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"The Cracker Horse"

Written by Vicky Baldwin
Accompaniment and reading by Terry James Swett.

 

 


History of the Cracker Horse

Billy Davis and his hard
working Cracker Horse

The Florida Cracker Horse, like the cattle breed of the same name, traces its ancestry to Spanish stock brought to Florida in the 1500's when discovered by Spain. Preparing to return to Spain, the Spanish left some of their cattle, horses and hogs to make room for their collected treasures. The genetic heritage of the Cracker Horse is derived from the Iberian Horse of early sixteenth century Spain and includes blood of the North African Barb, Spanish Sorraia and Spanish Jennet (gaited). Its genetic base is generally the same as that of the Spanish Mustang, Paso Fino, Peruvian Paso, Criolla and other breeds developed from the horses originally introduced by the Spanish into the Caribbean Islands, Cuba and North, Central and South America.

Karen Howard

The free roaming Cracker Horses evolved over a long period of time by natural selection. They were molded and tempered by nature and a challenging environment into horses that ultimately were to have a large part in the emergence of Florida as a ranching and general agriculture state. The horses also played an important role in the life of the Seminole Indians.

Florida cowmen were nicknamed "Crackers" because of the sound made by their cow whip cracking the air. This name was also given to the small agile Spanish Horse essential for working Spanish cattle. Over the years, Cracker Horses have been known by a variety of names: Chicksaw Pony, Seminole Pony, Marsh Tackie, Prairie Pony, Florida Horse, Florida Cow Pony, Grass Gut and others.

Jack Gillen, Cowhunter

The Cracker Horse suffered a reversal of fortune in the 1930's. The Great Depression led to the creation of a number of relief programs, one of which encouraged the movement of cattle from the Dust Bowl into Florida. With the cattle came the screwworm, which, in turn, led to changes in the practices followed in raising cattle. Before the screwworm, cowmen used these horses to herd and drive the free roaming Scrub cows and Cracker cows; with the arrival of the screwworm came fencing and dipping vats and the need to rope cattle and hold them for treatment. As a result, ranchers turned to the larger, stronger Quarter Horse, and the Florida Cracker Horse lost its demand and became quite rare.

The breed's survival over the last fifty years resulted from the work of a few families who continued to breed Cracker Horses for their own use. It was these ranching families and individuals whose perseverance and distinct bloodlines that kept the Cracker Horses from becoming extinct. The family names include the Ayers, Harvey, Bronson, Matchett, Partin and Whaley names.