This horse is known for its unique gait. In fact, this gait, known as the fox trot, was how the horse received its name. (The "fox trot" is where the horse appears to walk with its front legs and trot with its hind legs.)
They were developed in the Ozark Mountains by settlers who desired a smoother ride and durable mounts that could travel a long distance with ease. They usually traveled at about five to eight miles an hour which made it a favorite among settlers of the early years, particularly doctors, sheriffs, and stockman. Missouri ranks number two in the United States in cow-calf operations and the Missouri Fox Trotter horse is historically tied to the cow grazing industry of the Ozarks.
After the invention of the automobile, horses became obsolete but the Missouri Fox Trotter was one of the few horses that weren't largely affected by this because of their involvement in the cattle industry because of continued breeding by cattlemen of the regions.
Like all breeds, there was a sire that was behind how the breed emerged. This sire went by the name "Old Fox." The horse spent his entire adult life training cattle in Missouri.
There have been many famous families of the Fox Trotter that have been well known through out the Ozarks, such families were: the Copper Bottoms, Diamonds, Brimmers, Red Bucks, Chiefs, Steel Dusts, Colds, and just so many others that are known by breeders widely.
Because of their very comfortable and smooth gait and their stamina, the Missouri Fox Trotter has become widely popular in field trail competitions and long distance trail riding. Their numbers are large and today they continue to grow, in the registry today there are 52,000 Fox Trotters registered all throughout the United States, Canada, Austria, and Germany. They have become the most popular horses among forest rangers and trail riders because of their ability to comfortably trot over almost any kind of terrain.
When it comes to these horses being shown off in the competition and show ring, they are not allowed any sort of device that may add an emphasis to their performance such as their gait including heavy shoes or chains. The Missouri Fox Trotter excels in events like driving, show jumping, ranch, versatility, and halter classes. In event judging, they are judged on their fox trot which is worth 50% of their score, their flat footed walk which is worth 25%, and their canter which is also worth 25%, all in their performance classes.
As time began to pass and the age of machine was on the rise, the number of Fox Trotters began to decline, but it was thanks to the efforts of a group of horsemen that saved the breed from disappearing completely by opening up a stud book in 1948. The horse soon enough regained its popularity and recognition for its unique qualities.
By the year 2004, there were over 80,000 horses registered in the United States and other foreign countries. It is one of the fastest growing breeds of horses in the world and its not stopping as its popularity continues to grow. In fact, The National show, which is a competition that stretches over the span of seven days and covers both performance and versatility held cow working competitions that featured the Missouri Fox Trotter.