While there are dozens of different species of horses performing hundreds of different tasks for humans all over the world today, there is none as popular in North America as the Quarter Horse. In fact, the American Quarter Horse Association is the largest registry of horses in the world. At last count, there were more than a quarter of a million of this species registered through the Association worldwide.
The Quarter horse is so named due to its ability to cover short sprints very quickly. Some members of the species have run the quarter mile at speeds of 55mph, faster than any other breed of horse over these short distances.
Without the expansion of the horse into North America, the popular Quarter horse would never have been brought into existence. They are a tribute to the affinity that many Native American tribes felt towards the animal, as one of the pillars of the breed were Native ponies from many tribes. People such as the Chickasaw owned horses of mixed Iberian, Arabian, and Barb stock. When crossed with English Thoroughbreds, the offspring were the fleet progenitors of the Quarter Horse as we know it today.
Rise in Popularity
These horses became well known as they could run the flat races faster than other, older breeds in a time when horse racing was gaining great popularity in North America. The “Quarter Mile Horse” was further bred with mustangs of the Old West. The offspring were found to be very good with cattle, as well as containing the speed and the hardiness of their forebears. As the American West began to be settled, this horse breed increased in abundance.
The Quarter Horse was officially recognized in 1940, when the American Quarter Horse Association was formed in order to protect the pedigrees of the popular working and racing horses.
The Quarter Horse’s history as a worker and a racer can be seen in its makeup. They have broad chests, useful for containing lots of wind, as well as round and powerful hindquarters. Their bodies are well muscled and their heads are small and refined, with a straight profile.
Within the Quarter Horse breed, there are two main body types. Stocks tend to be shorter and have more muscle than the racing type, which are taller with smoother muscles.
Modern Quarter Horse
Today, the Quarter Horse can be found in many of the same settings as its predecessors. While it is not as integral to transportation, this horse is still the best ally many ranches have in the handling of cattle. It also continues to be a popular species for racing, with many tracks offering breed specific purses (which can be in the millions of dollars!). They are also popular entrants in rodeo competitions.
The American Quarter Horse is not just confined to this continent. Today, large Associations exist in Brazil, Australia, even in Israel and Japan. It’s a true testament to this North American breed!