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.
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.
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
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.