White horses can’t help being the centre of attention – their almost ethereal beauty and grace means you can’t help but stare. While true white horses are rarer than you may think, there are plenty of other breeds with predominantly white or light-coloured coats that range from light greys to gorgeous creams.
In this article, I want to explore some of the most common, and beautiful, white horse breeds in the world.
From the unassuming American Cream Draft to the amazing Shagya Arabians, this list of equestrian beauties will take your horse knowledge up a notch. So, the next time you’re at the stables, don’t forget to wow other riders with your fun white horse trivia!
1. American Cream Draft
The American Cream Draft horse is a unique and treasured white horse breed known for its gentle temperament. Usually, these horses’ coats range in colour from light to dark cream. All of them boast pink skin, amber eyes, and white mains and tails. They also stand at an impressive height of 15 to 16.3 hands tall, with a muscular physique, and are considered one of the strongest horse breeds around.
The American Cream Draft is the only draft (or as we say in the UK, “draught”) horse breed with roots in the US. In fact, its lineage can be traced back to a foundation mare named Old Granny, born in Iowa in the early 1900s.
Although this breed’s traditional role as draught horses has petered out, Cream Drafts excel as carriage horses. In fact, you can often see them making appearances in shows and parades! Today, the breed is still considered rare, especially since its near-extinction some years back. But, with dedicated breeding programs, its numbers are slowly on the rise again.
2. American Quarter Horse
The American Quarter horse is the most recognized breed in the United States, with nearly 3 million registered horses worldwide. These small, fast, and agile horses were initially used by cowboys for ranch work – and the occasional weekend sprint race – which is where they got their name.
Due to their incredible speed (up to around 88 kilometres per hour!), American Quarter horses excel in racing and show events. They are also fantastic for both English and Western disciplines.
While you can find rare white horses as part of this breed, American Quarter horses come in various coat colours, including brown and black. Sorrel is one of the most common coat colours.
The presence of sabino-1 genes can also produce a speckled or spotted pattern on their coat – even with white horses. Still, this hasn’t stopped these horses from obtaining the moniker “White Quarter” horses.
3. Boulonnais Horse
The Boulonnais horse, also known as the “White Marble horse” is a notable French draught breed, primarily known for its greyish-white coat, although chestnut and black varieties are also common. As one of the most beautiful white horse breeds, these horses are revered for their elegance and refinement, which stands true to their French roots.
Boulonnais horses stand at an average height of 14.3 to 16.3 hands and have a sturdy build characterized by short legs and long, elegant heads. Their appearance is a product of their ancestry: Andalusian, Arabian, and Barb horses that were bred together in the 17th century.
Boulonnais horses are loved by horse enthusiasts because of their sociable and easy-going temperaments. This helps them to thrive in disciplines like driving, riding, and showing. Despite their low population numbers today, there are efforts being made to preserve (and revitalize) this magnificent breed.
4. Camarillo White Horse
Camarillo White horses are extremely rare and are known as the only true white horse breed. This horse breed is over 100 years old. But, with possibly fewer than 20 purebred Camarillo White horses left, this breed is pretty hard to come by.
Unlike grey horse breeds, the Camarillo White horse is born white and maintains this colour throughout its life. Their skin is usually pink, their eyes are dark – typical of true white horses – and they have a refined build with strong limbs.
Originally developed by Adolfo Camarillo in 1921, all Camarillos can be traced back to the founding stallion, Sultan. The original horses of this breed were exclusively owned by the Camarillo family until 1987.
Camargue horses, also known as “horses of the sea,” are an indigenous breed that comes from the Camargue region in southern France. Interestingly, these horses have a rich history in this region that dates back centuries.
Because of their history, these horses can adapt easily to harsh conditions and are renowned for their intelligence and good temperament. These horses are also top picks for several activities, including dressage, riding, and livestock management.
With a height range of 13 to 14 hands, you can always count on these horses for their endurance, agility, and resilience. Plus, it helps that they are absolutely gorgeous!
