Horses have a long connection with humans, many are now rare horse breeds. You may not be familiar with many of the breeds I’ll cover here, I only learned more about some recently myself!
So let’s make you an expert on the many uncommonly known types of horses.
Let’s get started, shall we?
12 Amazing Rare Horse Breeds
#1 Cleveland Bay Horse
The Cleveland Bay is one of my favorite rare horse breeds. It is unfortunate that is wonderful all-rounder horse is at risk.
@kiasadieeq Cleveland Bay’s are so underrated #fyp #foryou #horse #horses #equestrian #clevelandbay #equestrian #jumping #crosscountry ♬ Sicko Drop – KVSH & Schillist
Cleveland Bay History
The breed originates in England and is one of if not the oldest horse breeds to come from there.
It is thought that they come from Yorkshire where in the Middle Ages they were used mainly for farm work. However, unlike other farm horses, the Cleveland Bay was a much lighter, refined type compared to the heavy draft horses.
Cleveland Bay Characteristics
One of the most interesting facts about this rare horse breed is that they are always bay with little to no white markings. While they are more refined they have good bone substance.
It is a breed that is capable of many jobs. They are athletic, sturdy, have good stamina, and have excellent temperaments.
The breed is a nice height, standing between 16 to 17 hands tall. According to the Livestock Conservancy, there are only around 1,000 Cleveland Bay horses today. (1)
Cleveland Bay Uses
As I already mentioned, the Cleveland Bay most likely started off as a working farm horse. As times changed their attractive appearance and good temperament saw them become very popular coach horses.
The industrial revolution and World War I saw many horses lost to the automobile and battlefield. After the intervention of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II the breed was put back on track to recovery.
Equestrians rediscovered the amazing versatility of the breed which found itself successful in show jumping, dressage, and driving competitions.
Learn more about and take a look at this beautiful horse in this video. Warning it includes adorable foals!
Make sure to also check this list of horse with long hair!
The Akhal-Teke is particularly cool as this horse has a very unique coat that no other horse breed has. Let’s learn a bit more about the fascinating horse!
@thaliajkul_equestrian They are so stunning !! Inspo & idea: @lanazavada 💛 #equestrian #horsegirl #horses #ponies #goldenhorse ♬ dźwięk oryginalny – 50k reasons to smile🥺❤️
The Akhal-Teke is an ancient breed that comes from Turkmenistan, a country in Central Asia that most people don’t know much about. (2)
I think it only adds to the mystic of this beautiful rare horse breed. The desert environment and isolation of Turkmenistan have heavily influenced the breed and survival from outside influence.
Akhal-Tekes are so ancient and few records from this region make its exact origins hard to uncover. The early use of the breed was as a mount of tribesmen when they went raiding.
Today Turkmenistan takes great pride and designated the Akhal-Teke the national horse.
The breed evolved to survive on a diet that most horses cannot. The grassless, dry environment meant that they were fed mutton fat and small portions of grain with very little water. (3).
This harness created a lean, strong physique that could travel long distances on little sustenance.
The head of the breed has its own unique features, such as long, narrow ears, hooded eyes, and big nostrils.
The features of the head and eyes allow the horse to withstand the desert environment and sandstorms. Perhaps the most interesting unique feature of the breed, at least I think so, is the coat.
Akhal-Tekes has a beautiful metallic sheen to their coat. Though how this evolved is a bit of a mystery. They are long, lean horses with flat back.
However, the breed isn’t particularly tall, standing between 14.2 to 16 hands at the wither.
Due to how they were raised for centuries the breed tends to bond with one person, becoming incredibly loyal and protective.
They have strong spirits and plenty of excitement. This means they are suited to only experience equestrians. They are athletic and can turn their hoof to many equestrian activities.
They can even jump. Check out the video to see for yourself.
#3 Eriskay Pony
The Eriskay Pony is extremely rare, making it critically endangered. Making it extra important to learn about them and work for their conservation.
@ruthonthehoof The Eriskay ponies coming off the hill for their winter grazing! #windy #eriskaypony #pony #outerhebrides #scotland #scotlandtravel #horse ♬ original sound – Ruth On The Hoof
Eriskay Pony History
According to the Eirskay Pony Society these amazing ponies come from the Western Isles of Scotland and are the last survivors of that region’s native horses. (4)
Currently, there are only around 400 Eriskay ponies left, making it one of the most endangered horse breeds! (3) These ponies were once popular working farm animals in the remote Western Isles.
They were mainly used to help carry baskets of peat and seaweed, sometimes pulling a cart.
However, the Eriskay is quite small and as farming requirements changed in the 19th century larger horses became more popular.
However, on one small island, Eriskay, the native ponies survived in small numbers due to the island’s difficult access.
