Ranch Horses

Equine Alphabet Soup

An A to Z list of horse breeds

An A to Z list of horse breeds from the April 1963 issue of Western Horseman.

How many breeds of horses and ponies can you name? If you have average interest in horses you can name the Quarter Horse, Arabian, Thoroughbred, Appaloosa, Palomino, Standardbred, American Saddle Horse, Tennessee Walker, and Morgan, and you can probably name several ponies, such as Shetland, Welsh, Icelandic, and Pony of the Americas. Are you having a hard time thinking up any more?

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z



Are you sure you haven’t heard of the Akhal-Teke? It is one of the most ancient and one of the most beautiful breeds in existence. The breed is unique in that since time immemorial it has been tethered and hand fed on Lucerne and barley. They are specialized saddle horses bred to exist under conditions of great heat and privation.

Their conformation is very elegant with beautiful Persian head, a noble expressive eye, long fine neck, and the best feet and legs. The most desired color is a pale honey-gold with black points. Should you want to see one, get out the globe and find Turkmen, U.S.S.R., and try to figure out how to get there.


The Albino you have seen in circuses. He is believed to be of Arabian-Morgan stock. The Anglo-Norman you may not have seen. He was brought to England by William the Conqueror and was a wonderful war horse. He has been carelessly crossed and has lost many of his fine characteristics.


The Anglo-Arab is composed of the two purest breeds, the Arabian and the Thoroughbred, and possesses no alien blood. It has been a very successful breed in competition with most other breeds of light horses. Because of the added stamina and intelligence derived through the Arabian, the Anglo-Arab has proved to be a good hunter and very beautiful hack, having all the necessary gaiety and airiness of movement and great refinement. It is an excellent dressage horse. The true Anglo-Arab is described as being a combination of the Thoroughbred and the Arabian without displaying to a marked degree the outstanding characteristics of either. It should be the Thoroughbred at its best with more of the classic Arabian head, the brilliant tail carriage, and the added intelligence which is expected of and found almost invariably in the Arabian.


How about the Ardennes, which forms 60% of the horse populations of Sweden, and the Ass, the Australian or Waler, the Austrian, which often shows Appaloosa type markings, the Balearic, the Barb, and the Basuto from Africa of great endurance and one of the most fearless and surefooted ponies in the world. We’re not half through the B’s. Now come the Batak or Deli, the Bederbeck and the Beetewk, and even the Boulonnais and the Breton and the Burmese or Shan.

C – F

The Cleveland Bay and the Blydesdale, the Cob and the Connemara you probably know but how about the Criollo, Dales, Danish, Dartmoor, the Don, a Russian Steppe horse descended from the Arabian and looked upon as the saddlehorse of perfection, Dutch Draft, the Exmoor, the Fell, the Fjord, and the Friesian? Did you think the latter was a cow? The Friesian is entirely indigenous to the Netherlands. It is a very hairy horse with a mane sometimes reaching to the ground.

G & H

Are you ready for the G’s and H’s? There’s the Gelderland, Gidran and his close relative, the Nonius, which are Hungarian breeds, the Gronengen and the Gudbrandsdal, the Hack, the Hackney Horse derived from the Darley Areabian, the Hackney Pony, the Hafflinger, the Hanoveraner, Highlands, Holstein, and the Hungarian Shagya.

I & J

Russia has the Iomud, Italy the Italian or Neopolitans. In the Caucasus we find the Kabarda broken down into two sub-breeds, Karabair and Lokai, the result of crossing native Mongol stock with sires of Persian and Arab blood. These are exceptionally agile and sure-footed animals. They will ford dangerous rivers and cross precipitous ranges with great courage and sagacity. In their habitat, Uzbekistan, the national game is called “goat snatching” in which on mounted man carries a goat while others try to take it from him at a full gallop. Some fun!


Another horse of the Causcasus is the Karabakh, predominately Arabian in conformation. The golden color of the other Russian breed, the Akhal-Teke, together with admirable conformation makes the Karabakh breed on of the most beautiful in the world.


Going from the sublime to the ridiculous we have in the Himalayas the Kathiawari and the Marwari. These are two varieties of the same breed and may be described as “wretched little creatures, thin, weedy, very narrow, his front legs coming out of the same hold, so to speak”. This breed is a perfect example of poor or no breeding management. They were once a very strong, elegant breed. It is probably that a Kathiawari was a teammate of Rudyard Kipling’s Maltese Cat, as they were often very fine polo mounts.

Klepper and Knapstrup

Did you ever hear of the Klepper of the Baltic area or the Knabstrup of Denmark? This latter is of great interest to Appaloosa fanciers. The breed is an old Danish one, exclusively confined to spotted horses, and the peculiar form of the spots are classified by the British Spotted Horse Society as leopard, snowflake, and blanket. During the Napoleonic Wars, Spanish troops were stationed in Denmark and a Spanish officer left behind his spotted mare. She became a “delivery boy” for a butcher but she had both speed and endurance. Destined to become the foundation mare of a new breed when the owner of an estate called Knabstrup bought from the butcher this chestnut mare with blanket markings with a white mane and tail. Her name was Flaeibehoppen — a terrible handicap one would think. She was mated with a Fredericksburg stallion of palomino color and their colt, Flaebenhingstewn, became the foundation stallion of the breed. He has similar color — the lighter shades of the original mare — though he had a peculiar metallic appearance and was described as having more than 20 colors. The Knabstrup is a very popular breed in Denmark today.


