Livestock Conservancy removes Morgan (Traditional) from Priority List

The move comes in light of healthy registration numbers, joint commitment to maintaining genetic diversity within the breed

The Livestock Conservancy, a non-profit organization based in North Carolina, has announced on its website the removal of the Morgan (Traditional) horse breed from its Conservation Priority List in 2023.

The following is an edited announcement from the Livestock Conservancy website:

Breed background

One of the oldest horse breeds in North America, the Morgan horse is widely recognized as an American treasure. It is also unique because the breed traces to a single foundation sire, a colt named Figure owned by Justin Morgan, whose name became forever associated with the breed.

Image of modern Morgan (Traditional) from Livestock Conservancy website

Morgan was a teacher and musical composer who lived in Randolph, Vermont. He was also a horse breeder and farmer. He died in 1798 at the age of 51. His life, and especially his horse Figure, inspired Marguerite Henry’s “Justin Morgan Had a Horse,” which won the Newberry Honor in 1946. Disney Studios later adapted the book into a 1972 film.

Figure was a champion trotter with exceptional stamina, but he also demonstrated great strength and draught abilities. Historian Kathleen Kirsan describes him as “the little horse that could do it all.” (Ed.: For a little local history on the breed, see “Equine Affaire Massachusetts: Daytrip to Another Century.”)

It’s no surprise Morgans later became popular cavalry horses due to their toughness and versatility. And with a people-loving temperament, the modern Morgan horse continues to be treasured.

Today, Morgans stand about 15 hands and appear in various colors. They are found throughout America competing as sporthorses, enjoyed as trail riders, driven for pleasure or appreciated as workhorses for cattle ranchers.

Morgan conservation history

The Morgan (Traditional) horse breed was added to The Livestock Conservancy’s Study category on the Conservation Priority List (CPL) in 2013 and moved to full recognition in 2014. Both pedigree and genetic research were used in the process of adding them to the CPL.

In 2023, the American Morgan Horse breed enjoys healthy registration numbers and prosperity in the equine marketplace. The American Morgan Horse Association (AMHA) recently approached The Livestock Conservancy with a request to review the inclusion of Morgan (Traditional) as an endangered breed on the CPL.

Genetic diversity … and more

The Livestock Conservancy defined Morgan (Traditional) as a segment of the Morgan population free of outcrossing after 1939. Without full recognition of this definition of a portion of the Morgan breed by all organizations, this listing has reportedly caused confusion for some horse enthusiasts.

Both AMHA and The Livestock Conservancy recognize the importance of maintaining genetic diversity within the Morgan breed and favor a variety of breeding approaches to accomplish this. Both organizations are enthusiastic about and seek to maintain the diverse capabilities of Morgan horses in many disciplines and activities.

AMHA appreciates The Livestock Conservancy’s mission and willingness to listen to their concerns. The Livestock Conservancy is grateful for AMHA’s support of all the families and bloodlines of the Morgan horse and its promotion of the breed, which has made the Morgan both vibrant and viable in the modern horse world.

In light of the discussion with AMHA and other organizations supporting the Morgan horse, and after careful consideration, The Livestock Conservancy removed Morgan (Traditional) from the CPL in 2023.

About the Livestock Conservancy

The non-profit Livestock Conservancy’s mission is to protect America’s endangered livestock and poultry breeds from extinction. This is important because many of America’s once-common farm animals face extinction if action is not taken.

Rare farm animals represent an irreplaceable piece of earth’s biodiversity and offer incredible variety that may be needed for future farms–robust health, mothering instincts, foraging and the ability to thrive in a changing climate. These farm animals are a vital part of ensuring food security for our planet–now and for the future.

For more information and to view the current list of conservancy breeds, visit the Conservancy website.

Landing page image: 1873 engraving of the Justin Morgan horse from GettyImages

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