American Cream Draft Horse Origin & History: A Comprehensive Guide

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on the American Cream Draft Horse Origin & History! If you’re a fan of this majestic equine breed or simply curious about its roots, you’re in for a treat. In this post, we’ll be delving into the fascinating history of the American Cream Draft Horse, from its humble beginnings to its rise to popularity in the United States. So, grab your saddle and let’s take a journey through time to discover the story behind this magnificent breed.

American Cream Draft Origin

American Cream Draft Horse wih a dog in winter snow

Nelson Brothers Farm

Old Granny was purchased at a farm auction in Story County, Iowa, in 1911. She ended up on the Nelson Brothers Farm, where she was crossed with Percheron and Belgian stallions. Through her offspring, Old Granny produced foals that all inherited her distinctive cream coat, pink skin, and white tail and mane, as well as the versatile, strong workhorse characteristics. It was on this farm that the development of the American Cream Draft breed truly began.

Clarence T. Rierson, Radcliffe, Iowa

One of the key figures in the development of the American Cream Draft breed was Clarence T. Rierson, who lived in Radcliffe, Iowa. Rierson established a breeding program in 1925, dedicating his efforts to the preservation and promotion of the breed. His program helped to refine the breed’s characteristics and ensure its survival through the early 20th century, despite the decline in the use of draft horses due to the mechanization of farming.

During Rierson’s time, the American Cream Draft breed faced challenges in terms of numbers and recognition. However, thanks to the efforts of passionate breeders, a breed registry was formed in 1944, ensuring that the American Cream Draft’s unique traits and history would be preserved.

Despite its origin dating back to the early 1900s, the American Cream Draft remains a rare breed today. Nonetheless, breed enthusiasts continue to work towards its conservation and promoting its unique characteristics. The story of the American Cream Draft serves as a testament to the hard work and dedication of breeders like the Nelson Brothers and Clarence T. Rierson, who ensured the survival of this truly American breed.

Breed Development: Early Years

Growth of Cream Herd

The origin of the American Cream Draft can be traced back to the early 1900s in Iowa, where a cream-colored mare named Old Granny was the foundation of this unique breed. Old Granny had a cream-colored coat, pink skin, and amber eyes—traits that were carried on by her descendants. By mating Old Granny with Percheron and Belgian stallions, breeds known for their draft capabilities, her foals inherited not only the distinctive cream coat, pink skin, and white mane, but also the strength and stature necessary for draft work.

As the numbers of cream-colored foals increased, local farmers began to recognize the potential of these horses for agricultural labor. Their robust build and unique appearance made them sought-after draft animals, and the American Cream Draft breed was born. In its early years, the breed grew mostly in the Midwest as local farmers continued to breed these cream-colored horses.

County Fairs

The rise of the American Cream Draft breed did not go unnoticed. In the early 20th century, county fairs were instrumental in showcasing and promoting local breeds, and the American Cream Draft was no exception. These events helped raise awareness of this breed that was native to the United States, and soon, the American Cream draft horses found their way into various competitions.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the breed’s presence at county fairs continued to grow, and eventually, the American Cream Draft horses started gaining recognition at state and national levels. These events were critical in the expansion of the breed beyond the Midwest and ultimately contributed to the establishment of the American Cream Draft Horse Association (ACDHA) in 1944. The ACDHA was responsible for maintaining the breed registry and promoting the unique characteristics of the American Cream Draft.

Despite the growth in popularity and numbers, the American Cream Draft remained a rare breed. This rarity can be attributed to the breed’s unique coloring, which made it distinguishable from other common draft breeds such as the Percheron, Clydesdale, and Belgian. In addition, the breed’s numbers experienced a decline as mechanization replaced draft animals in the mid-20th century. The American Cream Draft’s numbers dwindled, but dedicated breeders continued to work towards preserving this special breed that is deeply rooted in American history.

In conclusion, the American Cream Draft’s early years were characterized by the growth of the cream herd through careful breeding and showcasing at county fairs. Although the breed experienced challenges due to the rise of mechanization, it remains an iconic example of American ingenuity in the world of draft horses.

Physical Characteristics

Portrait of white American cream Draft Horse posing in summers

Cream Coat and Genetics

The American Cream Draft Horse is a unique breed, characterized by its distinctive cream or “gold champagne” coat color, which results from the presence of the Champagne gene. The coat’s appearance is complemented by pink skin and captivating amber eyes, both of which are defining traits of this remarkable breed.

