Breed Organization American Cream Draft Horse Association (ACDHA) Website: http://acdha.org Native Country United States of America Other Names N/A Average Height Mares stand 15–16h, Stallions and Geldings stand 16–16.3h Adult Weight 1600-2000 lbs. Rider Experience Level Novice - Intermediate
Breed Description The American Cream Draft is a rare draft horse
breed, the only such breed developed in the United States that is
still in existence. It is recognized by its cream color, known as
"gold champagne", produced by the action of the champagne gene upon
a chestnut base color, and by its amber eyes, also characteristic of
the gene; the only other color found in the breed is chestnut.
American Creams have refined heads, with flat facial profiles that
are neither concave nor convex. They have wide chests, sloping
shoulders and short, strong backs. Their ribs are well sprung, and
they are short-coupled with well-muscled hindquarters and with
strong well-proportioned legs set well apart. They are sure-footed
with strong hooves, and their movement is free and easy. Mares stand
15–16 hands (60–64 inches, 152–163 cm) high and weigh 1,500–1,600
pounds (680–730 kg), while stallions and geldings stand 16–16.3
hands (64–67 inches, 163–170 cm) and weigh 1,800 pounds (820 kg) or
The ideal coat color for the breed is a medium
cream with pink skin, amber eyes and a white mane and tail. The
cream color of the breed is produced by the champagne gene.
Recognized colors include light, medium and dark cream, with amber
or hazel eyes. A cream mare with dark skin and a light mane and tail
may be accepted by the registry as foundation stock, while stallions
must have pink skin and white manes and tails to be registered.
Purebred American Cream foals that are too dark to be accepted into
the main breed registry may be recorded into an appendix registry.
The appendix will also accept half-bred Cream Draft horses crossed
with other draft bloodlines if they meet certain requirements, and
the registry provides an upgrade system that uses appendix horses to
strengthen genes, increase breed numbers, and allow more diversified
History The breed descends from a foundation mare named
Old Granny. She was probably foaled between 1900 and 1905, and was
first noticed at an auction in Story County, Iowa, in 1911 and
purchased by Harry Lakin, a well known stock dealer. She was
eventually sold to Nelson Brothers Farm in Jewell, Iowa. Her
breeding is not known, but she was cream-colored and many of her
foals were as well; they sold for above-average prices because of
their color. Her cream-colored coat, pink skin and amber eyes are
defining standards for the breed. In 1946, two years after the breed
registry was formed, 98 percent of the horses registered could be
traced back to Old Granny.
In 1920, a colt of Old
Granny's named Nelson's Buck No. 2 impressed veterinarian Eric
Christian to the point that Christian asked the Nelsons not to geld
him. They agreed to let him remain a stallion, and he sired several
cream-colored foals, though only one was registered: a colt named
Yancy No. 3, whose dam was a black mare of Percheron breeding. Yancy
sired Knox 1st, born in 1926 to an unregistered bay mare of mixed
Shire ancestry. From this sire line, in 1931, a great-great-grandson
of Nelson's Buck was born, named Silver Lace No. 9. Silver Lace was
to become one of the most influential stallions of the American
Cream breed. His dam was a Belgian mare with light chestnut
coloring, and she is credited with Silver Lace's size – at 2,230
pounds (1,010 kg) he weighed considerably more than most of his
bloodline. Silver Lace quickly became a popular stallion in Iowa.
However, stallions standing for public stud service in Iowa were
required to be registered with the Iowa Department of Agriculture,
and this agency only allowed horses of recognized breeds. As Silver
Lace was not registered with any breed registry, his owners created
a breeding syndicate, and mare owners who bought shares in the
"Silver Lace Horse Company" could breed their mares to him. However,
his main breeding career coincided with the economic struggles of
the Great Depression, and Silver Lace was at one point hidden in a
neighbor's barn to prevent his sale at auction. Another significant
foundation stallion was Ead's Captain, whose bloodlines appear in
about one-third of all American Cream Drafts.
1935, despite the Depression, a few breeders started to linebreed
and inbreed cream-colored horses to fix their color and type. In
particular, C.T. Rierson began buying cream-colored mares sired by
Silver Lace and developing the American Cream breed in earnest. In
1944, a breed association, the American Cream Association, was
formed by 20 owners and breeders and granted a corporate charter in
the state of Iowa. In 1950, the breed was finally recognized by the
Iowa Department of Agriculture, based on a 1948 recommendation by
the National Stallion Enrollment Board.
The mechanization of farming in the mid-20th century led
to a decrease in the overall draft horse population, and with
Rierson's death in 1957, American Cream Draft numbers began to
decline. By the late 1950s there were only 200 living American
Creams registered, owned by only 41 breeders. The registry became
inactive until 1982, when three families who had retained their
herds reactivated and reorganized the registry. In 1994, the
organization officially changed its name to the American Cream Draft
Horse Association (ACDHA).
In 1982, owners began
blood-typing their horses, and by 1990, genetic testing found that
"compared with other draft breeds and based upon gene marker data,
the Creams form a distinct group within the draft horses. The
American Cream Draft was found to have a genetic relationship with
the Belgian breed that was no closer than the ones it had with the
Percheron, Suffolk Punch and Haflinger breeds. Registry records
dating to the early 20th century show no bloodlines other than draft
breeding. As of 2000 there were 222 registered horses, a number that
increased to 350 as of 2004. Of these, 40 were "tracking horses" –
either purebred American Creams that did not meet color requirements
or crossbred horses that mix American Cream and other draft blood,
but still meet the physical requirements for the registry. These
tracking horses are allowed by certain regulations to be used as
breeding stock, with the resulting foals able to be registered as
purebred American Creams. Around 30 new horses are registered each
year. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy considers the breed
to be at "critical" status, meaning that the estimated global
population of the breed is less than 2,000 and there are less than
200 registrations annually in the US. The Equus Survival Trust also
considers the population to be "critical", meaning that there are
between 100 and 300 active adult breeding mares in existence today.
To help replenish numbers, the ACDHA has developed regulations to
permit foals to be registered when produced via methods such as
artificial insemination and embryo transfer. Careful use of the
appendix registry also allows numbers to increase.
American Creams that live in Colonial Williamsburg have been called
"the most famous of all American Cream Draft horses". In the village
they are used for wagon and carriage rides, and as of 2006 there is
a breeding program run by Colonial Williamsburg that is working to
increase breed numbers.
Behavior According to enthusiasts, the breed has a calm,
willing temperament, particularly suited for owners who are new to
handling draft horses.
Health The autosomal recessive genetic disease
junctional epidermolysis bullosa (JEB) has been found in some
American Cream Drafts. This is a lethal genetic disorder that
causes newborn foals to lose large areas of skin and have other
abnormalities, normally leading to euthanasia of the animal. It
is most commonly associated with Belgian horses, but is also found
in other draft breeds. A DNA test was developed in 2002, and JEB can
be avoided as long as two carriers are not bred to one another.
The American Cream registry states that it has "been pro-active in
testing its registered animals since JEB was discovered.
Function 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.