The Conestoga Horse: The first outstanding horse to be developed in America

Lancaster County had its own horse to pull the Conestoga Wagons (click here to read more about the Conestoga Wagon)—the aptly named Conestoga horse. The Conestoga was the first outstanding horse to be developed in America. The Pennsylvania Germans bred this remarkable horse with the same kind of ingenuity that they displayed in being the first to rotate crops. Their preeminence as farmers could not be challenged anywhere in the colonies.

John Shreiner with his Conestoga horses and wagon.

Conestoga horses, in general, were usually a bay or black, rather long of leg, muscular but not chunky, with a fairly small head and arched crest. It was well mannered and it had enormous pulling strength. Its average eight was 16.3 hands. Its average weight was 1,650 pounds.

Conestoga horse, the property of John Eshelman of Martic, 1863.

The horse was the outcome of breeding of Flemish or similar important draught horses, like the famous Suffolk Punch of England, with lighter boned, higher blooded stock identical with or similar to the thoroughbred of today.


The horses were carefully trained and made excellent teams for the rigorous work of heavy hauls over roads that were often rutted, stony, or full of deep mud.


It was said that a six-horse Conestoga team, decked in full regalia, bells chiming musically, necks in conscious pride, pulling gaily-painted Conestoga wagons, were a sight to brighten the eyes and quicken the pulse.


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