Height and Weight

As a draft horse, the American Cream Draft Horse is a sizable and powerful animal. They typically stand between 15 and 16 hands high (60-64 inches) and can weigh anywhere from 1,600 to 2,200 pounds.

Overall Conformation

The American Cream Draft Horse has several key physical characteristics that make it stand out:

  • Refined head: This breed features a flat facial profile and expressive eyes.
  • Wide chest: A broad chest provides significant power and strength.
  • Sloping shoulders: These horses possess sloping shoulders, which contribute to their comfortable gait and pulling capabilities.
  • Short-coupled and well-sprung ribs: The coupling between the ribs and the spine is short in these horses, providing strength and stability to their frame.
  • Strong, well-proportioned legs: Their legs are both sturdy and proportionate, with an excellent conformation that enables them to excel in many work-related tasks.
  • Powerful, muscular hindquarters: A well-developed hindquarter is essential for any draft horse, and the American Cream Draft Horse is no exception.
  • Strong hooves: Resilient hooves are crucial as they support the substantial weight of these draft horses.

Breed Registry and Associations

American Cream Draft Horse Association

The American Cream Draft Horse Association (ACDHA) is a key organization working to promote and preserve the American Cream Draft breed. Founded in the spring of 1944 in Iowa Falls, Iowa, the ACDHA has been instrumental in maintaining breed standards and ensuring the growth of this rare and distinctive American draft horse. The Association’s primary goal is to promote and support the breed, facilitate communication among owners and enthusiasts, and maintain a breed registry database.

American Cream Horse Association of America

The American Cream Horse Association of America operated as the initial breed registry organization. Although now defunct, this body played a crucial role in American Cream Draft’s history. Established in 1944, the association was granted a charter by the State of Iowa, and started its journey with 20 members and 75 foundation horses in the registry 1. It paved the way for the modern ACDHA, which now continues its work.

Livestock Conservancy

The Livestock Conservancy is another significant organization committed to protecting endangered livestock and poultry breeds from extinction, including the American Cream Draft horse. They recognize this breed as the only one developed in the United States, having originated in Iowa in the early 1900s. The Livestock Conservancy assists breed conservation efforts, raises awareness about their importance, and provides valuable resources to breeders and owners.

Equus Survival Trust

The role of the Equus Survival Trust in preserving rare horse breeds like the American Cream Draft is worth noting. As a nonprofit organization, its primary mission is to conserve and promote endangered equine breeds globally, ensuring that their unique traits are not lost. By raising awareness and collaborating with various breed organizations and breeders, Equus Survival Trust supports the long-term survival of rare breeds while highlighting the significance of genetic diversity in the equine world.

In conclusion, the American Cream Draft horse has a rich heritage, and several organizations like the ACDHA, Livestock Conservancy, and Equus Survival Trust work tirelessly to promote and preserve this rare and unique American breed. Their collective efforts aim to maintain the breed’s genetic diversity, ensure its survival, and provide valuable resources for enthusiasts and breeders alike.

Health and Genetics

Dapple gray Percheron Draft Horse galloping in evening sun

Junctional Epidermolysis Bullosa (JEB)

While the American Cream Draft has a unique history and origin, it is also important to discuss the health and genetics of this breed. One notable genetic condition affecting some American Cream Draft horses is Junctional Epidermolysis Bullosa (JEB). JEB is a rare and severe skin disorder that causes blistering and separation of the skin layers, often making affected horses unsuitable for work or breeding. It is important for breeders to test for this gene and make responsible decisions to avoid perpetuating the condition within the population.

Champagne Gene

The hallmark of the American Cream Draft breed is the presence of the Champagne gene, which is responsible for their cream or “gold champagne” color, pink skin, and amber or hazel eyes. The Champagne gene is a dominant gene, meaning that only one copy of the gene is needed for a horse to display the characteristic coloring. This gene not only contributes to the aesthetics of the breed but also serves as a defining characteristic that sets American Cream Draft horses apart from other draft breeds.

Other Health Concerns

In addition to JEB and the Champagne gene, the American Cream Draft breed may also face other health concerns. Like other large draft breeds, American Cream Draft horses may be more prone to conditions such as laminitis, a painful inflammation of the soft tissue within the hoof, as well as joint and tendon issues due to their size and weight. To maintain optimal health, it is essential that owners provide proper nutrition, regular exercise, and preventative care for their American Cream Draft horses.

