What is a Thoroughbred Horse? [thoroughbred definition]
Thoroughbred horses are one of the fastest breeds of horses in the world. They are the most popular breed of racing horses. Thoroughbreds originated in the late 1700s and are one of the most common breeds today. They are one of the most popular horses in the world.
Horses are one of the most beloved animals in the world. They are known for their intelligence as well as their striking beauty. Horses have a long history with humans and have enhanced the lives of people around the world.
Thoroughbred refers to a breed of horse. According to the American Museum of Natural History, there are over two hundred living horse breeds.
Breeds of horses are horses that have common characteristics. Thoroughbred horses have similar characteristics, and their ancestry can be traced back to the same three horses.
History of the Thoroughbred Horse
Thoroughbred history is extremely important to the entire breed. The Thoroughbred breed was developed through crossbreeding high quality and important horses.
Thoroughbreds can be traced back to three specific horses, Darley Arabian, Godolphin Arabian, and Byerly Turk. These three horses were brought to England in the 17th century to breed to native horses. The genetic origin of Thoroughbred horses is mostly Arabian.
The Arabian horses were bred with the native horses in England which produced horses that could maintain speed and endure long distances while carrying weight. This began a whole new era and standard for horse racing.
As the popularity of the sport of horse racing grew, the desire for a horse with proven genetics did too. In a sense, Thoroughbred horses are much like royalty. Their historic genetic lineage became a characteristic people sought after.
The pedigrees of Thoroughbreds were compiled and confirmed by James Weatherby in the late 1700s. In 1791 Weatherby published a book with the information he gathered. This book, the General Stud Book, was the groundwork for managing and tracking Thoroughbreds.
As the number of Thoroughbreds grew, a new system needed to be developed to keep track of the growing population. Keeping track of the pedigrees of the horses was extremely important since ancestry is one of the primary characteristics of a Thoroughbred horse.
From paper and books, the system they had maintained grew with the era of technology. Today they use an advanced computer system to keep track and manage the population of Thoroughbreds that has grown into the thousands.
To register a horse as a Thoroughbred with The Jockey Club today, you must provide a DNA sample from your horse so the horse’s DNA can be examined and confirm the lineage. The horse’s unique information then is entered into the computer registration system.
The definition of pedigree is “the record of descent of an animal, showing it to be purebred.”
Thoroughbred pedigree records are extremely important because it is one of the primary characteristics that set them apart from other breeds.
Thoroughbred horses are descendants of the three horses; Darley Arabian, Godolphin Arabian, and Byerly Turk.
These three were not Thoroughbreds, they were bred with 43 mares in England and produced the first Thoroughbreds.
Darley Arabian, Godolphin Arabian, and Byerly Turk are considered the foundation stallions because they began the lineage of Thoroughbreds.
Byerly Turk was the first of the three taken to England. This horse was believed to an Arabian horse. Byerly Turk was captured from the Turks by a Captain during the Siege of Buda.
Byerly Turk was not bred very many times but was nonetheless extremely important to the development of the Thoroughbred breed.
Darley Arabian was an Arabian horse purchased in Syria by Thomas Darley. He was the second horse to be imported to England.
Godolphin Arabian, the third horse to be taken to England, was a gift to the king of France. The horse was then purchased by a man who took him to England.
Soon after being taken to England, the horse was acquired by English politician Francis Godolphin.
The foundation mares were often referred to as the Royal Mares. These mares were owned by James I and Charles I. The 43 mares were bred to the three Foundation Stallions which then led to the beginning of the Thoroughbred breed.
Thoroughbred Horse Colors
There is not a specific set of colors a Thoroughbred must be in order to be considered a Thoroughbred. However, there are a set of colors that are recognized by The Jockey Club in order to register a Thoroughbred.
The Thoroughbred Horse Colors recognized by The Jockey Club are
- Dark Brown
- Gray/Roan (combined colors)
For many years, white was not recognized by The Jockey Club but in the 1970s, after much debate, a white Thoroughbred was registered.
Thoroughbred horses are not bound to specific heights or weights. Their ancestry is the most important determination in their breed status. However, they do have average heights and weights.
A horse’s height is measured in what is called “hands”. And maybe you can guess this but the standard measurement for a “hand” is four inches.
The Jockey Club created a PDF that lists Thoroughbred size. The average height for a Thoroughbred horse is 16.1 hands or 64.4 inches. The average weight for a Thoroughbred horse is about 1,000 pounds.
However, in the 1800’s when Thoroughbreds were first being bred, they were significantly smaller. If they were the same height today that they were in the 1800’s, they would actually be considered ponies.
On average, horses live between 25 and 30 years.
Thoroughbred horses often begin racing at two years of age and tend to retire around ten years of age. Several organizations take retired racing horses to help them find homes once their racing career is over. Unfortunately, many owners do not keep their racehorses once the horse retires.
Horses that do not win races or that are difficult to train may also be forced to retire early. If the horse cannot be sold, they may end up at a rescue center for retired race horses.
The oldest known Thoroughbred was Prospect Pointe. Prospect Pointe was born in 1978 and raced in 72 races and won seven of them. He retired from racing in 1985.
Prospect Pointe then transitioned into a pasture pet in 1993. As a retired racehorse he lived to be 38 years old and died in 2016.
Thoroughbred horses are considered “hot-blooded” horses because they are agile, fast, and spirited horses. They are extremely smart and can be easy to train so long as the trainer is experienced.