By the 1970s there were only around 20 Eriskays left! They were on the verge of disappearing completely. (4)
Eriskay Pony Characteristics
The Eriskay is a small, sturdy pony that stands between 12 and 13.2 hands tall. Most of them are grey in color, though you might see the odd bay or black pony.
Make sure to check our list of gorgeous black horses.
They evolved to survive the harsh conditions of these remote Scottish islands and grown thick, waterproof winter coats. (4)
ALSO CHECK: Miniature Horse Price
Eriskay Pony Uses
Today, these small and mighty ponies take part in driving competitions and make wonderful children’s mounts.
Take a look at this beautiful video of the Eriskay in their native home.
ALSO CHECK: Most Expensive Racehorse
#4 Suffolk Punch
For the next, endangered horse breed, I’m staying in the UK but focusing on a much larger equine! You might not have heard of the Suffolk Punch, but I’m sure you will come to love it when you learn some more.
@samson_the_suffolk Learning how to hitch up #fyp #suffolkpunch #harness #driving ♬ original sound – Gus Lee-Dolphin 🐬
Suffolk Punch History
Like the Cleveland Bay, the Suffolk Punch is one of England’s oldest horse breeds, some say the oldest working breed. It is a large, heavy horse that is considered a type of draft horse.
The breed developed in the English counties of Suffolk and Norfolk where farmers needed a gentle, powerful horse to plow the difficult clay soil. (4)
Unfortunately, even in England the breed was not well known outside its region. This led to them suffering in numbers when farming machines developed.
Suffolk Punch Characteristics
The Suffolk Punch is an attractive draft horse. They have compact, powerful bodies with only light leg feathering. They are not as tall as many draft breeds, averaging 16.1 hands tall, though some can reach 17 hands. (6)
They enjoy work but have kind, sensible temperaments. One unique feature that makes the breed stand out is that they only have chestnut coat colors.
Suffolk Punch Uses
Today, they are still used for draft pulling work, forestry, and even riding. Many are even starting to appear in riding competitions for heavy horses. (5)
Take a look at these stunning horses and how you can help save them.
#5 Exmoor Pony
The Exmoor is another native English pony that is facing extinction, though not as rare as the Eriskay. It is not uncommon to see them living ‘wild’ in Exmoor where they live in herds that are managed. (8)
@discoverthehorse Such a great Pony Breed!! 🐴 #exmoorpony #exmoor #horsesontiktok #poniesoftiktok #pony #equestriantiktok ♬ original sound – DiscoverTheHorse
It is one of several Mountain and Moorland pony breeds that are native British horses. Others include Dales ponies and the Dartmoor pony.
Exmoor Pony History
Exmoor ponies are an ancient breed with records of them evident in the 1500s but they are likely much older. After World War II their numbers dwindles significantly with only around 50 left!
A wonderful lady, Mary Etherington, took upon herself the task of saving these amazing ponies in the 1940s. (6)
Thanks to her the breed survived. Today, there are around 3,000 Exmoor ponies.
Exmoor Pony Characteristics
The Exmoor Pony is a small, strong, hardy pony that stands around 12 hands tall on average. Most are shades of the bay with no which markings.
If you look closely at their face, you will notice extra flesh around their eyes. This flesh helps to protect the eyes in the harsh conditions of their native environment.
In the winter they grow double coats with the outer, rougher hairs giving them protection from the rain. (10)
Exmoor Pony Uses
Today, the breed is a popular riding pony. They are frequent competitors in showing a working hunter pony class throughout the UK. They are also used for conservation grazing.
Take a look at these adorable ponies roaming free in Exmoor National Park.
#6 Sorraia Horse
The Sorraia Horse is probably completely new to you, I only discovered this rare breed of a horse recently. Let’s take a look together.
@thepixelnomad Can you believe how lucky I was to see this? ❤️😇 #horses #pferde #horsephotography #pferdefotografie #newborn #baby #luckyday #portugal #sorraia ♬ Comptine d’un autre été, l’après-midi – Yann Tiersen
Sorraia Horse History
The Sorraia is a small horse that hails from Iberia and has ancient origins. In fact, it is actually an ancestor of other ancient Iberian horses, the Andulusian and Lusitano.
Evidence of the breed is so steeped in ancient times that the horses have been found in cave paintings. It is the last surviving breed of the region’s ancient wild horses and is critically endangered.
Sorraia Horse Characteristics Sorraia horses are hardy and can survive in harsh conditions.
It is a small, light-framed horse that stands around 14 hands tall.
Like many of the rarest horse breeds, the Sorraia has limited coat colors. It comes in dun or grullo only. They have primitive markings, which include a dorsal stripe, zebra leg stripes, and black-tipped ears.
One really cool feature of the breed is that foals are born with zebra-like markings all over their body!
