LANDRACE AND BREED
A population of feral horses that has adapted over time to its natural and cultural environment, and whose unique characteristics are also due to isolation from other populations, is properly called a "landrace." Geneticist D. Phillip Sponenberg, DVM, PhD, notes that “the relative [conformational and genetic ]uniformity of landraces results from both moderate inbreeding and from selection . . . a combination of natural and human factors, all acting in an agricultural or pastoral setting.” Thus, the Colonial Spanish horse, which Sponenberg has devoted a lifetime to tracking and preserving, is a landrace that subsumes all feral North American horses of Iberian extraction, plus all their domesticated relatives. Their history is now being documented and preserved by a halfdozen different registries and breed clubs.
The “pre-registry” Morgan also qualifies as a landrace, for even though it contained no feral herds it consisted of a large population of horses of similar breeding and recognizable type ranging from New England south thorough the Ohio Valley.
Out of this population in the last decade of the 19th century, Joseph Battell chose foundational individuals to establish a Morgan Horse registry and breed. In parallel fashion, Mountain Horses are a landrace that includes all the feral horses of far western Virginia and North Carolina and adjacent eastern Kentucky and Tennessee, plus all of their domesticated relatives (now located everywhere in the United States). Their history is likewise being documented and preserved by several different registries and breed clubs.
It is important to understand how breeds relate to landraces: Landraces are the “undocumented” population from which a breed may arise by selection---that is, because someone selects “foundational” individuals out of a feral herd and brings them back into domestication. Anyone at any time can do what Joseph Battell did---establish a breed by identifying “foundation” horses and then giving them names or numbers, registering them and keeping careful track of their breeding activities and descendants.
All horse breeds have in fact emerged in this way, either (in very ancient times) from wild herds that had never previously been domesticated, or else from whatever landrace was feral or “traditionally bred” in a
A population of feral horses that has adapted over time to its natural and cultural environment, and whose unique characteristics are also due to isolation from other populations, is properly called a “landrace.”
given geographic area. This is why the names of many horse breeds are place names, such as “Shire,” “Cleveland Bay,” “Turkmene,” “Hanoverian” and “Welsh.” Thus, horse breeds should not be thought of---as they so often are---as suddenly appearing out of thin air as the result of the fabulous prepotency of one or a few “founder” stallions. Rather, new horse breeds arise when people obtain bloodstock from a population adapted to the climate and terrain of a given geographic area, and then build on that by selecting for whatever traits they admire or find useful.
This is not all that is ethically
required, however, because formal horse breeds---those that have established registries---that do not adhere to clear, biologically based standards sooner or later fail. By “biologically based standards” I mean correct conformation structure, freedom from genetic diseases, appropriate physical adaptation to all-around work or athletic performance, and an emphasis on good-mindedness and trainability. Ethical action in horse breeding does not preclude economic benefit to the people who create a breed and its registry, but it does demand the kind of sustainability that breeding merely for color, speed, long necks, dished faces or any other single characteristic can never supply. Because breeds are based on founder populations less numerous than the landrace from which they were drawn, they tend to be more inbred than the landrace while the landrace manifests more variability. Over the last two centuries, many American horse breeds have drifted or been driven to extremes of muscularity or refinement,
whereas landrace individuals manifest a less extreme, more generalized and generally sounder body morphology. Foundational and chronologically early members of breeds tend to resemble their landrace ancestors.
The fascinating story that follows takes a close look at the Mountain Horse landrace and the domesticated and sometimes “papered” horses who have come from it. At the same time, we will discover the root-origins of two of our greatest breeds: the American Quarter Horse and the American Saddlebred. Though these breeds look and perform very differently today, their origins lie in the same landrace herds.
SAM TUTTLE: LANDRACE BREEDER
It is fortunate that the Mountain Horse population is still with us, not only in the form of feral herds but also domesticated ones. Thanks primarily to the efforts of educator Sam O. Tuttle of Estill County, Kentucky, who spent a lifetime collecting Mountain Horses and who bred them for durability, comfortable gait and good-mindedness, these horses have remained sturdy, beautiful to look at, easily trainable and fun to ride.
