The American Cream Draft is the only breed of draft horse developed in the United States. They originated in Iowa in the early 1900s and have always been rare. Their story begins with a horse named Old Granny, a mare auctioned at a farm sale in Story County, Iowa, in 1911. Old Granny was a cream-colored draft mare of unknown ancestry, born sometime between 1890 and 1905. She consistently produced cream offspring and a few Iowa breeders became interested in this cream bloodline. Especially after the birth of the stallion Silver Lace in 1932, a great-great-grandson of Old Granny. Silver Lace was an impressive figure, standing 16 hands high and weighing 2,200 pounds.
During the 1930s, cream draft horses became popular in the counties surrounding Melbourne, Iowa. One owner, Clarence T. Rierson, became interested in the strain and bought all of the mares sired by Silver Lace that he could find. He researched the ancestry of each cream horse and recorded their pedigrees. Rierson was one of the founders of the American Cream Draft Horse Association, which was chartered in 1944 with 20 members and 75 foundation horses in the registry. By the time of Rierson’s death in 1957, 41 association members had registered almost 200 horses.
Just as the American Cream breed was becoming established, however, the market for draft horses collapsed. Mechanization of agriculture meant that the majority of workhorses went to slaughter. The breeding of draft animals nearly ceased. For fourteen years the American Cream Horse Association was inactive, except for the transfer of a single horse. Fortunately, a few people held onto their Creams and thus maintained a slender genetic base, which was the foundation for the breed’s survival.
In 1982, the American Cream Draft Horse Association was reorganized. Breeders worked with the Dr. Gus Cothran of the University of Kentucky Equine Blood Typing Lab to determine the breed’s genetic parameters. Research results suggested that American Creams are a distinct population within the group of draft horse breeds. These findings gave great encouragement to the breeders and have played an important part in the breed’s revival.
American Creams are medium to large in size, averaging 15 to 16.3 hands at the withers. Mares average 1600 to 1800 pounds and stallion can range from 1800 to 2000 pounds. They are cream in color with pink skin, amber eyes, white manes and tails, and occasional white markings. The size of the American Cream makes it desirable for harnessing, hitching, and driving. Good dispositions and a willingness to work make them an easily managed breed on small farms. The American Cream is still critically rare, but its numbers are increasing due to its unique appearance, history, and natural fit within sustainable farming practices.
Did you know:
The Livestock Conservancy is America’s leading organization working to save over 150 heritage breeds from extinction. We rely on the support of our members, grants, and donations from the public to raise the $700,000 a year needed to maintain our conservation work with rare breeds of farm animals. Click here to learn how you can help.