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Florida Cracker Horse
The Florida Cracker horse, like the cattle breed of the same name, traces its ancestry to Spanish stocks brought to the Americas beginning in the 1500s. The formation of the Cracker horse breed was parallel to that of the Spanish Mustang and Spanish Barb further west. The Cracker became a distinctive part of this breed family due to its geographical isolation and location. The long history of horse trading between Florida and Cuba meant a regular and continual introduction of Spanish genetics from Cuba into the Florida population.
Cracker horses were an essential part of the cattle industry in Florida, which began almost 500 years ago and flourishes today. Florida cowboys were nicknamed “crackers” because of the sound made by their whips cracking in the air. This name was also given to the small, agile Spanish horses that they used to work their Spanish cattle.
The Cracker horse suffered a reversal of fortune in the 1930s. The Great
Depression led to the creation of a number of relief programs, one of
which encouraged the movement of cattle from the Dust Bowl into Florida.
With the cattle came the screwworm parasite, and this changed the practice
of cattle raising. Before the screwworm, cowboys used horses to herd and
drive cattle; with its arrival came the need to rope cattle and hold them
for veterinary treatment. As a result, ranchers turned to the larger,
stronger Quarter Horse, and the Florida Cracker horse declined.
Florida Crackers are small riding horses, standing 14-15 hands (56-60")
at the withers and weighing 800-900 pounds. They have wide foreheads and
finely made faces, with straight or slightly roman noses. Croups are sloped
and tails are set low. While this external type is distinctive, breed
proponents insist that the best way to tell a Florida Cracker horse is
to ride one, for its easy, ground-covering gaits rarely occur in other
breeds. The breed is found in many colors, with dark bay and black most
common, and gray, chestnut, and various shades of dun also present. Enticing
leads of paint and roan strains still persist, and these other colors
(historically present in the breed) may yet be located in some remote
corner of Florida.