Rufus C. (Rufus Chancey) Obrecht.

Market classes and grades of horses and mules online

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Agricultural Experiment Station






1. To form an intelligent estimate on the value of horses or mules, one
should have a thorough understanding of the market requirements together with
a correct understanding of the market classes and grades.

2. The principal factors that determine the market value of horses or
mules are : Soundness, conformation, quality, condition, action, age, color, edu-
cation, and general appearance.

3. Horses or mules of a general type are grouped into classes, for conveni-
ence and a definite understanding ; and in most instances the names of the classes
are suggestive of the use to which they are put. The classes of horses are di-
vided into sub-classes which embody those of a similar type but slightly different
in size, weight, action, or. the use to which they are put. Mules are not divided
into sub-classes.

4. The market classes are: Draft horses, chunks, wagon horses, carriage
horses, road horses, saddle horses, mining mules, cotton mules, sugar mules,
fa-rm mules and draft mules.

HORSES. DRAFT HORSES are broad, massive, rugged, and compactly built
with great weight and strength. They stand from 15-3 to 17-2 hands high and
in good flesh weigh from 1600 to 2200 pounds or more. The class is subdivided
into light draft, heavy draft, and loggers.

CHUNKS are short-legged, broad, heavy set horses, the name of the class
being indicative of their conformation. The sub-classes are eastern or export,
farm, and southern. The class varies in weight from 800 pounds, the lightest
of the southern, to 1550 pounds, the heaviest of the eastern. They stand from
1 5 to 15-3 hands high.

WAGON HORSES are those used principally where business 'requires quick
delivery. They must have good action, a clean set of limbs, good feet and bone
with an abundance of quality, be closely coupled, compactly built and have a deep
broad chest indicative of constitution and stamina. In this class are express, de-
livery wagon, artillery and fire horses. They stand from 15 to 17-2 hands high
and weigh from 1050 for the light weights of artillery horses to 1700 pounds for
heavy fire horses.

CARRIAGE HORSES, sometimes spoken of as "heavy harness horses," are full
made, round bodied and smoothly turned with an unusual amount of quality and
must possess to a marked degree high action, with a fair amount of speed. They
should have a long well arched neck, small neat head, a short well muscled back,
long level croup, and well developed thighs and quarters. The class is comprised
of coach, cob, park, and cab horses. They range in height from 14-1 to 16-1
hands and weigh from 900 to 1250 pounds.

ROAD HORSES are more lithe in build and angular in form than those of the
carriage class. They are sometimes spoken of as drivers or "light harness horses"
and are usually driven to light-weight vehicles. A considerable speed is desired
of some of the individuals of this class which is composed of runabout and road-
sters. They range in height from 14-3 to 16 hands and weigh from 900 to
1150 pounds.

SADDLE HORSES. In this class are grouped those horses that perform their
work under the saddle, the requirements for which are sureness of foot, ease of
carriage to the rider, good manners, and ease of control. In order to be sure
of foot they must have an oblique shoulder, high thin withers and a properly
set pastern with an abundance of energy. The above qualities together with a

short strong back will give strength for carrying weight and also an easy gait.
The minimum height is 14 hands for a polo pony and the maximum 16-1 hands
for hunters. The weight varies from 850 to 1250 pounds. Grouped in this class
are five gaited saddlers, three gaited saddlers, hunters, cavalry horses, and polo

MULES. MINING MULES are those purchased with which to operate mines.
They are heavy boned, rugged, compactly built individuals, with lafge feet and
strong constitution. They range in height from 12 to 16 hands and weigh from
600 to 1350 pounds.

COTTON MULES are lighter boned than miners and not so compactly built.
They are round bodied, smoothly turned and possess considerable quality. They
range in height from 13-2 to 15-2 hands and weigh from 750 to noo pounds.

SUGAR MULES are those shipped south to use on the sugar farms of Georgia,
Louisiana and other southern states. They are taller, larger, and more breedy
looking than cotton mules and have heavier bone. They stand from 16 to 17
hands and weigh from 1150 to 1300 pounds.

