While writing about horse colours, I learned that the Appaloosa is Idaho’s state horse.
I was unaware there is such a thing as a state horse, which is odd because here in Canada we have a provincial tree, bird, flower, bear… and while we may not have a provincial horse, we do have a national horse, aptly named the Canadian.
So, with this piece of information in mind, I thought I’d look into the US states that have declared a breed as their official state horse.
Vermont – 1961 – Morgan
The first state to do this was Vermont when they claimed the Morgan as their state animal. The Morgan breed originated in Vermont with the foundation sire Figure (1789-1821) who lived most of his life there. You may have read about Figure, as I did when I was a kid, in the book Justin Morgan Had a Horsewritten by Marguerite Henry, the same author who wrote King of the Wind and Misty of Chincoteague.
Massachusetts – 1970 – Also Morgan
Now this is a little confusing, but Massachusetts also claimed the Morgan in 1970 as their official state horse for the very same reason as Vermont. Their reasoning is that Figure was born in Springfield Massachusetts in 1789, which by my calculations means Figure died when he was 32. Which is a bloody good age.
Idaho – 1975 – Appaloosa
Idaho, as discussed previously, declared the Appy as their state horse in 1975 thanks to the contributions the Nez Perce Tribe had in cultivating the breed.
It’s nice to know Idaho has more going for it than potatoes.
Alabama – 1975 – Racking Horse
In 1975 Alabama chose the Racking Horse as its state horse. I’m unable to find where the breed originated other than in the southern states around the time of the American Civil War. But as the Racking Horse Breeders Association is headquartered in Alabama, it seems reason enough to declare the Racking Horse as the state horse.
New Jersey – 1977 – Horse
New Jersey mixed things up a little and declared the entire species as their state animal in 1977. Apparently, at one time New Jersey had close to 4,500 horse farms housing over 40,00 horses. The state gives the horse industry a whole lot of credit for the extensive amount of natural land preserves.
North Dakota – 1993 – Nokota
In 1993 North Dakota named the Nokota horse as their honourary equine. These wild horses live in the badlands of North Dakota and are named after the Nakota Tribe that had inhabited the area.
Kentucky – 1996 – Thoroughbred
It’s no surprise that Kentucky declared the thoroughbred as its state horse. I am, however, surprised it took until 1996 to do so. The Kentucky thoroughbred industry is a multi-billion-dollar money churner with close to 18,000 jobs linked to the almighty thoroughbred. They definitely deserve to be the state horse.
Tennessee – 2000 – Tennessee Walking Horse
Obviously, Tennessee declared the Tennessee Walking Horse as their state horse. I doubt very much I need to mention that this gaited horse was developed in this very state. I just find it odd, like Kentucky, that they waited so long, considering we all already knew anyway.
Missouri – 2002 – Missouri Fox Trotter
Understandably, Missouri has claimed the Missouri Fox Trotter as their state horse and waited, as with Tennessee and Kentucky, a respectable number of years before declaring it to the world. Why the wait?
Maryland – 2003 – Thoroughbred
The much-loved thoroughbred, as with the Morgan, has two states to call home. Maryland has a long history of breeding and racing thoroughbreds dating back to the mid-1700s. It’s also home of the Preakness Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown, so it makes sense to declare the thoroughbred as their own. Well, shared with Kentucky.
Florida – 2008 – Florida Cracker Horse
I lived in Florida for 10 years and not only did I not know Florida had a state horse I also didn’t know there was a breed called the Florida Cracker Horse. Florida took claim to this horse not only because of its name but because the Florida Cracker Horse played a vital role in the cattle and agriculture industry in the state.
Texas – 2009 – Quarter Horse
This makes perfect sense because when you think Texas you think cowboy and when you think cowboy you think quarter horse.
South Carolina – 2010 – Carolina Marsh Tacky
This is another mystery breed for me, but not to those in South Carolina. The Marsh Tacky is a unique breed of the Colonial Spanish Horse that is only found in South Carolina. And while it’s fun that this breed is unique to only one state, it also means there are very few of them, approximately 400 as it happens, which in turn makes them endangered.
North Carolina – 2010 – Colonial Spanish Mustang
Well, if the South has a horse, then the North had better have one as well. The Colonial Spanish Mustang is related to the Banker Horse of the Outer Banks. I have literally no idea about these horses.
This breed is often referred to as Spanish Mustangs, but the preferred name is the Colonial Spanish Horse, as the word mustang suggests they are a feral mixed breed, which they are not.
I’m also aware there must be a direct correlation between the Colonial Spanish Mustang and the Carolina Marsh Tacky, which will get investigated in the near future.
Oklahoma – 2022 – Quarter Horse
Again, seems fitting that the extremely popular breed of Quarter Horse belongs to two states.
Virginia – 2023 – Chincoteague Pony
I’ve inadvertently bookended this post, which is brilliant because I love bringing things full circle.
The Chincoteague ponies are actually horses, small ones, but horses, nonetheless. There are two herds of these wild horses, and they live on Assateague Island, but interestingly, the herds are separated by a fence because Assateague Island is both in Virginia and Maryland and the fence is a state line of sorts.
The Maryland herd is cared for by the National Park Service and the Virginia gang is owned by the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.
And lest we forget that Marguerite Henry wrote Misty of Chincoteague, the much-loved children’s book that probably helped cinch Virginia’s dedication to the ponies of Chincoteague.
In the End
In an attempt not to bore the pants off you, I’ve left out a lot of information on many of the lesser-known breeds, which I aim to rectify in the near future.
And once again, I marvel at the power our beloved horses have over the world.