Hackney Horse Facts And Information – Breed Profile

An equine breed, the Hackney Horse has two branches – the horse and the pony. The Hackney breed originated in Great Britain at the beginning of the 1700s. In recent times, the breeding of this horse is directed to produce horses, which are perfect for carriage driving.  

Hackney Horse

These horses are considered to be elegant carriage horses and are suitable for riding and driving. These horses are also known to have good stamina. These horses have the capability to trot at high speed for long time periods.


It was in 1822 when the first Hackney was transported to the United States from Great Britain. The American Hackney Horse Society was set up in 1891. This breed was developed in Norfolk, England in the 14th century. It was an era when England’s ruler needed powerful, as well as, attractive horses that had excellent trots as well. The need was for riding horses for general purposes.

Roads were not in good condition during those times. These ware mainly riding horses. These trotting horses were also suitable as war horses. King Henry VIII needed his affluent subjects to keep a particular number of such trotting horses for the purpose of breeding.

An Arabian stallion and a Norfolk Trotter were cross-bred to lay down the foundation of today’s contemporary Hackney Horse. Cross-breeding first took place in 1729. The resulting horse was then called Norfolk Roadster. The horse was heavily built and used by farmers as a workhorse. It used to be a horse with good stamina and fast speed.

A celebrated Hackney mare called Phenomenon managed to trot 17 miles in just 53 minutes. The original bet was to cover it in 56 minutes. It was in July 1800 when the famous incident took place.

In 1883, the English Hackney Horse Society was set up for developing the breed’s integrity and preserve horse lines of Hackneys.

Hackney Pony

It was also in the late 1800s when the aim was to breed a specific type of pony by crossing ponies having good conformation and motion with Hackney Horses. Today, 95 percent of all the registered Hackney Horses in America are ponies because of that.

To be more specific, the pony breed dates back to as early as 1872. It was a year when Christopher Wilson developed it for creating a new Hackney pony as the breed of Hackney Horses was already popular. The outcome of his initiatives was a pony that had similar attributes to the Hackney horse such as speed and agility. However, these ponies were created in a tinier package and were suitable for kids, shows, and carriage pulling. 

Initially, these ponies were called Wilson Ponies. As these ponies were placed outside though conditions were tough, the breed exhibited traits such as ability and endurance to adjust to different conditions. The pony breed was entirely established by the 1880s and became famous for its trotting skills. These tiny horses were preferred as carriage horses in England and some of them were also exported to America. 

These ponies similar to other equine breeds had a decrease in their use and popularity when automobiles hit the world in the twentieth century. The pony breed gained more popularity as show ponies after the Second World War. The breed started enjoying even greater popularity as they were used in America for developing the American Shetland Pony. 

It is one of those pony breeds that have managed to retain its popularity even today. These ponies have been classified on the basis of their show ring performance, size, and appearance.


Hackneys are known for their unique, flashy, and high-stepping trot. They are nervous and high-strung and should be handled and trained with care. The movement of these horses is fluid but they carry their feet with uncommon hock and high knee action.

Their prancing-like mobility attributes for a stunning and eye-catching performance, which is perfect for a show ring. The unique movement gives the impression that it is floating over the ground.

A few hackneys can be spotted with docked tails. The practice began to prevent their tails from being stuck to the carriage or harness. Hackneys have expressive eyes and ears that show their alertness. They have muscular and crested necks with a clean-cut jaw and throat.

These horses have well-defined and broad chests. Their shoulders are gently sloping, long, and powerful. They have well-sprung ribs and a high set tail. These horses have broad and strong legs, long forearms, upright hooves, and clean joints.

Not only is the Hackney Pony beautiful but it also sports a pleasing personality. They exhibit characteristics such as smartness, friendliness, and calmness. They are, however, also spirited and energetic and so caution should be applied when they are around your little ones until you are acquainted with their personality.

Apart from these traits, these ponies are fond of getting attention from their owners and caretakers. As such, they love being groomed regularly. Additionally, the breed is famous for being alert and courageous. These ponies enjoy being active and have excellent stamina. These are the reasons why they are such good fun pets and show ponies. 

It is obvious that Hackney Ponies are not a sensible option for all those people who do not have time to give attention to the horses. The animal’s knee rises up and the movement is referred to as the park trot. Its movement is another defining trait for sure. 

The Hackney Horse, as well as, the Hackney Pony are renowned for their high actions in the front and back legs. Both of them have a snappy motion and a proud appearance. They exhibit disciplined carriage of their head and tail. 

Hackney Ponies are smaller in size as compared to the horses. They have a fine trim head featuring trim feet and small ears, as well as, a balanced body. Their heads and tails are well arched and they have a short back. 

On the other hand, the Hackney Horses are relatively bulkier and taller. The horse is sturdy and heavily muscled. It boasts a delicate muzzle and well-shaped ears. They have moderately dark and dense tails and muscular and crested necks. The breed has long and powerful shoulders and is famous for its showiness and style. 


A majority of Hackneys prefer a diet comprising grass or hay, which is the traditional diet. They should be also given a ration balance or feed concentrate to cover up nutritional deficiencies if any.