FARM MULES are those purchased to be used on the farms of the central
states. They are somewhat lacking in uniformity of type and many of them
are young and somewhat thin in flesh. An average height is from 15-2 to 16
hands and weigh from 900 to 1250 pounds.

DRAFT MULES are large heavy boned, heavy set mules that possess quality
and ruggedness. They are used in cities for heavy teaming and by contractors
for all kinds of heavy work, such as railroad grading, etc. They range in height
from 16 to 17-2 hands and weigh from 1200 to 1600 pounds and upwards.

5. The grades distinguish the good from the poor animals within the classes
and sub-classes. The grades are choice, good, medium, common and inferior.

An animal to grade as "choice" must be sound and approach the ideal type,
possess quality and finish, have good style and action and be in good condition.
A "good" animal should possess the essential qualities of his class but need not
have the quality, condition and finish necessary to grade as choice. A horse or
mule of "medium" grade is likely to be plain in his make-up with a tendency
toward coarseness, and somewhat of a lack of symmetry and condition. A lack of
style, action or soundness may also cause him to grade as medium. The lowest
grade found in many of the classes is "common." Such individuals are wanting
in most of the essential qualities that go to make them desirable. An "inferior"
animal is of the lowest possible grade.

6. Owing to the fact that the point where two classes or grades meet and
merge into each other is not always distinct, it is sometimes difficult to say just
where certain animals that are not clearly typical should be classified. Again,
if the demand exceeds the supply it is sometimes, necessary to temporarily draw
from a similar class of animals, or the price may advance and in this way equal-
ize the demand. If, on account of a meager demand or an excess supply the
price should drop, it is sometimes necessary to place some animals of one class
in another, i. e., they will be purchased by a different class of trade.

7. The breed to which a horse belongs has but little influence upon his
market value and the classes are not determined by the breeds, but by the indi-
viduality and conformation of the horse; however, a judicious use of choice
pure-bred sires is best suited for the production of marketable horses.






r Light Draft

15 3 to 16 2

1600 to 1750


Heavy Draft

16 to 17-2

1750 to 2200

i Loererers. . .

16-1 to 17-2

1700 to 2200


' Eastern and Export )
Chunks j

Farm Chunks

15 to 16
15 to 15-3

1300 to 1550
1200 to 1400


Southern Chunks

15 to 15-3

800 to 1250

- Expressers

15-3 to 16-2

1350 to 1500

Delivery Wagon

15 to 16

1100 to 1400


Artillery Horses

15 1 to 16

1050 to 1200

- Fire Horses

15 to 17-2

1200 to 1700

' Coach

15 1 to 16-1

1100 to 1250


14-1 to 15-1

900 to 1150


Park Horses

15 to 15-3

1000 to 1150

^ Cab

15-2 to 16-1

1050 to 1200

14 3 to 15 2

900 to 1050


[ Roadster

15 to 16

900 to 1150


' Five Gaited Saddler . . .

Three Gaited ) Light )
Saddler j Heavy )

(Light i
Hunters < Middle >

15 to 16
14-3 to 16

15 2 to 16 1

900 to 1200
900 to 1200

1000 to 1250

( Heavy )

15 to 15-3

950 to 1100

14 to 14-2

850 to 1000


12 to 16

600 to 1350


13-2 to 15 2

750 to 1100


16 to 17

1150 to 1300


15-2 to 16

900 to 1259


16 to 17-2

1200 to 1600






The establishing of open markets where horses are bought and
sold as a commercial commodity at values regulated by demand
and supply has exerted a marked influence in stimulating the horse
breeding industry in the United States. However, on visiting the
large markets where thousands of horses are sold annually, it is ap-
parent that the majority of horses which find their way to these
markets do not approach the degree of perfection demanded by the
intending purchaser.

