There are over 200 horse breeds in the world and while many are rather common, there are some that are extremely rare.
The rarest horse breeds are usually not plagued with bad reputations, instead, they are usually the recipients of bad luck.
It is important for every horse enthusiast to know which horse breeds are the rarest before these breeds are gone forever.
Despite modern advances and social media, it is still possible for rare horse breeds to cross the line into extinction.
The following are the fifteen rarest horse breeds in the world.
Table of Contents
15 Rarest Horse Breeds
1. American Cream Draft
The American Cream Draft horse is one of the rarest horse breeds in the world.
This horse is the only draft horse breed that gets the distinction of being American born. The breed traces back to a cream-colored draft horse that was born right at the turn of the 20th century.
Despite most equestrians referring to these horses as cream-colored for over a century, technically this horse breed does not carry the cream gene.
They carry the champagne gene which causes their lighter, cream-like coat appearance.
While the American Cream Draft was once a popular draft breed, today its popularity has dwindled to dangerous levels.
With only 30 new registrations per year, the rare horse breed needs serious conservation help before things get worse.
2. Camarillo White Horse
The Camarillo family cultivated this rare horse breed after they discovered a striking young stud horse named Sultan, the future sire of the breed, in the 1920s. Like their original sire, Camarillo White horses are solid white and possess a unique gene mutation that contributes to their color.
Over the years, Camarillo White horses became staples at local parades and events in California, primarily Ventura County. To many locals, the horses represented the area’s Spanish heritage and traditional values.
In 1987, they auctioned off the remaining Camarillo horses, and the breed was no longer monitored by the Camarillo family.
By 1991, there were only 11 known Camarillo White horses left and a group of owners decided to band together to prevent the looming extinction of the breed.
While the numbers have not grown as large as hoped, there are 22 Camarillo White horses alive today and this rare horse breed lives on.
The Galiceno horse breed is a rare horse breed that hails from Mexico and features small-sized horses that are ideal for young or petite riders.
Most Galiceno horses stand between 48 and 54 inches tall and offer an extremely smooth ride.
These horses excel in sporting events including cutting, reining, rodeo events, and western pleasure. Galiceno horses are easy keepers, and despite their small size, they are very strong and have a lot of stamina.
Although this rare breed produces exceptional horses, it is shocking that their numbers have only dwindled over the past two decades.
4. Shire Horse
The Shire horse is another rare horse draft breed, but this one originated in the United Kingdom in the middle 1700s. Shire horses gained popularity in the beginning because they can pull heavy carriages, carts, and farm equipment.
Unfortunately, as time passed, the advent of cars and better farm equipment drastically decreased the need for draft horses like the Shire.
In the United Kingdom, the Shire breed currently sits on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust’s list of ‘at risk’ horse breeds. Today, there are less than 1500 Shire horses remaining, making it a true rare horse breed.
The Sorraia horse is a rare horse breed that features primitive features like a convex facial profile which includes a nasal bridge that curves downwards towards the nose.
The breed originated in the Iberian Peninsula in Portugal where many Sorraia horses still live today.
Many historians believe this horse breed descended from primitive horses since it has such noticeable primitive features.
Along with their curved facial profiles, they sometimes have primitive color markers like striping on the legs, dorsal stripes down their backs, and darker than normal muzzles.
Sorraia horses are rather small, standing at a maximum of 59 inches tall, while others are as short as 51 inches.
The breed faced near extinction until the early 1900s when a group of Sorraia horses seemed to just pop up, leading to considerable conservation efforts.
6. Cleveland Bay Horse
The Cleveland Bay horse breed is a rare horse breed that has been around since the 1600s. While its name may make you think it originated in America, it actually got its name from the Cleveland area of England.
This horse breed is the oldest English horse breed and its ability as a carriage horse secured its popularity for many years.
Cleveland Bay horses stand up to 66 inches tall and have solid, muscular bodies that allow them to pull heavy weights.
While the breed was extremely popular for some time, its numbers decreased rapidly during the 1900s as the need for carriage horses decreased.
