Baseball and apple pie have a reputation for being quintessential all-American icons. But there’s another, lesser-known symbol of Americana: the American Cream Draft horse. The only draft horse breed developed in the United States, the Cream is a much younger breed than its European draft horse cousins. While the Clydesdale, Percheron, Belgian and other European draft breeds were established several centuries ago, the American Cream Draft got its start in the early 1900s.
No one knows Old Granny’s exact ancestry, but she went on to give birth to many cream-colored foals when bred to other draft horses. Her ability to pass along her stunning coloring to her offspring led her to become the foundation dam of the breed.
In the 1930s, fanciers of these cream-colored draft horses in the Melbourne, Iowa, area began to breed them in earnest, using line breeding and inbreeding to establish a distinct type. In mid-1944, the American Cream Draft Horse Association of America was established with an initial 20 members and 75 foundation horses.
Although numbers for the breed reached 200 registered horses by 1941, this turned out to be a tough time for many draft horse breeds. Farmers had already begun working their land with tractors instead of horses, and as a result, the demand for draft horses was dwindling. Consequently, the American Cream Draft Horse Association became inactive by the 1950s, and the breed was in danger of going extinct.
It wasn’t until the 1980s that the association reorganized and began a concerted effort to save the breed using the horses that were left. The hard work of these breeders saved the American Cream Draft Horse from certain disappearance.
Although this breed is considered very rare—just over 500 individuals exist—the breed is at its highest numbers in history. People who love draft horses are discovering this calm and attractive breed, not just for driving, but also for pleasure and competitive riding.
Although the American Cream Draft’s striking appearance is a large part of the breed’s attraction, this horse is most valued for its willing temperament, calm nature and abilities as a workhorse. Creams are often used in the carriage trade and for working the land on small farms.
The American Cream Draft Horse Association is striving to bring this special breed to the attention of the horse-loving public. Booths at equine events are one way of introducing the breed to those who may not be aware these horses even exist.
Individual Cream owners also participate in shows, parades and other community events, often with the intention of introducing the breed to other equestrians.
The association’s membership in the Livestock Breed Conservancy, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping preserve rare breeds, is also enabling them to keep the American Cream Draft Horse population genetically healthy.
The American Cream Draft Horse’s distinctive coloring, gentle temperament and all-American history help this versatile draft horse stand out among the crowd.
All these qualities combined with the dedication of those who love these horses will mean greater popularity for this special breed.
Height: 16 to 16.3 hands
This article about the American Cream Draft Horse originally appeared in the October 2019 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!