The present quality of offerings reaching the market may be
accounted for in several ways : First, in most instances the market
has been of secondary importance or entirely disregarded by horse
breeders while it should receive more consideration as it does with
breeders of meat producing animals. Not many of the horses found
on the market are bred expressly for the market, but for other pur-
poses, such as use on the farm or on the road, and when no longer
needed there, the market is sought as a possible place of disposal
without regard as to whether or not they are what the trade de-
mands. Second, the horse market is quite a recent institution,
more so than the market for meat producing animals. The market,
in a way, is the place where standards are set, and the present stand-
ards for a marketable horse are quite different, in some respects,
from those prior to the opening of horse markets. Third, the market
classes have not been well understood by the farmers and as a result
many of them are groping in the dark, working towards false stand-
ards. It is often true that an unscrupulous stallion owner who is look-
ing for business, or a country dealer who has an "'ax to grind" is re-
sponsible for this condition. Fourth, many breeders resort to a
constant mixing of different breeds which often results in produc-
ing horses lacking in uniformity and quality. This mixing of


94 BULLETIN No. 122. [January,

breeds may be due to the fact that certain stallions are more acces-
sible than others, or to the lack of definite ideals, or to the lack of
definite understanding of the fundamental principles of breeding.

Importance of Market Classification

This bulletin is the result of an investigation by the writer, of
the Chicago and St. Louis horse markets which are similar to other
markets of note. Grateful acknowledgment is here made to com-
mission firms, buyers, shippers, exporters, and to the reporters of
the agricultural journals, to the officials of the Union Stock Yards,
of Chicago, and the National Stock Yards, of East St. Louis, for
the opportunties afforded and the courtesies extended. The cuts used
herein were made from photographs, the most of which were taken
expressly for the purpose, to assist in conveying correct ideas of the
different market classes and types of horses.

This bulletin has been written with the feeling that market
classes of horses are not well understood, and with the belief that
a clear setting forth of true market standards will do much toward
establishing correct ideals on the part of the horse breeder and pro-
ducer. A correct understanding of the market classes will enable
the farmer to form a better estimate of the value of the horses which
he has to sell ; for without this the farmer is at a decided disadvant-
age in selling his horses, not knowing their real market value. In
this way he may fail to get what his horses are worth or he may lose
a sale by asking too much. Again it often happens that he fails
to distinguish clearly between his good and his poor marketable ani-
mals. As a result the dealer takes the desirable ones at a good profit
and leaves the undesirable; thus the inferior horses are left in the
country to become the parent stock.

Few breeders can follow their consignments to market and so be-
come familiar with actual market demands. As most of the horses
that reach the markets are handled by dealers who make a business
of buying in the country and shipping, the breeder may never know
how well he has succeeded in producing a marketable horse that
will command a high price. It is hoped that this bulletin will em-
phasize the importance of the producers' understanding the horse
market and cause breeders to make a careful study of the market
requirements and demands. It is hoped, too, that it will also assist
in bringing about a more uniform and thorough method of report-
ing the market by agricultural journals ; and finally, that it will en-
courage the reader to familiarize himself with the classes and the


vernacular of the horse market, thus rendering the reports of more
value to him.

It may be stated at the outset that horses cannot be classified
as wood, stone, or any inert matter that has definite dimensions
and qualities, but the classifications must be based on their general
conformation, height, weight, style, and action. In view of these
facts and owing to varying opinions among those who have to do
with the horse markets, the limits of classification are somewhat
variable. Not all the market classes are well defined and the point
where two classes meet and merge into each other is not always
distinct, so it is sometimes difficult to say just where the one stops
and the other begins. Owing to the conditions governing the de-
mand and supply, it may be necessary temporarily to draw from a
similar class of animals to fill a pressing demand or, if the supply
exceeds the demand, then the price may drop, thus putting the least
typical of one class into another.