Sorraia Horse Uses
They are mainly used as riding horses and in rewilding projects.
Unfortunately, even though conservationists are working hard to save the breed, there are only around 200 left in the worldwide population.
Learn more about this extremely at-risk breed and see their unique looks here.
#7 Curly Horse
When you first see a photo of the Curly Horse, I’d forgive you for thinking it must be photoshopped! I mean, there’s no way a horse exists with a curly coat right? Well, they are real!
@silverfoxequine Coda is pretty much a poodle/teddy bear #curly #curlyhorse #bashkircurly #bashkir #uniquehorse #breed ♬ Myself – Bazzi
Curly Horse History
The Curly Horse’s history is hard to trace. The first records of them come from the 1800s when Charles Darwin reported on them.
They were also prized by the Sioux Native Americans.
For some reason at the start of the 20th Century, the breeds’ curly coat was undesirable.
So much so that nearly the entire population was slaughtered! In the 1970s, efforts began to revive the breed with just 21 remaining horses.
While still endangered, these efforts have paid off with around 3,000 Curly horses in the world today.
Curly Horse Characteristics
Besides their unique curly coats, the breed has another unbelievable feature. They are hypoallergenic! It is possible for a Curly Horse to end up with a smooth coat even though they carry the genes of the breed.
They are athletic and move well.
Curly Horse Use
The breed’s athletic ability makes them excellent riding horses. You will spot them in nearly every type of equestrian discipline.
Meet these wavy-haired beauties here.
#8 American Cream Draft Horse
While nearly every other draft horse breed originated in Europe, the American Cream Draft can claim to be the only draft that originates in North America.
@exclusively_eq New rare breed! #americancreamdraft #draft #horses #greenscreen #greenscreenvideo #equestrianvibes #horsegirlvibes #horsebreeds #horsegirl #fyp ♬ Wild Horses – Natasha Bedingfield
American Cream History
The breed starts with one mare ‘Old Granny’ at the start of the 20th century. She had distinctive coloring which she passed on to her foals, thus starting the breed. (7)
In 1950 the American Cream Horse Association of America was established in Iowa.
Like all draft breeds the increased use of machines on farms brought the American Cream close to extinction.
Today, they are still very high risk with only around 400 American Cream Draft horses left.
American Cream Draft Horse Characteristics
All American Cream horses have cream coats, amber eyes, and pink skin. The main traits passed on from Old Granny.
While strong and muscular they are not as heavy as some draft breeds and stand on average at between 15 and 15.3 hands tall. (14)
American Cream Uses
Today, the breed is used for draft work and riding. Take a look at this rare and beautiful horse in this video.
#9 Marwari Horse
The Marwari is a lean, athletic horse that is famous for its unusual ears. Let’s get to know them better.
@corabartley Reply to @raul_fernandez460 #fyp #fypシ #foryou #foryoupage #foryourpage #marwari #marwarihorse ♬ Feather in Her Halo – Matt Mason
Marwari Horse History
Marwari horses come from a region in Northwest India called Marwar (Jodhpur). Not much was known about the breed origins until a genetic project in 2014. (8)
What this genetic mapping uncovered is pretty fascinating. It found that the Marwari is the product of mixing Arabian horses and Mongolian horses.
Marwari Horse Characteristics
Now, let’s get to one of the coolest features of the Marwari, its ears! They have long, thin ears that bend inwards towards the top, nearly touching at the tips.
They have refined heads and wide set eyes.
They come in many colors and range in height from 13.3 to 15 hands.
Marwari Horse Uses
India has very tight controls on the Marwari and except for a brief 8 year period in the early 2000s no horses were allowed to be exported.
Their environmental origins made them are sturdy horses that can travel long distances, making them excellent endurance horses.
Take a look at the impressive horses
#10 Newfoundland Pony
These super cute ponies originate in the Canadian province of Newfoundland. They are pretty new to me, but I love them already!
@itsjustpandy #rare #pony #coolfinds #hesrare #savethebreed #newfoundlandpony ♬ Solo – Clean Bandit,Demi Lovato
Newfoundland Pony History
The Newfoundland Pony traces its history to the native ponies of England, the Exmoor, Welsh Mountain, Dartmoor, and the New Forest.
They are also influenced by Ireland’s Connemara and the Scottish Highland ponies. The ponies arrived in Newfounland with the area’s early settlers.
Interbreeding of native English ponies in an area of isolation led to a new unique breed.
Newfoundland Pony Characteristics
Newfoundland ponies have good temperaments, surefootedness, and leg feathering. They can stand anywhere from 11 to 14.2 hands tall and have a variety of coat colors.(16)
Newfoundland Pony Uses
There are only around 250 of these ponies left, down from thousands that existed only a few decades ago. The few that are left are used for riding and driving. Discover this breed here.
