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The fastest horse in the world, bred for speed and the racecourse. Not only
one of the best-known breeds, it is also one of the most beautiful breeds in
the world. The size varies from as small as 14.2 h.h. up to over 17 h.h.,
though the average is between 16 - 16.2 h.h.. All solid colours are
permissible the most common being bay, chestnut and brown. Other colours are
grey, black and roan. White markings may be present.
The best specimens have excellent conformation with a refined, intelligent
head; elegant neck; well sloped shoulders; short strong body with plenty of
depth through the girth, affording the horse with plenty of heart and lung
room; strong muscular hindquarters with a well set tail; clean hard legs
with well let down hocks and a minimum of 8inches of good flat bone below
There is a certain amount of controversy concerning the origins of the
thoroughbred. The breed's forebears will never be known as horses were often
named after their owners, so the names changed with new owners making it
impossible to establish the ancestry of the early English breeds.
Lady Wentworth, the great scholar and champion of the Arab horse, believes
that the thoroughbred is descended from pure Arab stock crossed with English
native breeds. However, there is another train of thought that is; Arabian
and other Oriental horse blood was crossed with English native breeds.
During the sixteenth century Henry VIII founded the famous Royal Paddocks at
Hampton Court and his daughter, Elizabeth 1 founded another stud at Tutbury,
Staffordshire. Both monarchs imported good breeding stallions from Spain
and Italy, almost certainly of Oriental breeding, to improve racing stock.
Successive monarchs, James 1, Charles 1 continued the Royal interest in
racing and imported more Oriental blood. Charles 11 imported several mares
of Eastern blood and also received gifts of mares with Oriental blood from
Spain. Collectively these were known as Royal mares and were mated with
In the early seventeenth century regular race meetings were held at Chester,
Doncaster, Lincoln and Newmarket. The English native breeds used for
racing, had been bred for racing for many centuries and were called 'running
horses.' They included The Irish bred Hobby and the Galloway from the
English/ Scottish borders. Both of there ancestry is uncertain. At the time
there was widespread, indiscriminate use of the terms Arab, Barb and Turk
for Oriental horses, adding to the confusion.
It is certain, however, that during the last part of the seventeenth century
and the beginning of the eighteenth century Englishmen and their agents
bought a number of eastern stallions and crossed them with mixed breed
mares. The most famous are the founding stallions of the Thoroughbred; the
Byerely Turk, The Darley Arabian and the Godolphin Arabian.
The Byerley Turk was captured by Captain Byerley at Buda in 1680. He then
went on to ride the stallion at the Battle of Boyne and afterwards sent it
back to England to stand at stud. Tartar, a great grandson of the Byerley
Turk, sired Herod, one of the most important sires in Thoroughbred history.
The Darley Arabian was foaled in 1700. He was acquired by Thomas Darley who
sent him from the port of Aleppo in Syria, to England. He was the founding
stallion for the Eclipse line of racehorses. Eclipse, one of the greatest
racehorses in history, was the son of Markse the great grandson of the
Darley Arabian. Approximately 90% of horses racing in Britain today are
descendents from this line.
The Godolphin Arabian was foaled in 1724 in the Yemen. He was exported to
Tunis via Syria. The Bey of Tunis gave him to the King of France who
eventually sold him to Edward Coke from Derbyshire in England. Lord
Godolphin subsequently acquired the stallion and used him for the founding
stallion of the Matchem line; Matchem was one of his sons.
So we learn that the four principle tail male lines of today's English
Thoroughbred; the Herod, Eclipse, Matchem and Matchams son Highflyer, are
all direct descendants of the Byerely Turk, The Darley Arabian and the