Popular Breed Trends

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Horse breed popularity rises and falls with the times. Check out these stats and experts pulled from the Western Horseman archives.

As revealed by past Western Horseman breed coverage, breed favorites change over time. Take a look at information gleaned from our archives. Did you know that two-toned spotted horses, now among the most popular in America, endured years of being considered outcasts before getting their own registries? Or that Shetland Ponies, long gone from the top-10 ranks, once outnumbered all breeds but Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds in terms of annual registrations?

These and other fascinating breeds-related tidbits lurk in the pages of Western Horseman‘s back issues. Check out the following excerpts, and for perspective, compare them to the breed stats included in our October 2005 print article, “Breed of Choice.”

From “At Last – A Pinto Horse Association, published in August 1956: “The pinto horse was considered a social outcast, unacceptable in breed registries, without a registry of its own, discriminated against by breeders and horse show judges for no explainable reason except for his color – which is generally agreed to be his greatest asset.Pintos are beginning to receive the recognition they deserve in the show ring, but the average breeder of registered solid-colored horses still steadfastly refuses to cooperate with pinto owners who desire to improve the breed b crossing good pinto mares with registered stallions such as Quarter Horses, Arabians and American Saddlebreds.” (Editor’s note: Pintos finally got their own registry in the mid-1950s, and Paint Horses had one by the early 1960s.)

From “Shetland Roundup,” published in January 1958: “[Shetland Ponies] are third among all 21 breeds of horses and ponies, according to Sam Guard’s annual April census in Breeder’s Gazette, that granddaddy of all livestock publications. Only Quarter Horses, with 16,951 registrations, and Thoroughbreds, with 9,774, exceeded the Shetland Pony’s 5,163 registrations last year.”

From “The Arabian in the West,” published in October 1956: “Early importations of Arabian horses were mainly to states in the east and these horses were mainly raised and ridden under English equipment. Some of these horses and their progeny were taken westward, but it was not until the establishment of the Kellogg Institute (now the Kellogg campus of the California State Polytechnic College) that Arabian horses were raised in extensive numbers in the west. A further stimulus was added by the establishment of the Van Vleet Arabian Stud in Colorado.”

From “About the Welsh,” published in October 1965: “Owners of Welsh Ponies increased by 21 percent during 1964. And at the end of 1964, there were 3,254 owners, compared with 2,680 at the end of 1963. During this same period, the number of registered Welsh Ponies jumped from 9,467 to 10,923, for a gain of more than 15 percent.”

From “The Appaloosa,” published in October 1976: “The colorful Appaloosa horse – the horse with markings as unique as snowflakes – is nearing a milestone that would have been inconceivable just a few decades ago. That milestone is the quarter-millionth Appaloosa to be registered at the Appaloosa Horse Club at Moscow, Idaho. It should occur sometime in 1977. Growth in registrations per year is significant and a bit inspiring for those who favor the spotted horse. In 1946, only 65 Appaloosas qualified for registration. Ten years later, there were a total of 666. By 1966, the total registrations per year jumped to 12,700. This year there will be more than 20,000 horses registered.”

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