BY Sarah Banks
The breed of Thoroughbreds originated in England with three stallions in the late 1600’s and early 1700’s. These three stallions, known as the foundation sires, were of Oriental origin, such as Arabians, Turks and Barbs. They were mated with English mares, which produced the Thoroughbred breed. Every Thoroughbred’s bloodlines go back to one of these three stallions in the 18th century.
Oriental horses were famous for being great racers and good in war for thousands of years. The English mares that were bred with the original three stallions also had a bit of Arabian blood in them, which could be from when Europeans captured many Middle Eastern horses in the Crusades back in the 11th century.
The first foundation sire was known as Byerly Turk and came to England in 1688. This stallion was a Turk and was taken during a battle in Hungary. The Captain who brought him back thought Byerly Turk had great courage and was a great horse.
The second foundation sire was called Darley Barb, or Darley Arabian. He came to England in 1704 as a four-year-old. Thomas Darley, who was a diplomat located in Syria, bought the stallion from a Bedouin sheik. Supposedly the sheik did not give the Barb horse to Thomas Darley, who then stole the stallion and brought him to England.
The third foundation sire was named the Godolphin Arabian and came from Yemen in. This stallion was part of a group of Arabians that was given to the French King, who just let the horses go. The horse was put to work as a cart horse for a time in Paris, and went through several owners, until the Second Earl of Godolphin purchased him around the year 1733.
These Oriental horses gave Thoroughbreds their speed and agility, while the English mares gave Thoroughbreds more muscle and power, making this breed what it is today. They are particularly well-built for racing due to their long necks that move in time with their front legs, pushing them forward faster, and due to their hind legs that can bend, push off, and straighten out into almost a straight line, giving them a very large stride. Thoroughbreds average at 16 hands high and weigh around 1,000 pounds, living for about 25 years.
Today, all Thoroughbreds located in the Northern Hemisphere officially have their birthday on January 1, no matter when they were actually born. Since racing is dominated by Thoroughbreds, officials made this rule to make it easier for records.
Because of this, breeders try to ensure that their foals will be born as close to the beginning of the year as possible. Foals that are born at the end of the year have a disadvantage in racing as they will have to be in the same classes as horses born in the beginning of a year, meaning they have that much less training time and experience under their belt.