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 Old Granny’s great-great-grandson, the stallion Silver Lace, in 1932. Silver Lace was an impressive figure, standing 16 hands 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 the mares sired by Silver Lace that he could find. He researched the ancestry of each cream horse and recorded its pedigree. 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. In 1944, a class for them was made at the Webster City, IA Fair. This was the county in which the breed originated, and it was the first time they were shown in a class by themselves. It was also Rierson who named the breed “American Cream.” By the time of Rierson’s death in 1957, the association’s 41 members had registered almost 200 horses in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
Just as the American Cream breed was becoming established, the market for draft horses collapsed. Due to the mechanization of agriculture, a 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 kept their Creams and thus maintained a small genetic base that became the foundation for the breed’s survival.
In 1982, the American Cream Draft Horse Association was reorganized. Breeders worked with 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 were encouraging to Cream Draft Horse breeders and have played an important part in the breed’s revival.
Modern American Creams are medium-to-large horses, averaging 15-16.3 hands at the withers. Mares average 1600-1800 lbs. and stallion can range from 1800-2000 lbs. They are a rich cream in color with pink skin, amber eyes, and white manes and tails; some white markings are desirable. The pink skin trait is important in producing the desired cream color. American Creams with dark skin do not often have the preferred color, and when mated to other Creams, often produce offspring that are too light or nearly white. Colts have nearly white eyes at birth, but they soon begin to darken; at maturity they will have eyes of the breed’s unique amber color.
The size of the American Cream makes it desirable for harnessing, hitching, and driving; they have been traditionally used as part of a working team. Good dispositions and a willingness to work make them an easily managed breed on small farms. Their calm, gentle nature makes them a good choice for novice owners. They are a hardy breed and are not bothered by cold weather as long as they have appropriate housing so that they can get out of the heat or cold as needed.
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.
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