Market Requirements

The factors that determine how well horses sell upon the market
are : Soundness, conformation, quality, condition, action, age, color,
education, and general appearance. The requirements placed upon
the above factors together with minor considerations are discussed

Soundness. To meet the market demand, a horse should be
serviceably sound, by which is meant one that is as good as a
sound horse so far as sendee is concerned and able to do a reason-
able amount of work without undue fatigue or indications of a pre-
mature break-down. He may have slight blemishes, but nothing is
permitted that is likely to cause lameness or soreness in any way.
He must be good in wind and eyes, but may have small splints and
puffs, and a little rounding on the curb joint. Broken wind, thick
wind, side bones, unsound hocks such as curbs, spavins, and thor-
oughpins, large splints, and buck knees are discriminated against.

Conformation. If a horse is to do hard work with a minimum
amount of wear and give the longest possible period of service he
must possess a conformation indicative of strength, endurance, and
longevity, the indications of which are, good feet, a good consti-
tution, good feeding qualities, good bone, and symmetry of confor-
mation. For city use too much emphasis can hardly be placed
upon the requirement of good feet, for the old adage "No foot, no
horse" is still true; but in horses for farm use it is not so important
as they rarely break down in the feet. A good constitution denotes

96 BULLETIN No. 122. [January,

health and endurance which is indicated by a deep, capacious chest
giving sufficient room for well developed vital organs. Endurance
is also evidenced by the indications of a good feeder, which are a
short well muscled back and loins, a deep barrel with no tucking up
of the rear flank, and closely coupled (coupling is the distance from
the last rib to the hip.) A good bone should have enough weight
to correspond with the size of the horse ; it should be of good qual-
ity and must not be unduly small at knee or hock. Symmetry of
form is necessary for strength, correct proportions, and perfect

In order that there may not be an undue amount of concussion
which would produce soreness or disease and render the period of
usefulness of the horse short, he should have an oblique shoulder,
a rather short cannon, a moderately long pastern set at an angle of
about 45 degrees. The hind pastern should be less oblique than
the front pastern with no tendency toward a conformation known
as "coon footed" (long and very low pasterns.) The foot should
be of good size, the horn dense, the heel wide and high, permitting
a large healthy frog to serve as a cushion in breaking concussion.
Side bones are an unsoundness found most commonly on heavy
horses. They are more often found on a horse with a straight
shoulder, a short, straight pastern, and a narrow hoof head, as
horsemen would say, "a post leg that produces stilted action." Since
the forequarters or front limbs of a horse carry the greater part of
the horse's weight they are often termed the "weight carriers," and
the hind quarters the "propellers." Because of this fact the set
of the shoulder, pastern, and foot is of great importance and
should possess enough obliquity to give a free, easy movement to
the action. The width of the hips should be in keeping with the
other parts of the horse, but not prominent. The croup should be
long, well muscled and not too drooping. The seriousness of the
objection to a drooping croup will depend upon the class, but in any
class it is unsightly and detracts from the value of the horse. The
tail should be set high, well haired and stylishly carried. The
quarters and thighs should be heavily muscled according to the
class to which the horse belongs ; the hocks large, strong, and free
from puffs or any unsoundness; the cannon short and broad, the
tendons and ligaments prominent and well defined. There should
be no tying-in of the tendons below the knee or hock, because it
gives a light appearance to the bone. The head should be of mod-
erate size with clean cut features; large, mild eyes; ears rather
small and set not too far apart. The head should be properly set


on a neck of moderate length with a rather thin, well developed
crest. A large horse with a small head is almost as unsightly as a
small horse with a large one. A long-legged, narrow-chested, wasp-
waisted, loose-ribbed, long-coupled horse is always to be avoided
and is a cheap animal on the market. The different classes possess
special requirements of conformation which will be discussed in de-
tail elsewhere in this bulletin.

Quality. Quality in a horse is of prime importance. This term
when applied to horses has reference to their bones, skin, hair, and
muscles. Its presence is shown by clean cut features of the head;
firm, clean bone ; tendons well defined ; close fitting glove-like skin ;
hair fine and silky ; an abundance of finish ; and absence of coarse-
ness, but not necessarily a small bone. When slightly exerted the
skin will show clearly an intricate net work of veins. Coarse hair
is usually associated with a coarse skin and a soft spongy bone which
is weak and subject to disease. With quality the muscles stand out
prominently and are clearly defined which aids in giving a horse
finish. Quality is a strong indication of the extent of a horse's en-
durance. These two characteristics are closely associated and a
horse lacking in quality is comparatively a cheap animal.

