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Was the American quarter horse especially bred for cattle ranching?

No, the American Quarter Horse had been fully established for well over a century before cattle ranching became a major force in the western states. As its name implies, it was originally bred for short races, usually a quarter of a mile. It can put on a burst of speed from a standing start that would put any Thoroughbred to shame-essential in such a short race. The breed was first developed in Virginia and the Carolinas during the first half of the seventeenth century when various types of mares brought over by the Spaniards were crossed with English stallions.

By the time Thoroughbred racing had started to supplant Quarter-Horse racing, it was discovered that the quick burst of speed made possible by the Quarter Horse’s massive hindquarters was perfect for controlling cattle on the move, and the breed’s agility and intelligence only added to its value. In the last two decades, there has been a considerable revival of Quarter-Horse racing, and the breed is also highly valued as a pleasure horse. As a result, it has become the most popular breed of horse in the world.

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