One of the oldest horse breeds in North America, the Morgan horse is widely recognized as an American treasure. It is also unique because the breed traces to a single foundation sire, a colt named Figure owned by Justin Morgan whose name became forever associated with the breed.
Morgan was a teacher and musical composer who lived in Randolph, Vermont. He was also a horse breeder and farmer. He died in 1798 at the age of 51. His life, and especially his horse Figure, inspired Marguerite Henry’s Justin Morgan Had a Horse which won the Newberry Honor in 1946. Disney Studios later adapted the book into a 1972 film.
Figure was a champion trotter with exceptional stamina. But he also demonstrated great strength and draught abilities. Historian Kathleen Kirsan describes him as “the little horse that could do it all.” His likeness appears in the line drawing. It’s no surprise Morgans later became a popular cavalry horse due to their toughness and versatility. And with a people-loving temperament, the modern Morgan horse continues to be treasured.
Today, Morgans stand about 15 hands and appear in various colors. They are found throughout America competing as sport horses, enjoyed as trail riders, driven for pleasure, or appreciated as workhorses for cattle ranchers.
The Morgan (Traditional) horse breed was added to The Livestock Conservancy’s Study category on the Conservation Priority List (CPL) in 2013 and moved to full recognition in 2014. Both pedigree and genetic research were used in the process of adding them to the CPL.
In 2023, the American Morgan Horse breed enjoys healthy registration numbers and prosperity in the equine marketplace. The American Morgan Horse Association (AMHA) recently approached The Livestock Conservancy with a request to review the inclusion of Morgan (Traditional) as an endangered breed on the CPL.
The Livestock Conservancy defined Morgan (Traditional) as a segment of the Morgan population free of outcrossing after 1939. Without full recognition of this definition of a portion of the Morgan breed by all organizations, this listing has reportedly caused confusion for some horse enthusiasts.
Both AMHA and The Livestock Conservancy recognize the importance of maintaining genetic diversity within the Morgan breed and favor a variety of breeding approaches to accomplish this. Both organizations are enthusiastic about and seek to maintain the diverse capabilities of Morgan horses in many disciplines and activities.
AMHA appreciates The Livestock Conservancy’s mission and willingness to listen to their concerns. The Livestock Conservancy is grateful for AMHA’s support of all the families and bloodlines of the Morgan horse and its promotion of the breed, which has made the Morgan both vibrant and viable in the modern horse world. In light of the discussion with AMHA and other organizations supporting the Morgan horse, and after careful consideration, The Livestock Conservancy removed Morgan (Traditional) from the CPL in 2023.