AMERICAN CREAM DRAFT HORSE
American Cream Draft Horse
Breed Organization Information
About the Breed
The American Cream is the only draft breed to originate in the United States. The breed descended from a draft type mare with an outstanding cream color. 'Old Granny' (the first registered American Cream) appeared at a farm auction in Story County, Iowa in 1911. Her foaling date has been placed between 1900 and 1905. She was purchased by a well-known stock dealer, Harry Lakin, and began to foal several cream colored colts on the Lakin farm, all of which sold for above average prices. Eric Christian, a veterinarian in the area, became attracted to one of Granny's stallions and persuaded the Nelson Bros. of Jewell, Iowa to keep the colt. Nelson?s Buck is regarded as the progenitor of the breed. He was kept as a stallion and sired several cream offspring but Yancy, a cream colt out of a black Percheron mare, would be his only registered get. Yancy would go on to sire Knox 1st in 1926 out of a bay grade Shire mare. Knox 1st would go on to sire the most influential stallion to the American Cream, Silver Lace. Silver Lace was sired by Knox 1st and a light sorrel, Farceur bred, Belgian mare in 1931. Silver Lace was bred and raised by G. A. Lenning, Union, Hardin County, Iowa. Like many farmers, Lenning lost much during the Depression, coming through with only a few cows and four horses. One of those horses was Silver Lace. The young horse had originally been named King. But Lenning's son wanted the horse renamed after the Lone Ranger's horse, Silver. Lenning combined Silver with the name of the farm, hence King became, Silver Lace. In 1935, the only legal way to stand a stallion at stud who was not a registered stallion of a recognized breed was to form a company and sell shares to those desiring stud service. The stud fee was $15, but was not due until the colt was standing and had nursed for the first time. The stallion was bred from early spring until late November. The money earned from Silver Lace's stud fees helped the Lenning family through the Depression. Silver Lace sired numerous colts during the seven years he stood for service. In 1939, six months after an offer to buy him for $1,000 was turned down, the stallion died mysteriously. C. T. Rierson of Hardin County, Iowa, had become interested in these attractive, new horses and began buying all the good cream colts sired by Silver Lace that he could find for sale. With the help of the horses' owners, he meticulously recorded the ancestry of each horse. In 1944, Rierson wrote, "They are making a class for them at the Webster City, Iowa, Fair this year. This is the county in which they originated and it will be the first time they have been shown in a class by themselves." It was at one of these fairs that the inspiration for the name of "American Cream" came to him. The name seemed particularly appropriate since these horses are entirely American to the best of our knowledge and have the rich cream color. Rierson became the founding force behind The American Cream Horse Association. Thanks to his persistence, on July 11, 1944, a charter was issued by the State of Iowa to a group of 20 charter members of The American Cream Horse Association of America. This action culminated nearly 40 years of interest in creating a new breed of draft horse originating in Iowa. In November, 1948, the National Stallion Enrollment Board recommended The American Cream Horse Association of America for recognition. On February 15, 1950, Creams were recognized as standard by the Iowa Department of Agriculture, giving them all the privileges granted to older, established breeds in the state. Rierson died in 1957 and his herd of American Creams were sold. By that time, 58 owners had registered 199 Creams in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, South Dakota and Wisconsin, but the advent of the tractors and the growth of much larger farms seriously marked the decline of Creams and all other breeds of draft horses.
Rebuilding the Breed and the Association
By the late 1950s, 41 members had registered 200 animals. As tractors replaced horses in the fields, many draft horses met their deaths at the canneries. Several Cream enthusiasts held on to their draft horses through this period, continuing to use them on their farms. In the 1970s, this small group encouraged the secretary of the now inactive association to call a meeting for the purpose of reorganizing and registering the Creams they owned. This effort was also helped by a 1977 book called, Horse Power, by Frank Lessister which has been credited with again sparking interest in the breed of American Cream Drafts. Three families owning American Cream drafts met with the secretary in 1982 to reorganize and elect directors and officers. The books were again open to registration of animals meeting the same criteria as set forth in 1944 when the Association was formed. Registrations and memberships came slowly. Directors advised prospective members to register only those animals that would meet the breed standards and continue to search for animals that would improve the breed. The American Minor Breeds Conservancy placed the American Cream draft on the list of "endangered breeds" and interest continued to grow in rebuilding the numbers. In 1990, Dr. E. Gus Cothran, Director of Equine Blood Typing Research Laboratory of the University of Kentucky, contacted owners offering to blood type their animals. He was comparing the genetic relationship among domestic horse breeds. His results stated that "compared with other draft breeds and based upon gene marker data, the Creams form a distinct group within the draft horses. The Creams are no more similar to the Belgian than they are to Suffolks, Percherons or Haflingers." Many had thought that the Cream was only a color breed, but this research proved otherwise. In 1991, members met and amended the by-laws and the Articles of Incorporation to change the name from The American Cream Association of America to The American Cream Draft Horse Association. The Articles of Incorporation were further amended in 1994 when the Charter was renewed. Members have held annual meetings since 1991. The Secretary of 47 years resigned in 1991 and a new secretary was elected. To date, forty-eight members have registered 144 animals. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation of Williamsburg, Virginia underwrites the cost of the Cream Newsletter that is published twice a year and mailed to members. Members are encouraged that the information is out on the American Cream Drafts and the Association and remain committed to increasing the numbers and quality of the breed.
The ideal American Cream is a medium cream color with white mane and tail, pink skin and amber eyes. Some white markings are also very desirable. Pink skin is the determining factor in securing this rich cream color. Dark-skinned Creams often do not have a satisfactory color. Further when mated with other Creams, they generally produce too light or nearly white offspring. Therefore, the most sought after strain of American Creams has always carried the pink skin trait. These vary but little in color throughout the year and the white markings contrast beautifully with their rich cream color. The amber eyes are also an unusual and distinguishing trait of the American Creams. The colts are foaled with nearly white eyes. In a short time they begin to darken and by maturity have turned to an amber color.The American Cream draft horse may be classified as a medium draft type. In the beginning, American Creams weighed perhaps less than 1,400 pounds, but their weight increased until by 1950 some mares weighed 1,600 to 1,800 pounds and some stallions weighed a ton or more. Early breeders attributed this size increased to selective breeding of the most promising American Creams to outstanding animals of other breeds. Height ranges from 15.1 to 16.3 hands. With their type and action, they make good show horses and also are of a size that fits into the average person?s plans. A characteristic of these horses, which makes a lasting impression on those who have handled them, is their good disposition. The person who keeps a team wants one not only trustworthy, but one in which they can take pride as well. They will, therefore, be pleased to note the uniformity in color and type of the American Creams, making for easily matched teams. Early records show that the percentage of Cream colts foaled to parents who were both cream colored was about 75%. The more Cream breeding in the foal?s background, the more sure it was to be Cream. In later years both inbreeding and line breeding were practiced with many good results in both type and color.
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