7. Canadian Horse
The Canadian horse breed originated in Canada and first found popularity in the 1700s. While their popularity made them a common war horse, the American Civil War contributed to a massive decrease in their numbers.
Canada exported so many of the Canadian horses to other countries that the breed came very close to extinction. Thankfully, Canada banned exports of the breed and worked towards building the breed back up.
Canadian horses stand up to 66 inches tall as adults and can weigh up to 1,350 pounds. They are strong, agile horses that excel in competitive sports as well as basic trail riding and light farm work.
These low numbers, combined with the fact that new breed registrations are slowing down, mean the Canadian horse will likely remain a rare horse breed for a while.
8. Hackney Horse
The Hackney horse is a British horse breed known for its carriage driving and harness event abilities.
Established in 1755, the development of the Hackney horse was the result of a strong need for a trotting transportation horse that provided a smooth ride for long distances.
The Hackney horse stands up to 66 inches tall and features a strong, broad chest. Their mesmerizing trot is their most distinctive quality, along with their showman’s display of high knees and rhythmic movement.
In North America, there are less than 200 Hackney horses remaining. Across the world, only 3,000 of these exquisite horses remain, solidifying the Hackney horse’s current standing as a rare horse breed.
The Banker horse breed is a rare and feral horse breed that runs free on the Outer Banks in North Carolina. The main theory is that sometime around the 16th century, Spanish horses found their way to the area due to shipwrecks or simple abandonment.
The horses are not indigenous to the area; however, the local government allows the horses to stay on the islands because the horses have lived there for so long.
Tourists can watch the horses running and roaming along the beach, but they are not allowed to feed them.
Unfortunately, the local park service must manage the population to keep the animals and the community safe. When necessary, equestrians can adopt and train Banker horses for riding and some fertile female horses receive birth control to prevent excessive breeding.
This makes the breed a rare horse breed, but there are no expectations of the population growing due to the management needs of the region.
10. Akhal-Teke Horse
The Akhal-Teke horse is a rare ancient horse breed that originated in the country of Turkmenistan, and many consider it a descendant of the long extinct Turkoman horse breed.
The first Akhal-Teke horses were a favorite among criminals that used them on raids.
Despite their initial use, the Akhal-Teke horse found popularity in the late 1800s and equestrians cultivated the breed for many years, eventually adding Thoroughbred genetics to the mix. Today, all Akhal-Teke horses have Thoroughbred ancestry.
The Akhal-Teke horse is unique thanks to its extremely shiny coat that has a reflective sheen in the right light. The horses can have black, bay, dun, chestnut, grey, cream, or yellow coats of hair.
While this number is one of the higher ones on this list, the Akhal-Teke is still a rare horse breed in need of special attention.
11. Caspian Horse
The Caspian horse breed is a rare horse breed whose origins remain under a blanket of mystery. Many believe the breed originates from Iran and that it is a descendant of the oldest domestic horse breed.
Caspian horses are rather small, standing only 47 inches tall as adults and only weigh up to 600 pounds. Despite being petite, these horses are not classified as ponies due to their horse-like proportions.
Thanks to a couple in the 1960s, travelers discovered the Caspian horse in villages in Iran and exported them to Europe to keep the breed alive.
Their hardiness and the fact that these horses do not need regular shoeing helped the breed gain some popularity in Europe.
The effort was successful, and the breed is thankfully still enduring.
12. Suffolk Punch Horse
The Suffolk Punch horse is a rare British draft horse breed created in the 1500s to help with farm work. As with other draft breeds, its popularity waned when farm machinery became more common.
Suffolk Punch horses can stand up to 70 inches tall as adults and even then, it is still shorter than most British draft horse breeds.
Even though they are on the shorter side for draft horses, their bodies are noticeably larger than those same draft breeds.
This horse breed is distinct from the rest thanks to its gorgeous chestnut-colored coats. Also notable is its exceptionally muscular body.
In their heyday, their size contributed to their use in farm work, forestry, and pulling heavy artillery during various wars.
13. Dales Pony
The Dales pony is a rare small horse breed that originated in England around the tail end of the 1600s thanks to the need for pack ponies to carry mined materials.
