The Missouri Fox Trotter is a gaited breed, best known for the “fox trot,” a smooth gait described as “walking with the front feet and trotting with the hind.” The fox trot is a broken diagonal gait; the front foot exhibits a long reach, striking the ground immediately before the diagonal fear foot, which may “cap” or overstep the front track. This gait can be maintained for very long distances.
The Fox Trotter is well known for being a versatile, comfortable mount. Fox Trotters excel in distance riding and are favorites for the U.S. Forest service, which values them for their skill at negotiating difficult terrain, and for their stamina and comfort over long distances.
The Missouri Fox Trotter is typically between 14 – 16 hands tall.
There is no true Missouri Fox Trotter “type;” some Fox Trotters have a stock horse type conformation, some are more like Morgans. More emphasis is placed on the balance, agility, and athleticism of each particular horse than on whether or not it conforms to a specific type.
In general, though, Fox Trotters should have strong basic conformation, with graceful necks and large, bright eyes. The ears should be well-shaped and pointed, and the muzzle and head should be cleanly tapered. The back should be strong and reasonably short, and the shoulder should be well-sloped. The Fox Trotter’s legs should be well-muscled and the feet should be proportional.
Quiet, eager to please, suitable for beginners and children.
Members of this breed often excel in the following disciplines:
- Trail / Endurance
- Gaited Events / Show
- Rodeo / Cow Work
The Missouri Fox Trotter was first developed in the Ozarks in the 19th century. Settlers in that region needed durable horses who could travel long distances quickly, but they also needed their horses to be comfortable and sure-footed.
Many of the settlers who came to the Ozarks were originally from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia, where gaited horses were popular for riding. These settlers often brought their horses with them, and it was quickly discovered that horses who could “fox trot” had an advantange on the Ozarks’ rocky, forested terrain. Fox Trotters quickly became the mount of choice, and the settlers began selectively breeding for the fox trot gait.
In the height of the 19th century, Fox Trotters were used by doctors, tax assessors, and sherrifs, and their cow sense also made them favorites for cattlemen. Even after automobiles replaced horses for most transportation functions, cattlemen continued to breed Fox Trotters for ranch work.
The Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association was founded in 1948, and today there are more than 42,000 registered Fox Trotters living in the United States and Canada.