Mr. Tuttle was a true individualist whose passion for Mountain Horses began when he was a teenager. Through trade with neighbors and purchases from his uncle Frank Tuttle, Sam collected a herd of between 40 and 60 horses that he maintained up until the time of his death in 1988. Breed historian Bonnie Hodge, author of Rocky Mountain Horses, notes that “Sam Tuttle never kept any written record of what horse was bred to what horse. When he would decide to breed a mare and a stallion, it was solely for the purpose of producing more of the traits he personally preferred. He would try to produce
a pleasurable riding gait in the horses he bred because he enjoyed riding them. He liked smaller horses because they were easier to get on bareback. Likewise, he tried to maintain a kind and gentle disposition in his horses because he admired it.”
Two registries---the Mountain Pleasure Horse and the Rocky Mountain Horse---were founded by some of Tuttle’s neighbors and friends who had begun breeding horses purchased from him. These registries concern themselves with horses that are most related to, and most like, the source landrace. Other breeds that originate in the mid-South---including the American Saddlebred, the American Quarter Horse, the Tennessee Walking Horse, the Racking Horse, the Spotted Saddle Horse, the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse, and the Missouri Foxtrotter---all derive in part from the Mountain Horse landrace and all bear some physical resemblance to it. The pedigrees of these horses repeat many of the same ancestors, and many horses that come from Missouri, southern Illinois and Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky are “cross-registered.”
Before we go any further, I need to explain how the name “Rocky Mountain” was bestowed on a breed of horse that originates not in the Rocky Mountain region of the Far West but east of the Mississippi in the Appalachian highlands. The story officially accepted by the Rocky Mountain Horse Association (RMHA) is that the breed was “founded” by a pacing mustang known as “the Rocky Mountain Stud Colt of 1890,” who had been brought east to Kentucky from the Rocky Mountain region. I have, however, repeatedly emphasized in this series that it is naïve to believe that a single, supposedly prepotent “foundation
stallion” can single-handedly create a breed de novo from his loins. Rather, the origin as well as the perpetuation of all breeds depends on many individuals and especially on broodmares.
The “official” stories of all breeds relate to advertising promotion because the survival of a breed (as opposed to a landrace) depends upon sales. Most customers aren’t professional historians, and a mythology that creates romantic images of legendary horses like the Pacing White Mustang (who could outrun even the fastest gallopers) can enthrall potential buyers. Why, then, not buy into a harmless story? Because fables and oversimplifications obscure real breed origins and thus ultimately diminish the value of the horses. Hodge reports a scenario that is much more likely to be true: “There is also another version of the story … told by Sam Tuttle many times…. [He] claimed the dam of the original Rocky Mountain Stud Colt of 1890 had Spanish lineage. He said this gaited mare was originally acquired from [Bird Island] off the coast of Virginia. Some men swam out to the island to capture her…. She was [then] taken on a journey out west to the Rocky Mountains and, at some point … she gave birth to the colt [which was then brought back east and became famous as] the Rocky Mountain Stud Colt.” In short: the stud colt considered the founder of the Rocky Mountain breed was not a mustang but at least 50 percent Banker pony of mixed Spanish and Virginia Hobby breeding.
NAMING LANDRACES AND BREEDS
It can be hard to decide what to call the landraces from which formal breeds are derived. In the previous installment, I used breed historian Alexander Mackay-Smith’s proposed name Colonial Quarter Running Horse (CQRH) to designate the population from which both the American Quarter Horse and the American Saddlebred arose. The CQRH is not a breed in the formal sense of association with a registry, but it is not improper to call landraces or traditionally-bred forms “breeds.” It is also not improper to refer to landraces that later give rise to a formal breed by the name of the breed
In short: the stud colt considered the founder of the Rocky Mountain breed was not a mustang but at least 50 percent Banker pony of mixed Spanish and Virginia Hobby breeding.
that came from them---so for example, in this series I have used “Morgan” for horses of that type who lived before the Morgan registry was established.
The CQRH can also be called the Colonial Riding Horse (CRH), as transportation was in fact the primary function of most individuals, whereas racing was occasional and incidental (in the same way that Justin Morgan was occasionally matched in quarter-path races (see “Mystery of the Morgan Horse” EQUUS 469). The Mountain Horse and the CRH are “sister populations”--parts of what is really a single large population---with the CRH originating earlier and east of the Blue Ridge, the Mountain Horse originating after 1775 and west of the Cumberland Gap. Which appellation I use for a given horse depends on when and where it was bred, but this can come down to splitting hairs. The main purpose of naming landraces is to recognize their existence and thereby give proper credit to the thousands of mares whose nameless presence haunts the pedigrees of most American-bred horses.