Condition. To be appreciated on the market horses must be
in good condition, carrying a thick covering of firm flesh and pos-
sessing a good coat of hair which gives them a sleek appearance.
Condition is most important in heavy horses such as draft horses,
chunks and wagon. Some men are making good profits by buying
feeders on the market and shipping them to the country to be put in
condition, after which they are reshipped and resold. Whether or not
this added flesh increases the animal's real value for utility and
longevity is not necessary to consider here; since the market de-
mands it, the producer can well afford to supply it. Careful esti-
mates on the value of horse flesh made by reliable authorities, put
it at 25 cents per pound on heavy horses weighing 1500 pounds and
upward. This fact has been verified by an experiment in fatten-
ing horses for market conducted at this station. It can readily be
seen that the producer cannot afford to let some one else reap this

Action. The action of a horse is not of equal importance in
all classes. There is probably no other one thing that counts for
more in bringing high prices in the carriage, road, and saddle
classes than action. In the other classes it does not count for so
much, but every horse should have good action. He should be a
straight line mover, picking his front feet up and carrying them

98 BULLETIN No. 122. [January,

straight forward, placing them down again without winging out or
in, or interfering. The hind feet should follow in the line of the
front feet, and work in unison without "interfering," "hitching,"
"cross-firing," or "forging." The action should be strong, bold and
full of energy ; the form and height of action will depend upon the
class to which the horse belongs. This subject will be taken up more
fully under various classes.

Age. Horses sell best from five to eight years old, depending
upon the class, maturity, and soundness. Heavy horses such as
draft and chunks sell best from five to seven years old, but a well
matured four-year-old in good condition will find ready sale. Car-
riage, saddle, and road horses sell better with a little more age
because they do not mature so early and their education is not com-
pleted as young as with heavy horses. They are most desired from
five to eight years old.

Color. As a rule the color of horses is not an important re-
quirement if they possess individual excellence. Almost any solid
color is not objected to on the market unless it is by a purchaser
who has a special order to fill. However, more discrimination is
made against color in light horses than in heavy horses. The rea-
son for this is that the one is for business and utility purposes, while
the other is principally for dress and pleasure. There is also more
discrimination made in color of animals that grade as choice than
there is in those that grade as medium and good. All solid colors
except white are in good demand, while a "flea-bitten gray," a
"mealy bay" or one that will fade or "wash out" is not desirable.
Choice steel gray, dapple gray, and strawberry roan horses of the
draft, eastern chunk and wagon horse classes are in strong demand
from showmen, packers, brewers, wholesale mercantile houses, and
firms who want their teams to attract as much attention as possible
and serve as a walking advertisement. The demand is good for
bays, browns, blacks, chestnuts, sorrels, and roans; matched pairs
sell better than single horses. In the light horses, and especially
in the carriage and saddle classes, bays, browns, and chestnuts sell
best, but a good pair of well matched blacks or iron grays find ready
sale. In the fashionable trade a white horse is not wanted except
for hearse purposes and to fill an occasional demand for a cross
match coaching team. A more popular hearse horse is coal black
with no white markings, and he must also have a long flowing tail.
Occasionally they are accepted when slightly marked with white
which is less objectionable on the hind feet than in the face or on
the front feet.


Education and Disposition. Every class calls for a horse of
good disposition and well educated for his work. If it is a draft
horse he should be a free worker and a good puller, free from vice
and bad habits. If it is a carriage horse the requirements are the
same but he should be much better educated and mannered, and
should be indifferent to sights and sounds such as cars, automobiles,
etc., which frighten most horses. It is readily apparent that a thor-
ough education is much more necessary in some classes of horses

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Online LibraryRufus C. (Rufus Chancey) ObrechtMarket classes and grades of horses and mules → online text (page 1 of 6)