrial DNA suggests that they diverged from a common ancestor 500,000 years ago.

Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Paso Fino

Place of Origin: Puerto Rico
Height: 13 to 15.2 hands
Coat Color: All colors
Bred For: Show, trail and endurance riding
Population: Approximately 28,000
Status: Threatened

Adorned with the title “Smoothest Riding Horse in the World,” Paso Fino horses are increasingly gaining the attention of American horse lovers. Full of energy, drive, stamina, yet gentle on the ground, the Paso Fino may very well be America’s best kept secret. Bred for good physical balance, the Paso Fino is quick, sure-footed, and very athletic.

Paso Fino Horse Association (USA)

Rocky Mountain Horse

Place of Origin: America
Height: 14–16 hands
Coat Color: “Chocolate” coat and flaxen mane and tail
Bred For: Ranch work and endurance riding
Population: Less than15,000
Status: Threatened

The Rocky Mountain Horse® naturally demonstrates a smooth ambling gait that glides forward. The horse moves out with a lateral gait in which one can count four distinct hoof-beats that produce a cadence of near equal rhythm. 

Rocky Mountain Horse Association

Sable Island Horse

Place of Origin: Canada
Height: 13 – 14 hands
Coat Color: Black, bay, and chestnut
Bred For: Breed preservation
Population: Approximately 500

In 1961, the Sable Island horses were formally protected under the Sable Island Regulations of the Canada Shipping Act and since that time have persisted without human interference. When Sable Island was established as a national park reserve in 2013, and Parks Canada assumed responsibility for management of the island, the horses were considered a naturalized species and part of the island ecosystem.

Sable Island National Park Reserve
Shire Horse

Shire Horse

Place of Origin:
Height: 16 – 17.2 hands
Coat Color: Black, bay and grey
Bred For: Weight pulling and farm work
Population: Less than 1,500
Status: Critical

Shire horse numbers fell from well over a million to just a few thousand by the 1960s and the breed was in serious trouble. A small group of dedicated breeders came to rescue though and the Shire is seeing a resurgence in popularity both as a working animal and a riding horse.

Shire Horse Society

Sorraia

Place of Origin: Portugal
Height: 14.1 and 14.3 hands
Coat Color: Dun with primitive markings
Bred For: Breed preservation
Population: Approximately 200

Sorraia Horses are a remnant population of an indigenous, South Iberian wild horse, which survived in the formerly inaccessible lowlands of the river Sorraia in Portugal until the early 1900s. The Iberian scientist and horse expert Dr. Ruy d’Andrade discovered these horses in 1920 and he is responsible for their preservation.

http://www.sorraia.org/

Suffolk Punch Horse

Place of Origin: England
Height: 16.1 to 17.2 hands
Coat Color: Chestnut
Bred For: Agriculture and forestry
Population: Less than 500
Status: Critical

The Suffolk Horse is one of the true icons of our county of Suffolk.  It is one of the four British breeds of heavy horse bred for ploughing and pulling loads in farm work, and used for pulling guns and heavy supply waggons in the First World War.

Suffolk Horse Society

Rare Horse Breeds FAQs

What are the most endangered horse breeds?

The Livestock Conversatory lists 18 horse breeds as “critical” and 13 breeds as “threatened”. Newfoundland Ponies, Sorraias and Galiceños are among the most endangered.

More From Savvy Horsewoman:  101 Questions to Ask When Buying a Horse

What is the oldest rare horse breed?

The Caspian traces its roots back to 3000 BC in Iran.

What are rare horse colors?

  • Albino (true white)
  • Brindle
  • Champagne
  • Chocolate Palomino
  • Perlino
  • Silver Dapple

Which rare horse breeds are now extinct?

  • Galloway Pony
  • Tarpan (Eurasian Wild horse)
  • Quagga
  • Hagerman Horse (American Zebra)
  • Syrian Wild Ass

Want to learn more about Horse Breeds? Check out these top posts:

Canadian Horse Breeds
13 American Horse Breeds
Best Horse Breeds for Jumping
Fastest Horse Breeds
Zangersheide – Zang Horse Breed Profile
Horse Breed Abbreviations

What are your favorite Rare Horse Breeds?


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