One other point bears mentioning specifically with regard to the name “Rocky Mountain Horse”: We can pronounce it either “Rocky-Mountain Horse,” linking the first two words, or “Rocky Mountain-Horse,” linking the last two. The latter makes the name into a pun, because the word “rocky” can mean “something that moves to and fro,” like the legs and body of an ambling horse. All horses who amble or pace are thus “rocky,” and the word is indeed linked etymologically to terms that readers of this series already know: “hobby” and “rack.” In the American South, horses who rack are still sometimes called “rocky horses” or “shakytails,” and “shaker” is a common epithet for Tennessee Walking Horses.
LINKAGES IN PEDIGREE RECORDS: THE COLONIAL PERIOD
In the American South, horses who rack are still sometimes called “rocky horses” or “shakytails,” and “shaker” is a common epithet for Tennessee Walking Horses.
In this article, I feature many horses who demonstrate linkages between Mountain Horses, Quarter Horses and American Saddlebreds. In pedigree study, it is crucially important to specify each animal’s date of foaling because several horses may bear the same name, or else a single horse may be known by multiple names. I have had to revise some published pedigrees because the dates for the horses specified make them more than 30 years old at the time of breeding, an impossibility; generally these mistakes arise because an ancestor known only as “son of” or “mare by” has been left out.
The early half of the 19th century presents a particularly long list of confusing names (see “Not to Be Confused With,” page 58).
From previous articles in this series (see “A Brief History of the Thoroughbred,” EQUUS 448), the reader will recall that 17th century Hobbies in general---and the broodmare Old Bald Peg in particular---constitute the taproot source of speed in the Thoroughbred and American Quarter Horse. Likewise the Godolphin, not an Arabian as generally said but rather a Hobby-Turkmene cross, is of enormous importance to all the Anglo-American horse breeds. A list of the most important Thoroughbred sires from the Colonial period who carried this blood includes *Jolly Roger (1743, imp. 1751); *Morton’s Traveller (1746, imp. 1754) and his son Lightfoot’s Partner (1755); *Fearnought (1755, imp. 1764); *Wildair (1753, imp. 1763); and Mark Anthony (1767, not imported).
One other Thoroughbred import, the deep red chestnut *Little Janus (1746, imp. to Virginia 1759, flourished in North Carolina after 1765, d. 1780) is considered the first ancestor of the American Quarter Horse. His name also frequently appears in the pedigrees of American Saddlebreds. Also called “Imported Janus,” “Stiff Dick” or simply “Janus,” *Little Janus was sired in England by Janus (1738) on a mare by Fox. A detailed look at *Little Janus’s pedigree and CQRH progeny is the subject of the next installment in this series.
*Little Janus’s most influential American son was Meade’s Celer (1776) out of *Brandon, she by Aristotle by the Cullen “Arabian.” *Brandon is out of a mare by Whittington who traces to the Godolphin; her tail-female goes through *Jolly Roger to a mare by Croucher, who is of unknown (that is, landrace) lineage---and thus we have a definite record of the practice, widespread in 19th century America, of breeding “blooded” horses to “country” mares to get beautiful, hardy and speedy horses who offered an easy travelling gait.
LINKAGES IN PEDIGREE RECORDS: SHIFT TO AMERICAN BREEDING
The period between the Revolutionary and Civil wars saw the establishment of the Mountain Horse landrace. At first, Thoroughbred sires continued to be influential, especially *Saltram (1780, imp. 1800); *Clockfast (1780, imp. ca. 1784); *Messenger (1780, imp. 1788); Sir Peter Teazle (1784, not imported); and *Citizen (1785, imp. 1803). Of these, *Messenger and Sir Peter Teazle are the most frequent in Quarter Horse and American Saddlebred pedigrees. The elegant *Glencoe (1831, imp. 1836) was one of the last imports to have wide influence.
Gradually, American-bred stallions of part and full blood came to be more important than imported Thoroughbreds in producing quality riding horses. The
earliest of importance are Morgans. Sherman Morgan (1808), a son of Justin Morgan (1789), was out of a bright red “Spanish” mare from Jamaica and is responsible for carrying a strain of Iberian influence into both the Quarter Horse and Saddlebred as well as into the Mountain Horse landrace. Sherman Morgan’s half-brothers Woodbury
Morgan (1816), Tom Hal (1808), and Jowett’s Copperbottom (1809) also frequently appear in Saddlebred and Quarter Horse pedigrees. Black Hawk (1833), likewise influential, was sired by Sherman Morgan upon a Thoroughbred mare.
