Santa Cruz Island Horse

Santa Cruz Island Horse is known for its toughness and resilience, as they had to adapt to living on a rugged and isolated island.

In this blog post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Santa Cruz Island Horse, so if you’re interested in learning more about these fascinating animals, keep reading!

Santa Cruz Island Horse Breed Info

Here are some of the key things you need to know about the Santa Cruz Island horse:

Height (size) n/a
Colors n/a
Country of Origin United States of America (California)
Common Uses General riding, western disciplines

Santa Cruz Island Horse Facts & Information (Breed Profile)

Their ancestry may be traced back to the Iberian horses which the Spanish Conquistadors brought to the New World.

A small herd was brought to Santa Cruz Island by Spanish settlers in the 1830s to help with farming and ranching.

They were used for a variety of jobs, including pulling plows and family carriages as well as herding livestock and sheep.

Some even appeared in films from the early 1900s as stunt animals.

They were allowed to live on the island relatively undisturbed in a semi-wild habitat for little over a century.

As a result of this, they developed into a resilient breed that is genetically unique from the horses who were left on the mainland.

From the middle of the 19th century until the arrival of motor vehicles in the 20th century the horses were the primary means of transportation on the island.

Between island ranches, supplies were transported by horse-drawn carts, which were also used to transport hay harvested on the west side of the island.

In the 1980s, ranching on the island came to an end, and for years after that, the horses’ future was uncertain.

When the Island was placed under the control of the National Park Service, a heated debate was sparked over whether the horses should be allowed to stay or be removed because they were not a native species.

It wasn’t uncommon for supporters to spend the night on the island because of concern that the horses might be culled in the middle of the night.

At the same time, Dr. Blumenshine started the process of investigating the genetics of the breed.

It was determined, with the help of geneticists and veterinarians from the UC Davis, that these horses had a distinct genetic pool that had enough variation to allow the herd to continue reproducing successfully.

In 1998, the California government had won the battle to remove the horses from the island, and supporters shifted strategies to ensure the horses’ survival in new habitats – private ranches.

Today, the horses live at El Campeon Farms in Thousand Oaks in California.

However, after spending many years living in seclusion on the island, the breed is now in danger of becoming extinct on the mainland.

Today, efforts are being made not only to preserve the breed, but also to improve it.

Even though due to their life in isolation they evolved to be very hardy, the isolation did prove to be a double-edged sword because the results of inbreeding are seen in their long pasterns and loins, while those are exactly the areas that should be short and strong.

As a consequence of many generations of inbreeding, they also have problems reproducing, which presents a significant challenge to the effort of preserving the breed.

Only 10 to 20 live foals are born out of every 100 fertilized eggs. Overall, a rate of 50% is considered to be the norm for embryo viability in horses.

If you’re interested in learning more about this fascinating breed, keep reading!

Alternative Names



Easy-going, friendly

Physical Characteristics




Height (size)








Blood Type


Common Uses

General riding, western disciplines



Popular Traits




Country of Origin

United States of America (California)


Spanish colonial horses