Missouri Fox Trotter: A Deep Dive into This Unique Breed

The Missouri Fox Trotter, an elite breed of horse, first emerged in Missouri, United States – particularly within its challenging landscapes of Ozark Mountains. This breed, created through careful development by early 19th-century settlers, quickly evolved into an iconic gaited horse renowned for its robust stock horse qualities, remarkable endurance, and smooth gaits – such as its signature movement: “the Fox Trot.”

This four-beat gait movement quickly became iconic. At its heart is a characteristic gait called Missouri Fox Trotter gait: in which each front foot in diagonal pairs hits the ground before its rear foot; thus eliminating suspension phase and providing for a more comfortable ride overall.

This unique trait highlights this breed’s distinct combination of functionality and riding ease that has earned them widespread acclaim and makes the Missouri Fox Trotter an acclaimed and distinct equine breed.


The Missouri Fox Trotter stands as an iconic representation of American equine heritage. Its development and growth reveal both cultural and genetic influences that helped mold this breed into what it is today.

Origin of Missouri Fox Trotter: Its foundation was laid by settlers from Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia who brought together different breeds that eventually evolved into what we know today as Missouri Fox Trotters: Arabian, Morgan, American Saddlebred Tennessee Walking Horse and Standardbred horses were key elements in its genetic make up.

Unique Gait Recognition: By 1821, when Missouri received statehood, horses had already earned recognition for their distinctive gaits – something particularly useful when traversing rugged Ozark Mountain terrain. This allowed for enhanced utility when traversing these difficult mountains.

Cattlemen’s Choice: This breed quickly gained favor with cattlemen due to its smooth gaits and adept performance at cattle work. Their endurance and agility make them perfect for long hours spent herding or ranching livestock.

Formation of MFTHBA in 1948: Established in Ava, Missouri in 1948, the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association (MFTHBA) began operating with an open stud book system allowing registration for horses exhibiting the fox trot gait or specific physical traits.

International Expansion in the 1950s: Beginning with exports to Europe – including several palomino-colored horses to Great Britain – during this decade, American breeds quickly expanded internationally, garnering international recognition.

Stud Book Closure in 1982: One notable milestone in Missouri Fox Trotter history was the closure of the Missouri Fox Trotter Hound Breeders and Breeders Association stud book in 1982, which meant only offspring from registered Missouri Fox Trotters could register, helping ensure its purity and continuity.

Official State Horse of Missouri in 2002: In 2002, Missouri honored their heritage by designating the Missouri Fox Trotter as their state horse – further emphasizing its place within history and culture of Missouri.

Widespread Presence: Stretching beyond their native state to North America and Europe. By 2012, the Missouri Fox Trotter Horse Breeders and Trainers Association had registered more than 97,000 horses with them and had over 8,000 active members registered as members.

European Influence and EMFTHA: To reflect the growing popularity of Missouri Fox Trotting Horses across Europe, the European Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Association (EMFTHA) was formed in 1992 as an affiliate of MFTHBA.

The inaugural European Championship Show for Missouri Fox Trotters took place in 1996 while in 2010 an European Stud Book began operation through collaboration between Free University Berlin and EMFTHA.

Foundation Fox Trotter Heritage Association (FFHA) in 2006: To preserve the original breed type, FFHA was formed in 2006. This association seeks to maintain traditional Fox Trotter characteristics seen in early MFTHBA registry, specifically by reducing influence from Tennessee Walking Horse bloodlines and staying truer to original characteristics of Fox Trotters.

Breed Characteristics:

The Missouri Fox Trotter is an exceptional breed renowned for its distinct physical traits and signature gait, offering both practical and aesthetic value in one package.

Stature and Size: Missouri Fox Trotters possess an intimidating presence. Ranging in height from 14-16 hands (56 to 64 inches, 142-163 cm), their weight usually falls between 900-1,200 pounds (473-541 kg). Their strong and muscular builds showcased.

Fox Trotting Ponies Registry: In 2004, the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association initiated a separate registry for fox trotting ponies. These miniature horses measure 11-14 hands (44 to 56 inches, 112 to 142 cm) in height and provide access to multiple horse enthusiasts while expanding the breed’s accessibility.

Color and Markings: This breed displays an array of solid and pinto patterns, featuring common white facial and leg markings to further increase visual appeal. This variety adds another element to their visual charm.

Facial and Body Characteristics: This breed boasts a straight facial profile with medium-length neck and prominent withers, along with sloped shoulders, short back, sturdy legs and sloped shoulders, all contributing to agility and strength.

The Fox Trot Gait: The Missouri Fox Trotter stands out among breeds due to its unique “fox trot” gait, an ambling four-beat broken diagonal gait characterized by the front foot landing before its hind counterpart, eliminating suspension moment. This leads to an exceptionally smooth and stable ride for its rider – unlike two-beat trots commonly found among other breeds.

The Missouri Fox Trotter’s gait can be described as a combination of walking with front feet and trotting with back. This gait ensures one front foot always remains on the ground while hind legs move in a sliding motion – creating four-beat rhythm that sets this trot apart from traditional two-beat gaits.

Temperament and Versatility:

Missouri Fox Trotters are popular trail riding horses because of their calm, friendly temperament, making them perfect for trail riding, endurance riding and therapeutic riding programs. Their gentle nature makes them suitable for riders of all ages and experience levels; beyond serving as riding horses they also excel at competitive trail riding, Western pleasure and other equestrian disciplines.

Conservation and Popularity:

The Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association (MFTHBA) plays an essential role in upholding and promoting Missouri Fox Trotting Horse breed standards and unique qualities. Their popularity extends far beyond United States borders; enthusiasts worldwide appreciate its versatility, temperament and smooth gait.