The Thoroughbred was originally developed as a racehorse in England in the 17th century. Oriental stallions, the most influential being Darley Arabians, Godolphin Barbs, and Byerly Turks, were bred with native English mares. One of the most important early Thoroughbred stallions was Eclipse, from the Darley Arabian line. As an undefeated early racehorse, he had a huge influence on the Thoroughbreds of today. In fact, about 90% of Thoroughbreds can trace their line back to Eclipse and the Darley Arabian.
By the 18th century, horse racing had become very popular, and was considered the "sport of kings" because it was watched mostly by royalty. Thoroughbreds were selectively bred both as flat racers and steeplechasers in the England. Originally, races were much longer than they are today---about four miles---but this later changed to the shorter, mile long races that are now seen. With this change came an increased need for faster, younger horses rather than those better suited for longer distances.
|Thoroughbreds, particularly the ex-racers, are commonly used in eventing.|
The first Thoroughbred arrived in America in 1730, and before long horse racing became popular in the United States as well. Today, Kentucky is the hub of Thoroughbred breeding, though California and New York breed a lot of them as well.
Breed Description and Uses
Thoroughbreds are a tall breed, averaging around 16 hands high or taller, with long legs that give them ground-covering strides. They have sloping shoulders and prominent withers. Their neck is long and thin and their face has a straight profile. All in all, centuries of selective breeding has made the Thoroughbred into a runner. Chestnut, black, grey, and various shades of bay are the colors Thoroughbreds come in.
Other than racing, Thoroughbreds are used for show jumping, dressage, and eventing, the latter of which is common in OTTBs.