#11 Shire Horse
Of all the rare horse breeds the Shire is probably the most famous. They are heavy draft horses and one of the biggest breeds in the world.
@bella_brasilia_ #fy #foryou #foryourpage #equestriangirl #horse #rear #shirehorse #jack #giant ♬ IAN ASHER Link in my bio for full remix – Ian Asher
Shire Horse History
The Shire horse originated in England during the 18th century when there was a movement to breed large, powerful horses for farm work and transporting goods.
They descend from the ‘Great Horse’. (9)
Shire Horse Characteristics
These gentle giants can weigh around 2000 pounds and stand around 17 hands tall but can be taller. They have broad, muscular bodies and heavy leg feathering.
The majority are bay, but they can also have black, grey, and the rare chestnut coat.
Shire Horse Uses
The majority of Shire horses do draft work. They work in forestry, do some farming, and are coming in weight-pulling competitions. (10)
Also, despite their size, they are excellent riding horses for more timid riders.
Let’s meet these gentle giants.
#12 Przewalski’s Horse
The Przewalski’s is ancient and unique. It is the only horse breed that is still truly wild and carries to move obvious characteristics of ancient wild horses.
@wild.mn – The Przewalski’s- #greenscreen #fyp #horses #breed #viral ♬ оригинальный звук – 𝖘𝖑у𝖙𝖍𝖊𝖗𝖎𝖓 🐍💚🐍
Przewalski’s horses used to roam freely across Asia and Europe. They became extinct in most of these areas and today are only found in Mongolia, China, and Kazakhstan.
They are different than North America’s Mustangs which are feral horses, even though they live wild.
The breed is small and looks different from most horses.
They have 66 chromosomes, this is two more than modern domesticated horses, which have 64. (11)
All Przewalski’s are dun in color, have primitive markings, and have a mane that stands up.
As the only truly wild horse left, the breed is left to this life. However, since numbers are low conservation efforts are in place to protect their survival. Mongolia has put in place special laws to protect them.
Today, there are only around 1,900 Przewalski’s.
Learn more in this cool video!
Still, want to know more? Here are a few questions I’ve been asked frequently.
What is the rarest breed of horse?
The rarest breed of horse is the Galiceño, with fewer than 100 left in the world.
What is the most unique horse?
The most unique horse has to be the Akhal-Teke for its shimmery coat and the Przewalski’s as it is genetically so different from domestic horses.
I hope you enjoyed this guide to rare breeds of horses and it inspired you to learn more about the usually horses we share this world with.
There is truly a huge amount of equine diversity! There is so much more to learn, so pick the breed that interests you the most and start there. Have fun learning about all these unique and usual horses.
What are your favorite rare horse brees? Please share below!
- 1. Angelique. Cleveland Bay Horse [Internet]. The Livestock Conservancy. [cited 2022 Feb 17]. Available from: https://livestockconservancy.org/heritage-breeds/heritage-breeds-list/cleveland-bay-horse/
- 2. Discover the Exotic Akhal-Teke [Internet]. FEI.org. 2019. Available from: https://www.fei.org/stories/lifestyle/horse-human/discover-akhal-teke-horse-breed
- 3. Eriskay ponies | Isle of South Uist [Internet]. [cited 2022 Feb 17]. Available from: https://www.isle-of-south-uist.co.uk/isle-of-eriskay/eriskay-ponies/
- 4. Suffolk Punch [Internet]. International Museum of the Horse. [cited 2022 Feb 17]. Available from: http://imh.org/exhibits/past/breeds-of-the-world/europe/suffolk-punch/
- 5. Suffolk Horse [Internet]. Rare Breeds Survival Trust. Available from: https://www.rbst.org.uk/suffolk-horse
- 6. Exmoor Pony Centre – Characteristics [Internet]. www.exmoorponycentre.org.uk. [cited 2022 Feb 17]. Available from: https://www.exmoorponycentre.org.uk/characteristics.php
- 7. History | ACDHA [Internet]. [cited 2022 Feb 17]. Available from: https://acdha.org/history/
- 8. Discover… the Marwari [Internet]. FEI.org. 2020 [cited 2022 Feb 18]. Available from: https://www.fei.org/stories/lifestyle/health-fitness/discover-marwari
- 9. Shire | breed of horse [Internet]. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2019. Available from: https://www.britannica.com/animal/Shire-horse
- 10. Uses of the Shire Horse Today – The Shire Horse Society [Internet]. [cited 2022 Feb 17]. Available from: https://www.shire-horse.org.uk/about-us/the-shire-horse/uses-of-the-shire-horse-today/
- 11. Przewalski’s horse [Internet]. Smithsonian’s National Zoo. 2018. Available from: https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/przewalskis-horse
Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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