Colorado Ranger

Introduction to the Colorado Ranger

The Colorado Ranger, also known as the Rangerbred, is revered for its versatility, beauty, and friendly disposition. This fascinating breed, a bit of a hidden gem in the world of equestrianism, has a rich history that traces back several centuries. The story of the Colorado Ranger is a captivating tale of intrepid explorers and passionate horse breeders, all coming together to mold a breed that truly stands out.

In the mid-2000s, over 6,000 horses were registered with the Colorado Ranger Horse Association (CRHA), and roughly 100-125 new horses were registered annually.

While the breed is strongly associated with western United States – especially Colorado – there are also plenty of Colorado Rangers in the midwest and eastern United States, and some even live in Canada.

The official name of the breed is Colorado Ranger, but the nickname Rangerbred or Rangerbreds is very popular in everyday speech.

colorado ranger

The History of the Colorado Ranger


The roots of the Colorado Ranger horse breed date back to 1878 when General Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th president of the United States, received two stallions from the Sultan of Turkey, Abdul Hamid II. These stallions, named Leopard and Linden Tree, were intended to improve the United States’ cavalry mounts. The history of the Colorado Ranger can be traced back to these two stallions, marking the beginning of a rich lineage. Leopard was a desert-bred grey Arabian born (foaled) in 1873. Linden Tree was a gray Barb (Berber horse) born (foaled) in 1874.

After travelling form Turkey, the two stallions reached Virginia in the United States in 1879. In Virginia, they were placed in Randolph Huntington´s breeding herds, and stayed there for 14 years. Huntington was a renowned breeder of trotting and roadster horses.

In 1896, Huntington leased the two stallions to Generaly Colby, who was a friend General Grant. Colby bred them to a mumber of mares on his ranch in Nebraska, and this resulted in ranch horses of a very desirable quality. Other ranchers took notice, and a few years later several Colorado ranchers collaborated to purchase a group of horses, including one stallion, from Colby´s ranch. All of the purchaed mares were sired by either Leopard or Linden Tree, and the stallion – a few-spot leopard Appaloosa – had Leopard as his grandfather in both the maternal and the paternal line.

The ranchers in Colorado used the horses from Colby´s ranch to improve their own ranch horses, thus laying the foundation to what would eventually become the Colorado Ranger horse. Interestingly, the leopard coloration was not a trait that the ranchers specifically aimed for at this time; many other aspects of a horse were much more important to them since they were producing working horses for their ranches. Still, many of the horses turned out spotted, and eventually breeders began including leopard coloration as a goal.

By the early 1900s, two colts were foaled that would go on to be very important stallions for the Colorado Ranger breed: Patches #2 and Max #2. Today, every registered Colorado Ranger horse trace their lineage to one or both of these stallions. Max #2 was the son of another stallion, also named Max, a leopard-spot colt foaled in Colorado in 1918.

Another example of a stallion that has had a large influence on the breed is Spotte, a Barb (Berber horse) imported to the United States from North Africa in 1918 by the owner of the W.R. Thompson Cattle Company as a wedding gift for his daughter. Spotte gave the Colorado Ranger breed a much-needed new infusion of Barb genetics.

Trivia: Leopard and Linden Tree were not only very important for the Colorado Ranger breed – they are also listed in the studbooks for the Arabian Horse Association ( a national organization that registers Arabian horses in the United States ) and the Jockey Club (the breed registry for Thoroughbred horses in the United States and Canada).

Mike Ruby

It was Mike Ruby, a working cowboy and horse breeder from the Colorado High Plains, who acquired Max and Patches, refined the Colorado Ranger breed and established the distinctive characteristics that define it today.

In 1934, Ruby was invited to bring two stallions to the Denver Stock Show and picked Leopard #3 and Fox #10. It was during this event that the names Colorado Ranger and Colorado Rangerbred were coined, by faculty members at the Colorado Agricultural College  (now Colorado State University).

In 1935, Roby founded the Colorado Ranger Horse Association (CRHA). He had kept records for every Rangerbred he bred and this was used as the initial pedigree record for the Colorado Ranger Horse breed.

