What Breeds Were Used In The Wild West?

Posted on June 16, 2019 by Jerrilee.
Categories: breed, equipment, history, military.

Cowboys would use what ever kind of horse they could get their hands on. Most of the Texas cow horses where Mustangs and Paints, however, as you moved up towards Montana you would find larger breeds since they needed to wade through deep snow. In the Northern states they would use Mustangs, Thoroughbreds, Appaloosas, and Paints. But the breed that most people over look is the Morgan. The US Calvary liked to use a Morgan or Thoroughbred cross. Either crossed with each other or (as after the Civil War) Morgan or Thoroughbred crossed with Mustangs.

Union soldier on Morgan cross

Union soldier on Morgan cross

You will find the Quarter horse became the classic cowboy horse – medium sized, calm and steady. They moved fast over short distances, but endured well at slower paces.
Paints are very similar to quarter horses, but with a specific color pattern.

scene from movie: Dances With Woves

paints used in movie: Dances With Wolves

Appaloosas tend to be slightly smaller than quarter horses, slightly more intelligent, more stubborn, and with greater endurance. They are known for their spotted pattern, they were a very common horse with Native Americans.
Mustangs are feral horses. They were released into the wild by the Spanish colonizers, so they have the look of the Iberian horses…regal, straight nosed, highly intelligent. They tend to be quite small, and very hardy. They have very good endurance, but they can be stubborn and “hot”, having a tendency to run.
But you mustn’t overlook the prominence of the mule, which was the cross between the horse and donkey. Used as pack and riding animals the mule was found everywhere on the farms and mining hills.

mule in shafts

mule in shafts

Other horses you might have seen, were American Saddlebreds and Morgans. These were “city” horses however, and were bred for their flashy movements, smooth ride and carriage work.
Another type of horse you may have seen would be draft horses like Belgians, or Suffolk Draft, who would have been used to plow the land when landowners could afford something more than a mule.

Suffolk Draft

Suffolk Draft

equi-works

equi-works