The two most popular horse breeds in the United States were the Arabian and the American Quarter Horse, according to a recent survey.

Every country claims a breed of its own, although horses were actually brought to North America by the Spanish. The United States is no exception in claiming its own breeds.

Worldwide, there are over 200 different breeds, along with several others that no longer exist. A sampling of popular horse breeds in the United States includes the following:


The Arabian horse has had the most influence on the development of all light bred horses in the US. The history of the Arabian dates back nearly 2000 years. Most “hot blooded” horses, of which the Arabian is one, can be traced back to the Arabian, the Barb and The Turkmene.

American Quarter Horse

Quarter Horses are one of the most popular horse breeds in both the United States and the world with over 4 million registered horses. The Quarter Horse was developed for speed at quarter mile sprints. It is believed that the breed was the result of the Thoroughbred colonial horses being crossed with the Spanish mustang horses of the Southwest.


As Western movies often depict, the Appaloosa horse is definitely among the most popular horse breeds in the United States. It is named after the Palouse River country of the northwest United States. These colorful horses were used by the Nez Perce Indians to move through the rugged mountain terrain and are known for their beauty, endurance and surefootedness. Not to be confused is the AraAppaloosa, which is a cross between an Apploosa and an Arabian.

Missouri Fox Trotter

The Missouri Fox Trotter was developed in the 19th century in the Ozark Mountains of southern Missouri. This popular horse breed was developed to be an easy riding horse that could move long distances at a speed of 5 to 8 miles per hour. The fox trot is required for registration into the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association. The breed has roots in the plantation horses of the south as well as the Arabian and Morgan.


The Morgan Horse is the only popular horse breed named after an owner. Justin Morgan was the foundation sire of the breed. The stallion was originally named Figure, but took on the name of his owner as an adult, which was the custom in the late 1700s. The ancestry is not clear, but the horse is believed to have been of Thoroughbred and Arabian breeding. The horse is popular for riding and driving and is known to be an excellent all around horse.

American Paint Horse

The American Paint Horse is a breed and not a color, like its counterpart the Pinto horse. The Paint is known for its color and stock breed style. The horses registered with the American Paint Horse Association are closely related to the American Quarter Horse.

Paints have several color patterns and coat colors


The Palomino is a color rather than an actual breed. Many breeds are able to present the golden palomino color and be registered with the Palomino Horse Breeder’s Association. However, they are often associated with stock horse breeds, like the American Quarter Horse. Palomino is also a popular color in Tennessee Walking Horses, Saddlebreds, and Fox Trotters. To qualify for registration, the horse must have a white mane and tail that is not more than 15% dark hair and the body color must be approximate to that of a gold US coin.

Tennessee Walking Horse

The Tennessee Walking Horse was bred for riding, driving and farm work. The horse naturally overstrides, which creates a running walk gait. The breed was developed from the Narragansett and Canadian Pacers, as well as the Saddlebred, Standardbred, Thoroughbred and Morgan


The Thoroughbred race horse was developed for speed at intermediate distances. No other breed can match the Thoroughbred at racing distances. Thoroughbred race horses have also provided the foundation for many other American horse breeds including the Standardbred, Saddlebred, Morgan and Quarter Horse.


The American Saddlebred originated in Kentucky and Tennessee and later became popular in Virginia, West Virginia and Missouri. This was primarily because they were easy riding horses on the plantations of the time. The horse was developed from a variety of breeds including the Canadian Pacer, Thoroughbred, Arabian, Morgan, American Trotter and others. Today, the horse is largely used for show purposes and is known for its controlled gaits, high head carriage and distinctive tail set. The horse can be either three- or five-gaited and are ridden for both English and Western disciplines.

History of Horses

Gaited Horses

Horseback Riding Guide