The physical characteristics of Thoroughbred horses contribute to their agility and speed. The long neck and long legs help propel the horse forward. Thoroughbreds are also very lean and muscular. They also have wide-set eyes similar to the Arabian horse.
It is not recommended for anyone without experience to attempt to ride or train a Thoroughbred due to their spirited nature.
Thoroughbred Horse Racing
Horse Built for Racing
Thoroughbred horses are built for racing. Their physical characteristics enable them to run faster than 40 miles per an hour.
The hot-blooded Arabian foundation stallions were bred with the best English native mares in order to produce a fast horse that could run long distances with weight. Following the creation of Thoroughbreds, horse racing became more popular than ever before.
While horse racing existed before Thoroughbreds were created, the creation of the Thoroughbred greatly impacted horse racing due to the speed and distance the new breed brought to the track.
When Thoroughbreds finally came to the United States, horse races became officially organized along with the creation of the Studbook.
Thoroughbred horses were designed for racing with their ability to run over a mile in distance at high speeds. Their long hind legs bend specifically to launch them forward while their long neck bends keeps rhythm with the forelegs.
Thoroughbred horses also tend to have larger hearts. The larger heart allows the horse to have greater stamina, an important trait in a racehorse.
Fastest Horse Breed
You might be thinking after this discussion about Thoroughbreds being bred specifically for their speed means they are also the fastest horse, but that is not necessarily the case.
Thoroughbred horses are the fastest medium distance horse. They can exceed speeds of 40 miles per hour for fairly long distances. However, there are faster horses, and there are horses who run longer distances.
When considering the fastest breeds of horses, there are four breeds that have some of the greatest speeds, the Arabian horse, the Mustang horse, the Quarter horse, and the Thoroughbred horse.
Arabian horses can reach speeds of about 40 miles per hour and they have great endurance that allows them to sprint for long distances. It makes sense that Thoroughbreds would have similar, though greater, speed considering the foundation stallions were Arabian horses.
In the wild, Mustang horses have been clocked going 54 miles per hour. However, because Mustangs are typically found in the wild and not bred and raised for racing, it is difficult to say whether or not with proper training they could take the title of the fastest horse.
How Fast Can a Horse Run
The fastest short-distance horse is the Quarter horse. At 55 miles per hour, this horse is the fastest timed horse. However, because the Quarter horse only runs short distances, many people believe the Thoroughbred is the fastest horse.
The Guinness Book of World Records has the fastest racehorse listed as Winning Brew. Winning Brew was a Thoroughbred horse who was calculated doing 43.97 miles per an hour during a 402 meter run.
So if you’re going off of record speeds for races, the Thoroughbred does take that title. However, looking at clocked speeds, there are some contenders that should be considered.
Thoroughbred vs Quarter Horse
Thoroughbred horses and Quarter horses look similar and are both considered racehorses, however there are some differences. For starters, Quarter horses are a crossbreed of Spanish horse and English horses.
It is possible that the English horses were Thoroughbreds, but Quarter horses still have some different traits simply because of their Spanish horse ancestry.
American Quarter Horse Facts
Quarter horses are slightly shorter than Thoroughbred horses and can be slightly heavier than Thoroughbred horses. Quarter horses are not as lean and have a slightly stockier build along with a shorter head.
One of the biggest differences is that Quarter horses do not run as fast in long distances. While they can run faster over shorter distances, when it comes to distances over a quarter mile, they slow down.
Why are Quarter Horses so Popular
Temperament wise, quarter horses are much calmer and great for beginners. They are friendly with people and easy to get along with.
Quarter horse are great to ride and easily adapt to different situations making them very popular for the non expert horse enthusiast. They are often used in rodeo type events performing calf roping, barrel racing, cutting and they excel at many other activities.
Quarter horses also make a great ranch horse and are wonderful for just trail riding.
Whereas Thoroughbreds are more energetic and spirited which means they can be more difficult to handle for less experienced trainers.
Thoroughbred vs. Arabian
It is well known that Thoroughbred horses are descendants of Arabian horses, and because of this, there are a lot of similarities between the Arabian horse and the Thoroughbred horse.
They are both hot-blooded horses. They both have similar temperaments and energy levels and they are both extremely intelligent. They are also both spirited horses and aim to please their handler.
The Arabian horse is shorter than the Thoroughbred horse. The average Arabian horse is between 14.1 hands and 15.1 hands. Whereas the Thoroughbred is between 15.1 and 17 hands. Though when they were first bred, thoroughbreds were rather short at a mere average of 13.3 hands.
The cutoff height for ponies is 14.2 hands, despite this fact though, Arabian horses that fall under the 14.2 hand height are not considered ponies.
The Arabian horse is known for its long-distance endurance and was one of the reasons it was chosen as the foundation horse for the Thoroughbred. The endurance made for an incredible trait for the racehorses.
The biggest difference between the Arabian horse and the Thoroughbred is size and endurance levels. There are also small differences in appearance characteristics, such as the size of the neck and head and the curve of the back.
Most Expensive Thoroughbred
The Green Monkey is known as the most expensive Thoroughbred ever.
Most Expensive Thoroughbred Stud Fee
A stud fee is what a stallion horse owner charges someone to breed their horse with that stallion. Usually, past champion racehorses bring a high stud fee after they retire from racing.
While stud fees may be private information it is reported that an Irish stallion named Galileo fetched a whooping $660,000 fee. An American horse named, Tapit is said to bring in $300,000 per stud fee and makes millions each year.
Greatest Racehorse of All Time
This is an easy question for most people. Triple Crown winner, the Great Secretariat is widely considered the greatest racehorse of all time.