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Conestoga Horses

Click to enlarge: Conestoga Horses, Picture credit: Courtesy of the Landis Valley Farm MuseumThe Conestoga draft horse was descended from Flemish stallions crossed with Virginian mares. Careful breeding by farmers in the Conestoga region was probably the foundation of the breed; the same farmers were also noted for feeding their horses very well. However, it was a breed of mixed stock and additional mixing of stock was used as better horses came into the country, so it was never a breed in the true sense of the term.

The Conestoga draft horse started off as a dual-purpose horse for pulling and for riding.  In time it developed into more of a true draft horse but it was still capable of travelling 100 miles over poor roads in mountainous terrain.  In the 1850s, draft horses were used to pull very heavy loads over short distances on paved roads. Theses horses had strong bodies, long striding legs, a steady active movement, weighed 700kg and stood sixteen to seventeen hands high. Their body colour was solid, either bay or black.

The breed died out in the early 20th century. These heavy horses needed careful attention to keep them in health. Mules, on the other hand, needed practically no doctoring, and hardy western horses were cheaper to buy, did not eat as much as Conestoga horses and were strong enough for farm work.