Camargue horses are born with brown or black coats that slowly turn grey as they age. Eventually, their coat lightens, and they become the eye-catching white horses most of us know and love.
The Lipizzan (or Lipizzaner) is a white horse breed famous for its performances at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria. While there are several predominantly bay, grey, and black variations, many foals are born black and gradually turn white over 6 to 10 years. When they are fully grown, these elegant horses stand at around 14.2 to 16.1 hands.
The breed’s name comes from the Lipizza Stud; located in present-day Slovenia and dating back to the 18th century, when grey horses were favoured by the Habsburg royal family.
Lipizzans have a baroque physique and are masters in highly complex classical dressage movement, so there is no wonder they’re well-loved among equestrians the world over. In fact, these horses are sought after for their beauty (especially those with white coats) and are popular in Middle and Eastern European countries.
The Percheron is another French draught horse breed that is agile and elegant, making it perfect for riding and harness racing. Originating in the Perche province of Normandy, the Percheron is the result of crossbreeding Flemish draft, Barb, and Arabian horses.
Percherons come in several colours, ranging from whites and creams to deep, rich blacks. Some horses may also have striking white markings on their heads and feet. As they mature, Percherons develop strong, muscular bodies with powerful legs. They can grow to reach the height of 15 to 19 hands.
With their willing and trainable nature, Percherons have a reputation for being easy to handle and work with. Today, they are popular in activities like show rings, trekking, and even leisurely riding. In the past, these strong creatures were used as war horses and played a big role in forestry and agriculture.
8. Shagya Arabian Horse
The Shagya Arabian is a distinctive white horse breed that is primarily known for its endurance. Although they are considered part-bred rather than full Arabian horses, the majority are grey, back, bay, or chestnut in colour.
It’s important to note that while Arabians are relatively common, true white horses don’t exist in this breed. Purebred Arabians always have dark skin beneath their coats, while white Shagya Arabians have pink skin and aren’t considered purebred horses.
Shagyas get their name from one of their founding stallions, Shagya; who was, in fact, a purebred Arabian. Originating in the 1800s, they were created through the crossbreeding of imported Arabian sires with local part-bred Arab mares.
That hasn’t stopped this breed from making a name for itself, though. In fact, Shagya Arabians are highly sought-after as sport horses and are surprisingly well-suited for carriage driving.
These horses are also taller than their Arabian cousins and can reach an impressive height of around 15 to 16 hands, while still having the iconic appearance of a purebred Arabian horse.
What defines white horse breeds?
These breeds are defined by their coat colour, which is predominantly white or light cream. While there are sometimes variations in these horses, such as grey or off-white shades, the distinguishing characteristic is that the coat at least appears white.
Are white horse breeds truly white?
White horse breeds are not always truly white. In fact, true white horses, which lack pigmentation entirely and have pink skin, are super rare! Most, including those referred to as “white,” actually have coats that are varying shades of grey, cream, or off-white. Sometimes, these colours may change over time as the horse ages.
Are white horse breeds more prone to health issues?
There isn’t any evidence to suggest that white breeds are more prone to health issues than other horse breeds. Health issues can affect horses regardless of their coat colour, so it’s always important to check the health of your horse.
If you have a white horse and you suspect that it may be ill, you’ll want to contact your local equine veterinarian as soon as possible. It’s likely that it has a standard illness rather than one that is specific to its breed.
Sunburn would be the biggest concern, which can lead to melanoma. Put sunscreen on any white horses you have on their nose and around their tail.
Are white horse breeds rare?
Breeds that produce white horses, in the sense of being pure white, are incredibly rare. True white horses with pinkish skin and white coats are uncommon, which is perhaps why they are so revered by horse enthusiasts.
However, breeds that exhibit mostly white coats, or are considered grey, may be more common. The rarity of a horse breed that produces white horses actually depends on various factors. These may include breed popularity, breeding programs, and geographic location.