These ponies, or small-sized horses, stand up to 58 inches when fully grown.
Dales ponies are friendly and easy to train, but they are normally shy or easily shaken. Unfortunately, some horses in this breed carry a particular gene responsible for a horrible and potentially fatal disease called immunodeficiency.
Dales ponies make great first horses for children or small adults thanks to their small size and calm demeanors. They excel in equine competition sports like jumping, dressage, and driving.
Today, there are a few small herds of them that run wild in Northern England and some live on various horse farms around the world.
14. Exmoor Pony
The Exmoor pony is another rare small horse breed that originated in the United Kingdom in the late 1800s.
Breeders named the horse breed after the region in which it originated and there are records of ponies in the area since 1896.
Most Exmoor ponies stand up to just 51 inches tall as adults and have bay-colored coats of hair. They are stocky and hardy horses that equestrians ride in show, endurance, and driving competitions.
Equestrians formed the Exmoor Pony Society in 1921, but by 1945, the ponies were nearly extinct. Thanks to a group effort for conservation, the breed has slowly recovered, although their numbers are still relatively small.
15. Eriskay Pony
The Eriskay pony is a rare Scottish pony horse breed that features gorgeous, grey-coated ponies that stand up to 54 inches tall when fully grown.
Most ponies in this breed are easy to handle and perfect for teaching children to ride on.
There were once many Eriskay ponies in existence; however, over time, breeders began to introduce other horse breeds to the mix to create larger ponies. Eventually, the purebred Eriskay pony numbers dwindled exponentially.
What Horse Breed is the Rarest?
The Camarillo family cultivated and coveted the Camarillo horse breed for many decades. When they finally sold the horses to the public, there was initially little to no desire to protect the breed.
Eventually, as enthusiasts of the breed noticed the numbers reaching the single digits, they made a concerted effort to save the breed. Hopefully, with time, the Camarillo breed’s numbers will continue to grow.
What Horse Breeds Almost Went Extinct?
There are several horse breeds that faced near extinction at some point during the past 100 years.
Thanks to wars and disease, many rare horse breeds came dangerously close to being only a memory.
The Caspian horse breed danced to extinction during the 1960s and the Friesian horse breed did the same in the early 1900s. Without any help, these horse breeds would not have survived until today.
Thankfully, conservation efforts have prevented each of these rare horse breeds from going extinct. Unfortunately, not every rare horse breed of the past has been so lucky.
How Can We Save the Rarest Horse Breeds from Extinction
There are several ways that we can work together to help save the rarest horse breeds from extinction.
Breed enthusiasts can volunteer with The Livestock Conservancy and promote conservation efforts at booths set up at trade shows and other equine events.
For those looking to play a bigger role in conservation, there is a program that can help.
Breeders can participate in the Endangered Equine Alliance program which offers discounted reproductive services including in vitro embryo production, semen storage, and preparation for possible future cloning.
Knowledge truly is power, and the more people know, the more help these rare horse breeds can get.
Are There Any Extinct Horse Breeds?
Unfortunately, there are many extinct horse breeds that we will never get the opportunity of seeing in person.
Of course, there are several ancient horse breeds that have been extinct for hundreds of years, but there are also a couple more recently extinct horse breeds.
There are many other horse breeds that have gone extinct over the years. These include the Turkoman, the Charentais horse, the Irish Hobby, the Ferghana, the Jennet, and the Karacabey horse, among others.
The fact that there are around 28 extinct horse breeds supports the fact that rare horses breeds need help preventing extinction. The more horse enthusiasts do now, the better the chance of survival each of these rare horses have.
There are many rare horses that are in danger of becoming extinct if we do not take conservation seriously. All the horse breeds on this list are unique and extraordinary in their own way, so it is important that they continue to exist.
While we sometimes forget that entire animal breeds can still go extinct today, the Abaco Barb horse breed is proof it could happen to any one of these rare horse breeds.
Learning about the rarest horse breeds was an exciting and educational journey. I used the following sources and my own knowledge of horse breeds to write this article.
- Category:Extinct horse breeds – Wikipedia