By understanding the health and genetic traits of the American Cream Draft, breeders, owners, and enthusiasts can work together to maintain and promote the health of this unique breed. With a focus on responsible breeding practices and thorough care, the American Cream Draft breed can continue to thrive and serve as a proud representation of American horse breeding heritage.

American Cream Draft Origin & History

Two white American cream draft horses galloping together outdoors

The American Cream Draft Horse is a breed that has piqued the interest of many horse enthusiasts due to its fascinating and unique characteristics. The breed was developed in Iowa, United States, during the early 20th century. The foundation mare of the American Cream Draft lineage was a cream-colored draft mare named Old Granny, whose ancestry remains a mystery.

Old Granny was born in Story County, Iowa, in the early 1900s, and she quickly became known for her distinct appearance and gentle temperament. Her cream-colored coat, pink skin, and amber eyes were all attributed to the Champagne gene, which was passed down to her offspring and became a defining characteristic of the breed. Today, the American Cream Draft Horse remains a beloved breed among horse enthusiasts, thanks to its unique history and striking appearance.

Old Granny’s offspring, when bred with Percheron and Belgian stallions, inherited her distinctive cream coat color, pink skin, and white mane and tail. This lineage eventually led to the establishment of the American Cream Draft Horse breed.

The breed registry for the American Cream Draft was formed in 1944; however, the breed’s numbers declined significantly due to the mechanization of farming. Conservation efforts are currently in place to protect and preserve this endangered breed.

Temperament and Use

Draft Animal Role

In the past, American Cream Draft horses served as valuable draft animals. Due to their size, strength, and power, they were commonly used for agricultural work, transportation, and other tasks requiring physical strength. Despite being a medium to large draft breed, these horses exhibit a short-coupled draft phenotype, standing 15 to 16.3 hands with mares weighing 1,600-1,800 pounds and males (stallions and geldings) weighing 1,800-2,000 pounds.

Modern Applications

Today, the American Cream Draft is appreciated for more than just its strength and agricultural utility. Thanks to their unique appearance and gentle temperament, they are increasingly used for recreational purposes, such as pleasure riding, driving events, and even therapy work. Their sturdy build and docile nature make them excellent candidates for these activities while also helping to maintain the breed’s population.

Temperament Attributes

The American Cream Draft is known for its friendly and calm temperament, making it a popular choice for various equestrian activities. These gentle giants are usually willing to please and easy to handle, which is beneficial for riders or handlers of any experience level. The horses’ patience and willingness to work contribute to their versatility as both recreational and service animals.

In summary, the American Cream Draft Horse is a unique and endangered breed with a fascinating origin rooted in the United States. Their gentle temperament, historical use as draft animals, and increasing presence in modern equestrian activities make them a special part of America’s equine heritage. Conservation efforts to preserve and grow the population of these beautiful and hardworking horses are essential to maintaining the breed’s unique characteristics for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.

American Cream Draft Origin & History

White Draft horse stallion runs gallop over snow

The American Cream Draft breed was developed as farmers in Iowa began breeding Old Granny with other draft horses to produce more cream-colored offspring. Due to the mechanization of farming, the breed’s population experienced a decline, which led to the formation of the American Cream Draft Horse Association (ACDHA) in 1944. The association aimed to preserve and promote this unique breed.

In 1950, the Iowa Department of Agriculture officially recognized the American Cream as a draft breed. The breed slowly gained popularity, and by 1957, the ACDHA had 41 members and almost 200 registered American Cream horses. The breed continues to be a rare and precious part of American heritage.

Nowadays, American Cream Draft horses are highly prized for their calm temperament, strength, and versatility. They are used in various disciplines such as farming, logging, and driving. This breed is also recognized by their distinctive Champagne gene, which is responsible for their characteristic color and appearance.


In conclusion, the American Cream Draft holds a unique place in the history of draft horses as the only breed to have originated in the United States. With roots tracing back to Old Granny, the breed has withstood the test of time and mechanization, thanks to the efforts of dedicated breeders and the ACDHA. The American Cream Draft remains a beloved breed for its distinct appearance, the Champagne gene, and their versatile capabilities in various tasks; a true testament to American ingenuity and passion for preserving their equine heritage.