The US Postal Service’s latest set of “forever” stamps features two rare equine breeds — the Cream Draft Horse and the Mammoth Jackstock.
They are among 10 heritage breeds of livestock, which also include the Narragansett turkey, the Cayuga duck, the San Clemente Island goat, the Mulefoot hog, the Cotton Patch goose, the Barbados Blackbelly sheep, the Milking Devon cow, and the Wyandotte chicken.
The stamp series pays tribute to heritage breeds, pre-industrial farm animals that are enjoying renewed attention for their versatility, adaptability, and unique genetic traits.
The two equine breeds are rated as critical by The Livestock Conservancy, with fewer than 200 annual registrations in the United States and an estimated global population of fewer than 500.
The American Cream Draft originated in Iowa in the early 1900s and has always been rare. According to The Livestock Conservancy, the breed began with a horse named Old Granny, a mare auctioned at a farm sale in Story County, Iowa, in 1911. Old Granny was a cream-coloured draft mare of unknown ancestry, born sometime between 1890 and 1905, who consistently produced cream offspring. A few Iowa breeders became interested in the cream bloodline, especially after the birth of the stallion Silver Lace in 1932, a great-great-grandson of Old Granny. Silver Lace was an impressive figure, standing 16 hands high and weighing 2200 pounds.
The breed is recognized by its cream colour, known as “gold champagne”, produced by the action of the champagne gene upon a chestnut base colour, and by its amber eyes, also characteristic of the gene; the only other colour found in the breed is chestnut.
But just as the breed was becoming established in the mid-20th century, the market for draft horses collapsed. “Mechanization of agriculture meant that the majority of workhorses went to slaughter. The breeding of draft animals nearly ceased. Fortunately, a few people held onto their Creams and thus maintained a slender genetic base, which was the foundation for the breed’s survival.
Several donkey breeds combined in the early days of the US to produce the large American Mammoth Jackstock. One of George Washington’s interests was the development of an American ass breed that could be used to produce strong work mules. The Livestock Conservancy says interest increased quickly, and Washington was offering his jacks for stud service by 1788.
Mammoth Jacks are sturdy and tall, with massive legs and large, well-made heads. Males must stand at least 14hh, and females at least 13.2hh. The ears are especially long, often measuring 33″ from tip to tip. According to the Guinness Book of Records, the world’s tallest Mammoth Jack is nine-year-old Romulus, who is 17hh (172.72cm).
Zack Bryant designed the stamps, and Greg Breeding served as art director. The “forever” stamps will always be equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce price.
“Since the worldwide adoption of industrial farming, a few breeds of livestock have been standardized for maximum productivity. As a result, many other breeds with different traits are now critically endangered, and several are extinct,” the USPS said.
“These pre-industrial breeds, known as heritage breeds, possess a priceless genetic diversity that can help farmers and society at large to adapt to variable conditions, ranging from new consumer tastes to a landscape altered by a changing climate.
“Heritage breeds are especially important for small-scale, sustainable farms, which the public can support by purchasing their products, including milk, cheese, eggs, fibres, and meat. Public interest in the products of heritage livestock encourages farmers to continue to raise these breeds to meet demand, which in turn helps ensure their conservation.”