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The Florida Cracker Horse developed from roaming and wild horses the Spanish left behind them when they departed from Florida in the 16th Century.
The Spanish had brought their Iberian horses with them when they first “discovered” Florida and this is the early beginnings of today’s breed. The horses left behind, were shaped over a long period of time by their environment and natural selection, into small horses, agile, swift, tough and smart. By the 1800’s thousands roamed freely.
The Spanish also introduced ancestors of the Florida Cracker Horse horses into the Caribbean Islands and Cuba as well as Central and South America. Breeds like the Mustang, Paso Fino, Criolla, Argentine Criolla, Peruvian Paso and others have the same original genetic base as the Iberian Horse of the Spaniards.
As Florida was colonized, the then native horse was utilized for all purposes and horse trading with Cuba was a standard practice. The Florida Cracker Horse was valued and utilized by the Seminole Indians and also became the mainstay support of agriculture and ranching in Florida.
Because of their speed and endurance, the Florida Cracker Horse was in great demand by soldiers, officials and stockmen. During the War Between the States, Florida was the leading supplier of beef for troops on both sides. The Cracker horses were highly prized for transportation. These sturdy horses could travel in Florida’s rough conditions where other horses failed.
After the war Florida was one of the first states to establish a good economy which was built by families who exported Cracker cattle to Cuba -- many of Florida’s oldest and largest business began as cattle ranching operations.
During Depression years, cattle from the Dust Bowl were moved to Florida and along with the influx of cattle came the screw worm , fencing, dipping and the need to rope and hold the cow. Ranchers began to employ the larger, stronger Quarter Horse and the Florida Cracker Horse almost became extinct. The efforts of a few families devoted to saving the breed , breed the Cracker Horse for their own ranch use and maintained a few distinct bloodlines. Finally in 1989 an official association and registry was formed.
ORIGIN OF THE NAME
Florida ranchers used cow whips and these cowboys were called Crackers and with their horses could hunt cattle where others horses failed. Small wonder then, that this name was also given to the horse that was essential for actually working the cattle.
Florida Cracker Horse is the official name of the breed, but throughout their history they have been known by other names such as: Seminole, Chicksaw or Prairie Pony; Florida Horse or Cow Pony; Grass Cutter and Marsh Tackie.
A breed of cattle in Florida was also named Cracker, so Cracker horses were herding and driving free ranging Cracker cows.
The modern day Florida Cracker horse retains its easy gaits’ the running walk, trot and ambling gaits. They cover ground easily and well and are always agile, willing workers, with great endurance and spirit yet with good working horse savvy and temperament. In height at the withers, they can be smallish, 13.5 hand, but can also range up to 15 hands. Any color is acceptable, although solid colors and grays are most common.
The Florida Cracker Horse has a refined head and intelligent, keen and alert eyes, well-spaced. The eyes are dark with a white sclera, gray or blue. This breed’s neck is fairly narrow, with no excessive crest and is the same proportion as the length of the back, from withers to croup. The chest is medium to narrow, shoulders are laid back, sloping, long and smooth muscled. The croup is sloping and short with the tail being set medium low. The underline of the body is longer than the top line, with well spring ribs.
The Florida Cracker horse of today is used for reining, roping, penning, pleasure, trail, pulling wagons and of course as a working cow horse.