Looking like something out of a fairy tale, the Orlov Trotter is a Russian horse known for its fast trot and outstanding stamina. She is Russia’s most famous horse, developed by Count Alexei Orlov.
Once a prized horse, this breed has been threatened because of various wars and cultural changes. Careful breeding went into creating this beauty with an exceptional temperament and versatility for any owner.
Her excellence and ability to please go above and beyond that of many other horse breeds. She has exquisite looks and a wonderful personality.
Along with no known health problems, this Russian gem is sure to turn the head of anyone fond of horses.
The long and complicated history of these horses is fascinating. The Orlov Trotter was used primarily for harness and riding by Russian nobility in the 19th century.
Valued for their gentility and refinement, these hard workers were also used to improve other Russian breeds.
Count Orlov was given extensive lands by Catherine the Great as a token of appreciation for his help in her rise to the throne. The estate became known as the Khrenovskoy Stud Farm.
And so, the 18th century by Count Orlov became a new dawn in horse breeding.
The Birth Of A New Breed
An Arabian Stallion named Smetanka was bought in Turkey for the considerable sum of 60,000 rubles. Although the Count’s horse died the year after he was bought him, he did live to produce five offspring.
Smetanka was crossed with a Danish mare named Isabelline. Together they had a beautiful stallion named Polkan.
After being crossed with a Dutch mare in 1784, Polkan produced a grey stallion named Bar I. He was said to be the first Orlov Trotter.
At 162.5 cm high, Bar I was taller than many of the contemporary trotters. Polkan passed along the fast trotting gait that would later distinguish this new breed.
Bars I would be crossed with many mares over the next seventeen years. He would go on to sire over ten stallions that would carry the characteristics that were relevant to the breed.
With the careful selection of a thorough process, the Orlov Trotter breed was developed.
Because of his professional breeding, the Count was given credit for creating a substantial amount of animal breeds, including the Russian Wolfhound. The Count was also very defensive of his stock and sold only geldings.
Tsar Alexander I even asked the Count if he could buy several stallions, but he agreed to only geldings.
For two decades after Orlov’s death, this rule was maintained.
A Generation Passed Down
The Khrenovskoy Stud Farm was passed down to Count Orlov’s daughter in 1809. Unfortunately, she didn’t have the same pride her father had in the art of horse breeding, and the farm soon faltered.
In 1845, the farm passed to the Russian Crown. However, this only seemed to complicate things further. It wasn’t until decades later that the Khrenovsky Stud Farm would be able to regain its fame. And that it did.
Orlov Trotters were now the best racing horses in Russia and the rest of the world after a trotting society was born in Moscow. Trotter Beduin took everyone by surprise at the World’s Fair in Paris when he accomplished 3500 feet in a little over a minute and a half!
In the United States, Standardbreds were improving so much that they could outrace Russia’s Orlov Trotters.
Several stud farms had turned to raise horses that were smaller than the Orlov Trotter. And because Standardbreds were faster than the trotters, the breeds were crossed.
The result being a Russian Trotter but one that lacked several features of the Orlov Trotter. They were not only smaller but not as capable of working to the capacity of the trotter.
Preservation Of The Breed
The Russian government wanted to prevent the Orlov Trotter traits from fading away through breeding, and so they separated the races for both the Trotters and the Standardbreds. Now, Russian stud farms were able to perfect the racing standards of the Orlov Trotter.
In 1904, stallion Krepysh was born and several races, covering 1 mile in 2 minutes. He was now the speediest trotter in Russia’s pre-revolution. Sadly, along with most of his offspring, Krepysh died in the Russian Civil War.
The war proved to be a disaster for Russia’s horse breeding industry. Several horses perished in battle and were used for food. The collapsing economy made horse breeding an expensive venture that most could not afford.
Breeding of the trotters was able to recover somewhat after 1920, when crossbreeding was deemed illegal. At this time, the horses were used for transport and for farming transportation because of their incredible strength and working abilities.
And by 1930, race breeding was restored, and this amazing breed reached its height soon after.
During the second world war, the percentage of the breed began to decrease once again. The country desperately needed these horses for agricultural production. And because of their ability and productivity, they were used to improve on the local horses.
But in 1953, Soviet authorities agreed that raising horses was not crucial to the economy, resulting in the reduction of the stud farms.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, modern Orlov Trotters had an unclear future. Wealthy Russians who took pleasure in harness racing seemed to favor the American and Russian Trotters.
In 1997, the world saw the establishment of the Committee for the Protection of the Orlov Trotter. And because of this, stud farms in Russia and Ukraine are now producing purebred Trotters.
Characteristics, Size, And Color
These beautiful creatures are generally taller and more brawny than Standardbreds, between 15.2 and 17 hands high. These muscular horses weigh about 990 pounds and possess a large head with exceptional, friendly eyes.
An elegant, arched neck is set high, with a broad croup and prominent withers. Her legs are strong, with solid joints and tendons.
Because the Orlov had origins of Arabian stallions, most are grey in color once mature, but some are born much darker.
Several have turned entirely white with maturity, as white and grey account for almost half of the breed’s colors. Some will stay black bay, and a small few remain chestnut.
The Russian gentle giant is large and powerful but don’t let her size fool you. They are delightful. They are speedy and surefooted and willing to work for you.
They are easily trained to perform several different jobs and will do so happily.
The calm temperament of these horses ensures that they will be a lovely companion, whether you are seeking a horse for work, sport, or pleasure.
Orlov Trotters can survive on pasture as long as it’s quality. If not, they will need supplemental grain or hay introduced into their diets. They are incredibly hardy and will be happy in either stable or pasture surroundings.
Apparently, there aren’t many! The history of breeding Orlov Trotter proves to be one of health.
Balagur, a police horse in Russia, was the picture of health. Even after retiring at the age of 19, he has been the fountain of youth.
Germany’s national dressage coach, the daughter of Balagur’s trainer, states that the secret to his youth is that he was happy and simply loved doing his job.
The trotter appears to be blessed with good genes and good health. With great care and an excellent diet, this breed is the epitome of ideal health.
If there was one thing to be mentioned, it is that older grey horses can develop melanoma. This type of cancerous tumor may have humans rushing to the doctor, but it’s a bit different when it comes to horses.
Melanomas on horses typically grow very slowly, if at all, and rarely metastasize. This certainly doesn’t mean that any change in your horse’s skin should not be brought to your veterinarian’s attention.
What Are Their Uses Today?
We don’t know too much, as the future of the breed is solely in the hands of Russian stud farmers. However, we know that she is still a versatile breed, suitable for harness work, a carriage horse, and so much more.
We can be thankful that there are over 3,000 horses living.
Famous Orlov Trotters
The extensive history of breeding has produced several famous horses, which are worthy of mention!
- Smetanka, an Arabian stallion, was bred and sired over five horses. Today, all Orlov Trotters can trace their lineage back to him. That certainly deserves recognition.
- In the early 1900s, the Orlov Trotter, Krepysh, set a record for the 1600-meter race, earning himself the title of the horse of the century for his outstanding speed.
- Pion, another impressive trotter, set the record for 3200 meters
- A gray Orlov Trotter named Ippik still holds the record today for the 2400 meter race.
This breed of Russian beauties stands out above the rest for their ability to please man with not only their good looks but their strength.
The Orlov Trotter, though rare today in America, is a one that flourishes in Russia. She is the epitome of the excellent standard of breeding and a valid symbol of a country that has been through so much over the past 100 years.
Her history has proved the test of time for sure, and Count Orlov would be proud of where she is today.
For more information on this breed, check out https://www.infohorse.com/orlovtrotter.asp.