Thoroughbred Breed Description
|General Characteristics||Thoroughbreds are handsome, lively horses with a good deal of stamina and courage. They exhibit great freedom of movement and an easy, ground-covering stride at the gallop.|
|Conformation||The best Thoroughbreds are characterized by a refined, intelligent head, an elegant neck, well-sloped shoulders, a short strong body with great depth through the girth, strong muscular quarters will a well-set tail, well-let-down hocks, and clean, hard legs with a minimum of 8 inches (20 cm) of bone below the knee.|
|Colour||Thoroughbreds are most commonly bay, chestnut or brown. Grey, black and roan are rarer. White markings are allowed.|
|Height||Thoroughbreds may be as small as 14.2 hands high or over 17 hands high. The average is around 16 hands high.|
|Registration||A Thoroughbred is a horse whose parents are both listed in the General Stud Book in Britain (or in the equivalent official Thoroughbred stud books in other countries) and who thereby qualifies for registration in the same stud book.|
Thoroughbred Breed History
The Thoroughbred is one of the most successful breeds ever, both in terms of the sporting world, and in adding its influence to the improvement and development of other breeds of horses.
Horse racing has existed as a sport probably for as long as horses have been domesticated. Britain has a long history of racing. The Romans conducted organized races in what is now Yorkshire in the 3rd century, B.C. No doubt racing continued in Britain unabated for the next few centuries, but it was under the reign of King Henry VII that it became a serious enterprise. Henry founded the Royal Paddocks at Hampton, where racing stock was produced. He imported the best horses available in Spain and Italy, most of whom were of Arabian or Barb breeding. These imported stallions were interbred with the native horses kept at the royal studs. Queen Elizabeth I continued the policy of interbreeding horses from Spain and Italy with not only local native mares, but also with the Hobby from Ireland, and the Galloway from Scotland. The Hobby and the Galloway were the famed racing breeds of the day. James I, the successor to Elizabeth I, was responsible for developing Newmarket as a centre for horse racing. When Charles I came to the throne, he too spent a lot of time at Newmarket, and maintained the royal studs.
It is difficult to determine with any certainty the breeding that went into the Thoroughbred. Horses of the time were named after their owners, and when they changed hands, they changed names. Therefore, one horse may appear in historical references under two or more names.
Another difficulty in figuring out the breeding is the dispersal of the royal studs during the Commonwealth, when many horses were requisitioned by the state. All trace was lost of many horses of known ancestry.
What is certain is that during the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th, many stallions were brought into England and crossed with English mares to start a dynasty of incredible racehorses. The three most famous stallions were the Darley Arabian, the Godolphin Arabian, and the Byerley Turk. Every Thoroughbred today can be traced back through the male line to one of those three.
The Byerley Turk was captured by Captain Byerley in the 1680s, and was ridden by him at the Battle of the Boyne. He was then sent to England to stand at stud. The Darley Arabian, foaled in 1700, was purchased by Thomas Darley and sent to England from Syria. The Godolphin Arabian was foaled in the Yemen in 1724, and given to the King of France, who sold him to Edward Coke of Derbyshire, who sold him to Lord Godolphin.
The Thoroughbred continued to evolve, as did the sport. Short and long distance races were not as popular as middle distance races, so the emphasis in breeding was placed on creating a top-class, middle distance runner. This holds true for the most part today, although in North America, very fast youngsters running shorter distances (1 mile – 1 mile 440 yards) are the trend.
The first volume of the General Stud Book appeared in 1808. Every Thoroughbred of today has both of its parents entered into the General Stud Book of Britain, or in the equivalent official stud books in other countries, and therefore qualifies for registration in the same stud book.
The Thoroughbred’s influence has spread far beyond the English racecourses for which it was bred. The breed has been exported to almost every corner of the globe. And many of the warmblood breeds, such as the German Trakehner and French Selle Francais, have been developed by interbreeding Thoroughbred stallions with native mares.
Racing is by no means the only sport at which the Thoroughbred excels. The breed can boast success in the roles of hunter, eventer, and jumper.