North American Spotted Draft Horse

  • HEIGHT: 15–17 hands
  • PLACE OF ORIGIN: Although the type has long been seen in Europe, this specific breed was developed in the Midwestern United States, particularly in Iowa
  • SPECIAL QUALITIES: Splashy coloring on draft horse frame
  • BEST SUITED FOR: An all-around draft and carriage horse

Spotted draft horses have been documented in art and mentioned in diaries and literature for hundreds of years. Draft-type spotted horses existed in medieval times—a brown-and-white draft horse served in Queen Elizabeth I’s court, for example, probably as a drum horse. While they have always attracted attention, until recently these horses were individuals that happened to be born as pintos, rather than being a true breed of their own.

In the United States, interest in Spotted Draft Horses was probably sparked when an Iowa breeder collected more than twenty of them in the mid-1960s. Other owners have gathered and occasionally bred them as novelties, but it wasn’t until 1995 that the North American Spotted Draft Horse Association (NASDHA) was formed to preserve and promote draft horses with pinto coloring and to increase public awareness of these rare and beautiful horses. Since then, interest in the horses has risen. At the same time, NASDHA has made concerted efforts to record, collect, and preserve the pedigrees of Spotted Draft Horses and to improve the quality of the horses. The organization is carefully laying the foundation for the development of a truly new breed.

Breed Characteristics

Spotted Draft conformation reflects the breed types of origin: for example, there is a clear Percheron/Belgian type. For the time being, horses accepted into NASDHA may be of any draft breed mixture, including Belgians, Percherons, Clydesdales, Shires, Suffolk Punch, and American Cream Draft. Of these breeds, crosses with Percherons are the most popular because the likelihood is great that the foals will be flashy black-and-white pintos.

There are four classes in the registry: Premium, Regular, Breeding Stock, and Indexed. Premium horses must be ⅞ draft blood and meet the color and height requirements. No gaited blood is allowed in pedigrees of horses in the Premium class, nor is blood from Appaloosas, ponies, donkeys, Saddlebreds, Gypsy Vanners, or Irish Tinkers.

In the Regular class, horses must be ½ to ¾ draft blood and meet the color and height requirements.

The Breeding Stock class is open to any non-colored or insufficiently colored mares or stallions produced by the combinations of horses allowed in the Premium and Regular classes, providing one of the parents was recognized by its breed as having pinto coloration and pattern.

The Indexed class allows the registration of horses of unknown pedigree. A horse must be 15 hands or taller. The owner must submit colored photographs. If the horse is accepted, it receives a permanent Index number on its registration papers. This animal may then be used in various crossbreeding plans to produce Spotted Draft Horses.

The North American Spotted Draft Horse is still being developed as a breed, with more than 1,700 individuals registered since 1995.
This photograph shows three spotted offspring of the same mare (second from left), all of different ages.

Conformation

The average height is 15 to over 17 hands; weight is 1,250 to 2,000 pounds. These horses must have a draft horse frame supported by clean, dense bone. They have short, muscled forearms and thighs, with legs placed well under them. Individuals should have an intelligent head with active ears and an arching neck with a clear-cut throatlatch. The shoulders should be upright, suitable for power rather than for action.

BREED ASSOCIATION FACTS AND FIGURES

According to the North American Spotted Draft Horse Association (founded in 1995):

  • More than 1,700 horses are registered.
  • About 150 new horses are registered each year.
  • As with all draft breeds, they are most common in the Midwest, but numbers are also increasing in Florida and California.

Depth and thickness from the withers to the legs are essential. The horses should be as deep in the flank as over the heart. The back is short and strong, with the ribs sprung high from the backbone. The hindquarters are wide apart, long, and smooth to the root of the tail. The croup is usually level.

Color

Pinto coloring is required and may include the tobiano, overo, or tovero patterns. (See Pinto chapter, for detailed descriptions.) The pigmented parts of the coat may be any solid color, but black and white, sorrel and white, and bay and white are most common in the Spotted Draft breed. Blue eyes are allowed, as are white or multicolored hooves.