If the hackney has significant work or a tight competition schedule, it needs dietary adjustments to maintain weight. The diet should also supply the necessary energy required in the show rings.

Breeding And Uses

This driving horse was introduced in the 18th century when the Norfolk trotter was cross-bred with Thoroughbreds. Thus, large-sized trotting horses originated in Norfolk and its surrounding areas.

Also, after the Welsh Pony was crossed with the Hackney Horse, the Hackney Pony was formed. Although these horses were smaller in size, they retained several traits of the Hackneys.

Today, the Hackneys are being regarded as an endangered breed. Additionally, breeding programs are difficult to find and are limited.

There has been a surge in popularity and demand for carriage driving. So, the demand for these horses has gone up these days. There is a possibility of the creation of more breeding programs. People are hopeful that these horses will be more in numbers in the days to come.


On average, the Hackneys stand between 14.2 hands and 15.2 hands. That is equivalent to 147-157 cm or 58-62 inches.

They weigh between 1,000 pounds and 1,200 pounds. Meanwhile, stallions are typically more muscular and larger than mares, as well as horses, gelded quite early in their lives.

On the other hand, Hackney Ponies have a shorter height that is in the range of 11.2 hands to 14.1 hands. It is equivalent to 117-145 cm or 46-57 inches. These ponies and the horses are registered in a single studbook in the United States of America, as well as, in Great Britain.

What Breeds Make Up The Hackney Horse? 

The Hackney breed was produced by crossing Arabian horses with Thoroughbred horses. The Norfolk Trotter was then crossed with these horses. Norfolk Trotters happen to be an equine breed, which is usually found in England.

The outcome of this second-level of crossing was the Hackney Horse that was a refined and light horse. The high stepping horse has style and spirit in abundance and also exhibits a dynamic trot.


These horses are mostly found in dark colors. They can be of any solid color such as black, chestnut, brown, and bay. Hackneys typically feature white markings because of the sabino genetics’ influence.

On the other hand, the Hackney Ponies have a silky and fine coat. The coat could be bay, chestnut, or black in color. Most of these ponies usually have a bay-colored coat. Meanwhile, Hackney Ponies with chestnut-colored coats are extremely rare. Some ponies might be also spotted with white markings on their legs, head, and body.

What Do They Look Like?

This breed of horse is heavily muscled. They have arched necks, deep bodies, and wide chests. Hackneys, as also mentioned previously have well-shaped heads. They are strong, agile, slim, and compact horses. Their noses are slightly convexed at times.

The Hackney Pony is elegant and absolutely adorable. They have tiny ears, fine but a small muzzle. Their big, bright eyes are always bold and alert. These ponies have a convex and small head. Their necks are long and well-formed.

Ponies also have a light frame and a slim and compact body. Their legs are strong and the feet appear hard. You will also observe that the pony also holds its head high. Its chest has great depth and its shoulders are quite powerful. They carry their tails high.

What Are They Used For?

The Hackney Horse is an elegant carriage horse breed. However, today, a modern hackney is most used in a show ring. It is a perfect horse breed for all those horse owners who want to own a great show horse. There was a time when several Hackneys were brought to the United States of America.

These horses were then most commonly used for developing other breeding, and harness racing. The breed has left a big impression on the Standardbred. Hackney horses were also sent to many European countries. They were then used for improving different breeds such as Gelderland, Dutch Warmblood, and Holsteiner.

Hackneys are gentle and mild and they can be also eager to please and loyal. However, these horses are also renowned for also being tenacious. Horse owners and caretakers can train them to perform different types of tasks. These horses love being petted and close to their handlers.

Where Do They Live?

Apart from Great Britain, Hackney Horses are found in many other countries including the Netherlands, the United States of America, and Australia among others.

How Long Do They Live?

Hackney Horses have a lifespan between 20 and 35 years on average.

How Fast Are They?

These horses can be pretty fast because of which they are often crossed with sport horses.

The aim is to produce skillful show jumpers, dressage mounts, and eventers. However, purebred Hackney Horses are also suitable for these disciplines. You will be pleased to know that it is because of their agility and speed that they are in demand for various sports. These include competitive trail riding and hunting.

How Much Do They Cost?

The price of Hackneys can be in the range of 800 USD and 5,000 USD. The actual price will depend on the number of factors including age, health condition, and track record.

Are They Good For Beginners?

Hackneys happen to be an extremely intelligent horse breed, which can be high-strung and nervous as well. As such, horse owners should handle these horses with great caution. They should be only looked after by people who have experience in looking after equine companions.

Conclusion / Summary 

Hackney horses are a high-stepping horse breed. They are also known for their easy trainable nature and flashy knee action. It is hardly surprising that this horse breed is an excellent driving horse.

However, the sad part is that it is an endangered breed. There are less than two hundred Hackney Horses in America today. The world has approximately 3,000 Hackneys making them an extremely rare breed.

There’s a whole world of horse breeds out there to explore! Discover and find out more information by checking out our horse breed guides.