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20 February 2019   
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English Thoroughbred

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 the knee.

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 Arabs.

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 Godolphin Arabian.

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