The Rocky Mountain Horse is a breed that was developed in the United States in the state of Kentucky. Even though its name may suggest that it originates from the Rocky Mountains, it actually comes from the Appalachian Mountains.
A foundation stallion, brought from the western United States to eastern Kentucky around 1890, began the Rocky Mountain type in the late 19th century. In the mid-20th century, a stallion named Old Tobe, owned by a prominent breeder, was used to develop the modern type; today most Rocky Mountain Horses trace back to this stallion.
The Rocky Mountain Horse stands between 14.2 and 16 hands high (58 and 64 inches, 147 and 163 cm). When it comes to their color, any solid color is accepted by the registry, however they do have a preference for a dark brown color called “chocolate”, with a pale of flaxen mane and tail. Chocolate is the result of the relatively rare silver dapple gene working on a black coat. Although rare, this gene has been found in over a dozen breeds, including the Rocky Mountain Horse. The registry will also accept minimal white markings, although the leg markings are not allowed to extend above the knee.
When it comes to the physical characteristics of the Rocky Mountain Horse they do tend to vary. This is mainly due to the disparate breeds that created the breed. They are known for their hardiness and their ability to withstand winters in the mountains. They are also well known for their good nature and their friendliness towards humans.
This breed shows a natural and ambling gait that is called the single foot, which replaces the trot seen in a majority of horse breeds.
Rocky Mountain Horses have the highest risk of any breed for the genetic ocular syndrome multiple congenital ocular anomalies (MCOA), originally called equine anterior segment dysgenesis (ASD). MCOA is characterized by the abnormal development of some ocular tissues, which causes compromised vision, although generally of a mild form; the disease is non-progressive. Genetic studies have shown that the disorder may be tied to the silver dapple gene, as most horses diagnosed with MCOA carry the gene.
Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.