Horse Isle 3: Big Book of Breeds
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Big Book of Breeds
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[ INDEX ] Equine Type: Horse Breed: Thoroughbred (TB)   [ PREV ] [ NEXT ]
The English Thoroughbred's exact antecedents are lost to time, exaggeration and partisan marketing, but we do know that Arabian, Turkmen, Spanish, Italian and Irish blood were all mixed in at one time or another. The result is the fastest horse in the world for distances above a quarter-mile, and one of the most elegant and beautiful.

Because pure breeding is the only qualification to making a horse a Thoroughbred, and speed its most valuable trait, the English Thoroughbred does not have a set or "typical" conformation in the way that other breeds do, and there are, in fact, types within the breed. The flat-racing Thoroughbred (represented here), Is generally long and lean, with flat muscling. The head is smallish, and the eyes very forward-facing. Unlike Oriental hotbloods, the English Thoroughbred is double-coated (that is, it has an undercoat as well as a layer of the guard hairs which make up the typical hotblood's only coat layer).

The English Thoroughbred traces back to four stallions: The Darley Arabian (who likely was an Arabian), the Byerley Turk (there is debate here: some say he was a Turkmen, from the sub-set which would later be named "Akhal-Teke" by the Soviets; some say he was an Irish horse with a good publicity man), the Godolphin Arabian (some say he was a Barb, but genetic studies and historical descriptions suggest otherwise), and, to a much lesser extent, Curwen's Bay Barb. All grey Thoroughbreds trace to the Brunlow Turk. In addition, a number of extremely influential mares--often, sadly, left unnamed--left indelible marks on the breed.

As with many breeds, there is some confusion on the matter of naming colors. For many, many years, all palomino Thoroughbreds were registered as "chestnut," and buckskins as "bay." The Jockey Club (the American body which oversees the stud book) has recently added "palomino" as a category to cover dilutions. White Thoroughbreds began appearing in the mid-20th century, and horses who may be either white-spotted or polygenic sabino in the latter half of the 20th century. The Jockey Club uses "roan" to describe what elsewhere would be called a "rose grey," although true roans have appeared in Australia, all descendants of Catch A Bird, a white-brindle stallion. Frame Overo and Splashed White 1 have also appeared recently, as has White-Spotted 5 and 14.

The English Thoroughbred is by far the fastest of all horses for distances above a quarter-mile, and is the first horse thought of when looking for outside blood to "improve" a breed. So valuable is this blood that many sport horse breeds allow registration of Thoroughbreds in their own studbooks.

In temperament, racing-type Thoroughbreds are often--but not always--flighty and tightly wound, ready for anything at a moment's notice. They are intelligent, and often stubborn to a fault. They excel at equestrian sports of all kinds from eventing to dressage, and the retired racer Touch of Class won Gold in stadium jumping at the 1984 Olympics.

While the average size of a racing-type Thoroughbred is 16hh, good horses can be found in all sizes. For example, while the amazing Secretariat stood 16.3hh, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, and one of the most successful sires of all time, Northern Dancer, stood only 15.1hh. Speed is what matters, and speed comes in all sizes.

Thoroughbreds come in the colors of bay, brown, black, chestnut, grey, and cream-diluted. In rare cases they can be roan or dominant white as well. Their coat is usually solid, but many Thoroughbreds have sabino coat, though this sabino pattern is caused by various white-spotted genes and not by Sabino 1. Additional patterns that exist in this breed are frame-overo, splashed-white, and manchado. Tobiano doesn't exist in this breed. Thoroughbreds stand between 15.1hh and 17.2hh.


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