Colorado Ranger

  • HEIGHT: 14.2–16 hands
  • PLACE OF ORIGIN: The high plains of eastern Colorado
  • SPECIAL QUALITIES: Excellent endurance, athleticism, and “cow sense”; some individuals exhibit the leopard-complex genes (Appaloosa coloring)
  • BEST SUITED FOR: Ranch work, pleasure and trail riding, all Western events

The story of the Colorado Ranger Horses begins not in Colorado but rather in Turkey, in 1878, with Ulysses S. Grant and Sultan Abdul Hamid. Grant had visited the sultan, and on the last day of his visit, as a token of friendship, the sultan presented him with a well-chosen gift of two stallions, an Arab named Leopard and a Barb named Linden Tree. Grant was an excellent horseman who appreciated fine horses. While at West Point, he set a high-jumping record that stood for twenty-five years.

The Turkish stallions reached Virginia in 1879, and they immediately attracted the attention of renowned horseman and breeder Randolph Huntington. Huntington had spent nearly fifty years breeding trotters and roadsters. It was his goal to develop an all-American breed, which he proposed to call the Americo-Arab, both for use in this country and for export to Europe. He saw potential in the two stallions to improve the offspring from his mares. For fourteen years he used Grant’s stallions most successfully, but his timing was unfortunate; the horseless carriage came into being just as his career of breeding road horses reached its pinnacle. In 1906, because of financial troubles caused largely by substantial theft by his secretary, his entire herd was sold off.

Before Huntington’s downfall, however, General Colby, an old Army friend of Grant’s, leased the stallions for one season in 1896 to cross on large numbers of his ranch mares in southeastern Nebraska. His goal was to improve the quality of his ranch horses, and he was decidedly successful. Within a few years, word spread to the high plains of eastern Colorado about the excellent horses on the Colby Ranch. Several large Colorado ranches got together and sent one of their most respected horsemen, Ira Whipple, with money and instructions to buy a band of mares and a stallion from Colby. Whipple came back with a group of young mares, all sired by either Leopard or Linden Tree, and an unusually marked stallion, simply named Tony, who was a double-bred grandson of Leopard.

Tony appeared to be white with black ears, but was actually a few-spotted leopard. At the time, the ranchers did not particularly care about color; they were trying to improve their horses for ranch and cattle work. The crosses from Tony and the Colby mares produced the desired results, and the Colorado Ranger Horse was born. Though at the time the breed remained unnamed, it was nonetheless a superior ranch horse.

Many of the horses were wildly colored, and some ranchers began to cultivate color in their breeding programs. In 1918, the W. R. Thompson Cattle Company imported a purebred Barb stallion, Spotte, from North Africa, to introduce more color to the breed. Another influential stallion was a black-and-white leopard colt named Max, born in 1918 on the ranch of the governor of Colorado. This horse came to be owned by Mike Ruby, one of the greatest horsemen of the High Plains. Max sired many outstanding Colorado Ranger Horses, and his name can be seen on many pedigrees.

Coat colors are not restricted other than that pinto coloring is not allowed.

In 1934, Ruby impressed many horsemen with two stallions he took to the Denver Stock Show, and it was there that the breed, developed on the high ranges of Colorado, received its name.

In the mid-1930s, during the Dust Bowl era, the high plains suffered a very serious drought. Mike Ruby, not wanting to lose the herd of excellent horses he had been breeding for many years, drove them three hundred miles in hideous drought conditions to leased pasture in the Rockies of western Colorado, where there was grass and water. Two years later, when the drought abated, he drove them back home, and thus saved some of the best Ranger-bred stock.

Breed Characteristics

To qualify for registration, it must be possible to trace a horse’s pedigree in an unbroken line back to Max #2 (son of the original Max) or Patches #1, a son of one of the stallions from the Colby Ranch. Color is not a consideration, although a pedigree may not show Paint or Pinto breeding in the last five generations. Outcrosses are allowed with Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, Arabs, and Ara-Appaloosas. Between 1980 and 1987, some Lusitano crosses were allowed, but this is no longer permitted. All pony and draft blood is excluded from registration.

Loud color is not a requirement for registration but is often chosen.

BREED ASSOCIATION FACTS AND FIGURES

According to the Colorado Ranger Horse Association (founded in 1938):

• More than 6,000 horses are currently registered.

• About 100 to 125 new foals are registered each year.

• Rangers seem to be most prevalent in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan, and on one large farm in Canada.

Rangerbreds began as working ranch horses and they still maintain strong working abilities and athleticism combined with an easy disposition. They are now used mostly as pleasure, trail, and show horses, appearing most often in Western events but also in various events under English tack.

Conformation

Colorado Ranger Horses stand between 14.2 and 16 hands. The head should be well shaped and small, with a straight profile and pointed ears. The neck is long and muscular and connects to moderately pronounced withers. The chest is deep with long sloping shoulders. The back is short, with a slightly sloping croup. The legs are well muscled with good solid bone.

Color

Coat colors are not restricted other than that pinto coloring is not allowed.