Small and agile, the Florida Cracker is adept at driving cattle. While not used for this purpose very much today, they are also a saddle horse. They are small but sturdy, with easy, ground-covering gaits that are rarely found in other breeds. Their gaits include flatfoot walk, running walk, trot, and ambling. They enjoy working and are very energetic.
A fairly small animal, the Florida Cracker averages between 13 and 15.2 hands with a weight of between 650 and 900 pounds. They have a refined, intelligent head with a straight or slightly concave profile. They have keen, wide set, dark eyes with a white scelara. They have a well-defined, narrow neck and a short, narrow back. They are predominately solid colors or grays, although all colors common to horses are possible.
The Florida Cracker Horses’ ancestors were brought into Florida in about 1521, when Ponce De Leon brought livestock, including horses and cattle, into Florida. They are derived from breeds including the North African Barb, Spanish Sorraia, Spanish Jennet, and Andalusian. The Native Americans and settlers both used Florida Cracker Horses as workhorses – primarily to drive cattle.
The name “Florida Cracker,” shared by a breed of cattle, comes from the sound the cowboys’ whips made as they were driving cattle. The breed was thinned and refined through natural selection. In the 1930s, the Cracker Horse population declined as cattle were brought from the dust bowl into Florida. These cattle brought with them screwworm parasites, which required the cattle to be roped and held for veterinary treatment, instead of driven by horses.
This required the use of larger horses such as the Quarterhorse, and Florida Cracker Horses fell into disuse. Fortunately, a few families kept the Florida Cracker Horse breed alive and the Florida Cracker Horse Association was formed in 1989. While the horse has become somewhat more common since the formation of the Association, they are still fairly rare, with fewer than 300 horses in the registry.