Saving the Rangerbreds from extinction

When severe droughts hit Colorado in the 1930s, Ruby managed to save some of the highest-quality Colorado Rangers by driving them over 300 miles to better pasture. When the rains returned to their old pasture in eastern Colorado, Ruby drove the horses back again and re-established a breeding herd.

After this difficult epoch in the breed´s history, Ruby began leasing groups of Colorado Rangers to other rangers in western U.S. to use as breeding stock. Because of this, the Colorado Rangers came to contribute DNA to – and receive DNA from – various western stock horse breeds, including the Quarter Horse and the Appaloosa.

New genetics

In the 1980s, the CRHA permitted some Lusitano blood into the Colorado Ranger breed. This is no longer permitted.

The Colorado Ranger Horse Association

Founded in 1935, the Colorado Ranger Horse Association (CRHA) received its corporate chater in 1938. Ruby was the president of the CRHA from 1935 to his death in 1942.

Originally, the CRHA did not permit more than 50 members. Therefore, some horses that would today qualify to be registered as Colorado Rangers were actually registered as Appaloosas with the Appaloosa Horse Club back then, simply because their owners were not members of the CRHA.

It would take until 1964 before the rules were changed and the CRHA began having more than 50 members. Since then, Rangerbred affecionadoes have been on the look out for horses that are actually of Colorado Ranger lineage but are non-registered or registered as Appaloosas. According to the CRHA themselves, up to 1 in 8 registered Appaloosas might be eligible for registry with the CRHA.

If a registered Colorado Ranger is bred to any of the following registered breeds, the resulting offspring can be registered as purebred Colorado Ranger:

  • Thoroughbred
  • Arabian
  • Appaloosa
  • AraAppaloosa
  • American Quarter Horse

It is possible for a horse to be registered with both the CRHA and the Appaloosa Horse Club, but an Appaloosa can only be registered with the CRHA if it has the proper bloodline. Today, roughly 90% of the horses registered with the CRHA are also registered with the Appaloosa Horse Club.

  • Horses with draft horse or pony blood can not be registered with the CRHA.
  • Horses that have Pinto or American Paint Horse blood within five generations can not be registered with the CRHA.

Characteristics and Disposition of the Colorado Ranger

Colorado Rangers are medium size, standing between 14.2 and 16 hands tall. They possess a strong, well-muscled body, with a sturdy back, deep chest, and powerful hindquarters. The shoulders and croup are sloping, connected by a short back.

The neck is long and muscular, and the head is refined and expressive, with a straight facial profile. Many of the Colorado Rangers bears the distinctive Arabian dished profile.


Their coat is allowed to be of any solid color or leopard spotting patterns. Pinto is not permitted and neither is American Paint Horse.


Two of the most appealing aspects of the Colorado Ranger breed is their temperament and endurance. They are known for their intelligence, versatility, and friendly disposition. They are easy to train and have a strong desire to please their human companions, making them excellent partners for equestrian activities such as trail riding, endurance riding, and even dressage and show jumping. Colorado Rangers are shown in both Western and English disciplines, but they are a fairly rare occurance in the English disciplines.

Colorado Rangers are still commonly used as stock horses on ranches, especially in western United States. They were originally bred to work on ranches and many of them still have the so called “cow sense”.

Colorado Rangers in the Modern World

Today, the Colorado Ranger Horse Association (CRHA), established in 1935, continues to promote and preserve this unique breed. The association strictly maintains breeding records to ensure the purity of the lineage.

Colorado Rangers are still widely used in ranch work due to their endurance and versatility. They are also increasingly popular in competitive disciplines and pleasure riding, thanks to their combination of Arabian elegance and North American sturdiness.

The Colorado Ranger horse breed is a testament to the rich and diverse equestrian history of the United States. Their captivating past, distinctive characteristics, and friendly disposition make them a beloved breed among horse enthusiasts. Whether they’re herding cattle on a ranch or prancing in a show ring, the Colorado Ranger continues to captivate and impress with its unique blend of beauty, versatility, and nobility.

This article was last updated on: June 6, 2024