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23 March 2018   
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Orlov Trotter

The Orlov Trotter takes its name from Count Alexis Orlov (1737-1809), founder of the Orlov stud near Moscow, Russia. He developed the breed around 1784 at the Khrenov stud that was founded in 1778. Firstly he imported from Greece a grey Arab stallion called Smetanka who was crossed with a Danish mare to produce a grey son called Polken in 1784. Polken produced Bars 1, the foundation sire of the Orlov Trotter.

In 1788 the stock from the Orlov stud was transferred to Khrenlov where the Orlov was further developed by the Count and his stud manager, Shishkin. Arab, Dutch and Danish and Mecklenburg harness breeds mares were used, as well as half-bred mares imported from England. The stud was in the province of Voroezh in the natural conditions of central Russia, and it used natural pastures in the flood plain of the Bityug River. The combination of stable and pastures produced a breed with good action and adaptability, which made it suitable to spread to different climatic zones of the country, from Poltava to Perm regions, from Pskov to Kurgan regions and from Kirgizia to Altai territory.

It became one of the world's best trotting breeds and by the beginning of the 19th century it was one of Russia's leading breeds. Trotting races were held in Russia as early as 1799 and as the popularity of the sport grew in the early nineteenth century the systematic training and racing of trotters improved the Orlov further and it became faster. It was not until the development of the American Standardbred that proved to be even faster and began to demonstrate its supremacy on the racetrack that the Orlov began to lose popularity. The first volume of the Orlov studbook in 1927 recorded 939 stallions and 1120 mares, while in 1954; Volume 8 listed 3228 purebred mares. Subsequently, however the number of horses in the breeding nucleus began to decline. Volumes 19 and 20 recorded 432 stallions and 652 mares in 1982.

American Standardbreds were imported into Russia and crossing the Orlov with the imported American horses developed the Russian Trotter. The Russian Trotter proved to be faster than the Orlov but imports of the Standardbred ceased with the outbreak of World War 1. They have since resumed and Standardbreds continue to be used to maintain the speed of the Russian Trotter.

The Orlov is still used as a racer in Russia, as a draught horse, as a utility horse for light and medium-heavy agricultural jobs, as a pleasure and competition horse and as the principal improver of small native horses throughout Russia. It is also well suited to four in hand driving and many are exported for this purpose. The height is between 15.2 and 16.h.h. it is predominantly grey, bay and black, chestnut is rare. The head is smallish and well proportioned; the neck is long, often swan shaped, muscular and high-set, withers medium to high; a broad chest; well sprung ribs; a long back; muscular, broad loins with low set, powerful, croup; legs properly set and the joints well developed, with a good 8 inches of bone below the knee; the limbs are often hairy. The paces are active and tremendously powerful, the average speed of adult trotters is currently 2 min 20 sec for 1600 m; the record is 2 min 1 sec.

The Orlov has an extremely strong constitution, it is very fertile and possesses longevity; the figures at the studs reveal that there are 80-85 live births per 100 mares plus there is a high survival rate of 78-83% up to one year of age. The outstanding stallion Kvadrat was used as a sire until he was 32 years old, while the mare Gondola (foaled 1933), won a prize at the Bars hippodrome equivalent to the Derby and lived until she was 27 years old having produced 17 foals. The best studs for the Orlov are Khrenov, Novotomnikov, Perm and Altai - there are now 12 sire lines and 16 mare families.

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