Foremost among Thoroughbreds of this period was the American-bred
Sir Archy (1805). By *Diomed out of *Castianira, his influence on the Quarter Horse is second only to that of *Little Janus. The foundational Quarter Horse Shiloh (1844) is by Von Tromp out of Shiloah; both descend in multiple lines from Sir Archy. However, Shiloah’s tail-female is rooted in the Mountain Horse landrace.
Sir Archy is also hugely represented in American Saddlebred pedigrees, primarily because his name appears several times in the pedigree of Gaines’ Denmark (1851), the most important Saddlebred “foundation” stallion. Next in importance after Sir Archy is his descendant Grey Eagle (1835), out of Ophelia, who is inbred many times to Sir Archy on both the top and bottom halves of the pedigree. Grey Eagle is the sire of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s horse Traveller (1857), so named because he was easy-gaited. Traveller’s dam was Flora, who descends in multiple lines from Justin Morgan but whose tailfemale roots in Mountain Horse.
The *Whip bloodline also influenced the early development of both the Quarter Horse and Saddlebred. Blackburn’s Whip (1805) is by *Whip (1794, imp. to Virginia in 1801) tracing in sire-line to Eclipse, out of Young Speckleback by Randolph’s Celer by Meade’s Celer by *Little Janus. Her tail-female also goes to *Little Janus. Blackburn’s Whip (also called Cook’s Whip) is the sire of Short’s Whip (1824). Foaled in Virginia but later taken to Kentucky, this stallion was advertised for speed, beauty and “distinguished saddle gaits”---which meant that he offered the rider a comfortable travelling amble.
Cabell’s Lexington (1863), whose image restored from a damaged and blurry old photo appears on page 72, is a sire-line descendant of Black Hawk, out of a mare descended from Canadian Tom Hal (1810). The distaff side of her pedigree includes crosses to Blackburn’s Whip but roots in the Mountain Horse landrace. Gaines Denmark, mentioned above, traces in sire line to Sir Peter Teazle. He was out of the Stevenson Mare by Cockspur by Cock Robin by a son of
*Little Janus who might well have been the stallion Turpin’s Fleetwood, sire of the famous Quarter Horse ancestor Printer. The distaff side of her pedigree includes Meade’s Celer and Sir Archy but roots in Mountain Horse mares including the so-called “roan racking mare.”
Harry Bluff (1840) by Short’s Whip carried the Whip bloodline into many Quarter Horse pedigrees. Harry Bluff was out of Big Nance by Timoleon by Sir Archy, but her tail-female goes to Mountain Horse mares. Steel Dust (1843) by Harry Bluff was likewise out of an untraced but undoubtedly speedy Mountain Horse mare.
The influence of *Little Janus on the Quarter Horse comes primarily through his grandson Printer (1795), by Turpin’s Fleetwood out of a Mountain Horse mare. Printer is the apparent source of “bulldog” conformation. His son Boanerges (1822) bred many Mountain Horse mares, influencing the development of the Quarter Horse mainly through his daughter Monkey (1836), the great-great granddam of Butt Cut (1876), who was the dam of Dan Tucker (1887), sire of foundational Quarter Horse Peter McCue (1895). Monkey’s distaff pedigree is entirely Mountain Horse.
Likewise, the quarter-racer Dan Secres (1847) by Joe Chalmers Jr. traces in sire-line to Eclipse but is out of Mary Cook by Printer (1795). Her tail-female, too, is rooted in the Mountain Horse landrace.
On the basis of the fact that there is only one “unknown” bloodline in his pedigree, Peavine (1863) might be considered a more “purebred” horse than many other American sires of this period---but by this point, the reader is aware that there is no such thing as a “purebred.” By Rattler, Peavine
descends in sire-line from Black Hawk and is out of Pekina, a descendant of Sir Archy whose tail-female goes to Blackburn’s Whip.
However, remember that Morgans were themselves originally a landrace ---the result of mixing Canadian, Narragansett Pacer, Caribbean Spanish, Virginia Hobby, and Pennsylvania Hartdraaver topped off with a little Thoroughbred---and that the ancestry of two of the mares who appear in
Peavine’s extended pedigree is undocumented. The likelihood is that they, like so many others, came from the Mountain Horse landrace.
Coming next: The Colonial QuarterRunning Horse
1650 1850 The top map shows tree heights in 1650: Darker shades indicate the tallest trees. White and pale shades indicate grass or low shrubs. The 1850 map depicts the Eastern forest after 200 years of logging by settlers.