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The Chickasaw Horse
 By Saferaphus   •   27th May 2017   •   681 views   •   0 comments


Long before the the American Quarter Horse, Paint and even the Appaloosa, there existed a breed of horses in North America, descended from some of the first horses that arrived here from Europe. The Chickasaw people lived in the region now bounded by the states of Alabama, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Louisiana. In 1540, a Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto may have stayed in one of their villages. Relations between the Spanish and the Chickasaw did not go well. The Chickasaw attacked the Spaniards, who quickly retreated. Accompanying the Spaniards on their explorations were about 200 horses.

During the attack, it’s speculated that some of these horses escaped, or were stolen. These horses became the basis for a breed producing horses that were used during hunts and for carrying and pulling loads. It’s from these Spanish horses that today’s Chickasaw Horses are descended.

The Chickasaw horse could also be rightly called a pony. The average height is about 14 hands high although early horses were smaller, about 13 hands. Like his Iberian ancestors, the Chickasaw horse was short backed and sturdy. While they were used in ceremonial races, they weren’t fast over long distances. Their muscular frame made them more suitable for short races of about a quarter mile. In fact, some historians described them as blocky. Nevertheless, before the introduction of light horse breeds like the Arabian and Thoroughbred, these were the racehorses of the day.

After these breeds became more popular and influential, however, the Chickasaw was less favored, and the breed began to disappear. Their pedigrees, poorly recorded, were muddled and lost. It wasn’t until the mid-1950s that breeders began to take an interest in preservation. This was done by seeking out horses that fit the description and using them to rebuild the line. So, horses that are called Chickasaw horses may look like the type but aren’t necessarily descended from the original horses. Some original Chickasaws may exist, however. These can be found in herds on the Outer Banks and the islands of Virginia and the Carolinas, leftovers from a time when the colonists set their livestock free to graze.

There are a number of other horse breeds and types that are similar, have similar histories as well, making tracing the exact lineage and story of these horses difficult. It’s made more difficult due to the fact that stud horses were entered into registries under their owner’s name. When the horse was sold, it’s name too would be changed.

Some historians contend that the most significant contribution to American life made by the Chickasaw horse is their influence on the American Quarter Horse. These small, stock horses are thought by some, even within the American Quarter Horses association as a progenitor of the breed. Their uses as quarter-mile sprinters, farm work, and their general build all suggest a horse that could be part of the development of the Quarter Horse. The individual horses have long been forgotten, but their descendants, mixed mainly with Thoroughbred and Arabian bloodlines still display the strength, sprinting speed and hardiness the Chickasaw was known for.
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