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The Most Popular Horse Breeds in the United States Are…

Last updated October 14, 2023 by Brad Heath

From sea to shining sea… American horse owners love to spend time with their four-legged equine friends.  Whether it’s enjoying popular sports like horse racing, stadium jumping, rodeo, and modern pentathlon, or just hitting the open plains for some good ol’ fashioned cowboy fun… horses are an important part of our country’s culture and history.

We recently ran a survey of our readers to find out which breeds they loved the most.  Now, it’s time to not only reveal the results, but also learn some fascinating facts about the horses we can’t live without!


American Quarter Horse

quarter horse38% of our Double D Trailers readers own quarter horses and it’s no surprise!  Many sources have labeled them the “most popular breed in the United States!”

  • The quarter horse has the largest breed registry in the world with over 2.9 million entries.
  • After the end of the American Civil War in 1865, cattle ranchers needed stronger horses who could do the hard work of tending large herds of stock.  The American Quarter Horse became – without a doubt – the best cattle horses in the world.
  • Quarter horses were used as a sprinter in races in Rhode Island and Virginia.  Their best distance – the quarter mile!
  • The American Quarter Horse Association was founded in 1940 with 20 stallions on the registry.
  • A horse named Peter McCue was born in 1895 and his bloodlines appear in almost every Quarter Horse born today!



arabianMaybe you fell in love with Arabians by reading the Walter Farley Black Stallion books as a child.  Today, this elegant and ancient breed has a strong presence in the US. Arabian horses have a distinctive look with a wedge-shaped head, broad forehead, large nostrils and delicate muzzles.

  • Sure, Arabians look fine-boned, but they are the horse-of-choice for long distance endurance riding competitions. One ancient story of Si-ben-Zyam talks of a man riding his favorite mare to Algiers to prevent her being taken the Turks.  Legend has it they road 240 miles in just 24 hours with only brief stops for water.
  • Arabians have 17 ribs, 5 lumbar bones, and 16 tail vertebrae which is different from the 18-6-18 bone configuration in other horses.
  • Some Arabians have a whirl of hair on their neck which is known as the “Prophet’s Thumbmark”.  It traditionally marks Arabians horses who have particular merit.


Dutch Warmbloods

dutch warmbloodGo to any dressage competition and you’ll be surrounded by Dutch Warmbloods.  7% of our readers own these beautiful creatures.  They are larger boned and strong which makes them perfect sport horses for dressage, stadium jumping, hunting, and three-day eventing.

  • Warmbloods get this name because they are often the result of crossbreeding between “hot-blooded” Arabians and Thoroughbreds with “cold-blooded” draft horses like Percherons or Belgians.  (All mammals are physically warm-blooded by nature.)
  • Dutch Warmbloods come from the Netherlands and are referred to by their native name of Koninklijk Warmbloed Paardenstamboek Nederland or “Royal Dutch Sport Horse.”  Today, they are abbreviated in studbooks as KWPN.
  • The “Best Horse in the World” was a warmblood named Hickstead who completed four clear rounds during the Rolex Top Four Final in 2010 with four different riders.  Wow!  He also won gold and silver medals at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.



morgan horseDating back to the earliest days of our country, this breed is popular for riding and driving.  They are known for their strength, elegance and an ancestry that dates back to the foundation sire named Figure later known by his owner’s name, Justin Morgan.

  • The breed was developed in 1779, the same year that George Washington became president.
  • The breed’s slogan is “the horse that chooses you.”
  • The Morgan is the official state horse of both Vermont and Massachusetts.



appaloosa horseHorses with the spotted gene were common for thousands of years before Columbus sailed for America.  But it was the Nez Perce Indians who really brought this breed into existence with selective breeding.

  • The Nez Perce Indians developed the Appaloosa breed in the eighteenth century using stock brought to North America by Spanish explorers.
  • They lived in Northeast Oregon around a fertile, sheltered river valley named the Palouse River – that’s how the Appaloosa got its name.
  • The Nez Perce Indians regarded the color as an attraction and as a form of camouflage.  There are five coat patterns: Leopard, Snowflake, Blanket, Frost, and Marbleized.
  • After nearly being wiped out in 1876, the breed was revived in 1938 by the Appaloosa Horse Club and is now the third-largest breed registry in the world!


Tennessee Walker

tennessee walker horseThis distinctive breed belongs to the American gaited horse tradition, favored by 11% of our readers.  The Walking Horse Breeders’ Association says “Ride one today and you’ll own one tomorrow!”  That’s a testament to their smooth bounce-free gait perfect for a novice or nervous rider.

  • The running walk achieves an average speed of 6-9 mph and can be maintained over long distances without disturbing the rider in any way.
  • The walk-gaits of this breed are in four-time with the head nodding distinctively in time with the movement.
  • Clicking teeth can often be heard when the Tennessee Walker is moving in their characteristic gliding gait!


thoroughbred horse8% of our readers own Thoroughbreds and use them for a variety of disciplines.  Above all, the sport of horse racing wouldn’t be the same without this intelligent and strong breed.  In the United States, the most famous series of horse races is the Triple Crown which features three racing challenges for 3-year-old thoroughbreds.

  • The breed’s entire bloodline can be traced back to just three stallions -- the Darley Arabian, the Godolphin Barb, and the Byerly Turk -- and the Royal Mares owned by King Charles I and James I.
  • The great racehorse Secretariat is famous for having an enlarged heart 2.5 to 3 times the size of a normal horse’s.  We estimate it weighed an astounding 22 pounds!
  • The world record for fastest horse was set by 2-year-old Winning Brew who reached a speed of 23.97 mph.
  • The most expensive horse ever sold at auction was a two-year-old Thoroughbred colt who never raced.  He sold for an incredible $16 million!
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