UPDATE: Since this article was first published, the Moyle family has stopped breeding horses. It is unknown of any breeder has taken over their work, so this breed may be nearly extinct.
The Moyle is a very rare American breed of horse that is thought to be related to the Dakong or Dragon horse breed of China, a breed thought to be more than 4,000 years old. The physical characteristic that unites the two breeds are two bony projections known as frontal bosses over the eyes. These knobs are more like the horns a giraffe has than the horns a deer would have. They also do not have chestnuts – horny growths on the inside of the legs.
The only other breed of horse known to also produce bony growths over the eyes is the rare Carthusian of Spain. In conformation, though, Carthusians are nearly identical to Andalusians.
Moyles are named after a family that bred them for generations. However, the family freely acknowledges that they did not originate the breed. The Mormons did that. Bringham Young was supposed to have them himself. How he discovered them, no one knows.
Mormons kept their incredibly strong and small horses to themselves with strict orders that they were never to sell their horses to unbelievers. However, according to International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds (University of Oklahoma Press, 1995), many Mormon horses served in the short-lived Pony Express, costing 100 times more than any other horse because of their stamina.
Legend has it that the non-Mormon rancher Chris Hansen long admired the Mormons’ little horses. One day a Mormon’s mare dropped in exhaustion on Hanson’s ranch property. The custom at the time was to lend a fresh horse to the stricken rider. Hanson, sensing it was now or never, refused. But he would give a sound gelding in the place of the dying mare. The Mormon accepted and was on his way.
The mare recovered and soon foaled a filly. That filly in turn had sixteen foals. She was given to Chris Hansen’s daughter, who married into the Moyle family of Idaho. The Moyle family has been breeding them ever since. Some Cleveland Bay was added in order to keep the core herd from inbreeding. However, it is unknown if the Moyle family has continued the work and no breed registration exists.
Not all Moyle horses have frontal bosses. They do have forelegs that are positioned the furthest forward of any breed, making their strides long and smooth. They now stand about 15 hands high but can be smaller. They have long backs, handsome heads and excellent hooves. Their livers and spleens are the largest of any horse breed in the world, which may be one of the reasons why Moyles have such incredible stamina. They come in several solid colors, but mostly bay and chestnut.
Moyles excel in trail riding, ranch work and endurance riding. One Moyle named Hawk is in the Endurance Horse Hall of Fame. Another Moyle endurance horse champion was named Pretty Boy Moyle and was ridden by Bonnie Rose Sehlemeyer.
“International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds.” Bonnie Hendricks. University of Oklahoma Press; 1995.
“Storey’s Illustrated Guide to 96 Horse Breeds of North America.” Judith Ditson. Storey Publishing; 2005.
Moyle Horses.com. “About Rex Moyle & His Horses.” http://www.moylehorses.com/moylehorsehistory.htm
MyHorse.com. “Time To Ride.” http://www.myhorse.com/time-ride.html