Poland has its Konick, which is a general name for several native breeds of small horses. Students of genetics will find this breed interesting. In 1936, attempts were made by Professor Vetulani of Pznan University to breed the “forest horse” back to its original wild state. The great forest of Bialoweiza was made into a National Park and among the animals brought back there were a stallion and a mare both of which has the remarkable property, possessed by certain other animals such as the hare and the grouse, of turning white in winter, a characteristic unusual in the horse. Every winter they changed their mouse-gray summer coats with the black dorsal stripes into white coats, only the face, fetlocks, mane, and tail retaining the normal dark color. This mare and stallion passed this odd characteristic on to some of their progeny but not all. The breed passes along its great longevity. It is quite common in Poland to see 25-year-old ponies still hard at work.


Now you may think the Limousin is a Rolls Royce but you would be wrong, for while the latter is pure English, the Limousin is only half-English and horse at that. He is French and his companion horse in Normandy is the Charolais which may upset you somewhat if you that the Charolais was strictly bovine. Both of these breeds have the English Thoroughbred as their foundation sire and re highly prized as hunters.


You all know of the Lipizzaner, of course, and that it takes its name from Lipizza in Austria and has been around since 1564. The Lipizzan is derived from a cross between the Kladruber of Bohemia and a small Italian horse admixed with Arabian blood. These are the animals which were used in the famous Spanish Riding School at Vienna. It may shake you to learn that the celebrated exercises practiced there were not Spanish at all but were originated by an English duke and a French riding master.


Now come to the M, N, O, and P’s. If you think polo is a game that Cecil Smith, Mike Phipps, Billy Linfoot, and Dr. Marvin Beeman thought up to pass the time of day, you may be surprised to learn that the reigning king of Manipur in the 7th Century introduced the game of polo, played on ponies bred in his state and called Manipur ponies to this day. In the 18th Century they were formidable war ponies and again in 1945 carried the victorious 14th Army into Burma.

From Asia to Europe to name the German Mecklenburg, also a war horse, and back to Asia to have a look at the Mongolian Pony. This is an iron-hard little horse because it has to be. The nomad owners of these ponies do not waste any time or money on feeding and the Mongolian ponies lot is a hard one.


The Morgan, a nice familiar name, sprang from one progenitor, a 14-hand bay stallion later named Justin Morgan. His ancestry was basically Arabian, it is thought.


It’s time to mention America’s Mustang. The derivation of the word is from the Spanish mestengo meaning stranger, which in turn comes from the Spanish mesta, the name given to an association of graziers, one of whose functions was the appropriation of wild cattle which had attached themselves to tame herds. They are Spanish in origin have been brought from Cuba by Cortez. Occasional throw-backs to their original remote Arabian ancestry were known to appear, becoming legendary figures for their outstanding size, beauty, and speed.


Two more ponies you may not have heard about are the New Forest of Britain and the Norwegian. Several Norwegian Duns have been stabled at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. They are a fine little coach horse.


The Oldenburg horse of Germany has the distinction of being a “warm blooded” horse with many characteristics of the “cold bloods”, such as flat hoofs, heave heads and neck, and flat ribs. It is not a hardy type and is lacking in endurance.


The Orlov is another Russian horse, a trotter. The originator of this breed is more interesting than the breed itself. County Alexius Grigorievich Orlov (1737 – 1808) was concerned with his brother Gregory in the conspiracy of 1762 which led to the deposition and death of Szar Peter and was said to have been his actual murderer. He also commanded the Russian fleet which annihilated the Turks at Chesme in 1770. When he died, he left 30,000 serfs and an estate worth five million rubles — the equivalent today probably of fifteen gazotskies. After these gory activities he turned to horse breeding and produced the Orlov by crossing the following blood: English Thoroughbred, Arabian, Dutch, Danish, and Mecklenburg. He started with an Arabian stallion and eventually the Orlov breed evolved. Before the Revolution there were about 3000 stud farms in Russia devoted to breeding Orlov trotters. A good Orlov is very handsome with a small head, very Arabian in appearance, broad chest, longish back, well rounded quarters, and strong muscular legs. He goes up to 17-hands in height.


When you named the palomino in the beginning, it is not strictly a breed you mentioned but a color. You might not know that the origin of their attractive coloring goes back to remote ages, having been mentioned in the Homeric times. It appears to be of Spanish origin from Saracen and Moorish stock and three is no doubt that the type contains Arab and Barb blood. Queen Isabella, the sponsor of Columbus, encouraged their breeding. Columbus may have taken them to the West Indies but we know that Cortez had them in Mexico in 1519. In Spain, these horses were called Ysabellas but it is said that they take their present name from Juan de Palomino to whom Cortez presented one.


We don’t see draft work horses much any more in America but one of the more popular breeds it the Percheron, originating in a district of France called Perche and, while a splendid draft horse, is a far cry from the beautiful Persian breed. It is said that the Persians was known as a breed long centuries before Christ. He is thought to be the ancestor of the Arabian. He was a horse of great beauty, full of quality, high spirited, speedy, and courageous.

The pinto is not a breed in the strict sense of the word but is recognized as such in America today. There are two distinct patterns. Do you know whether the paint next door has overo markings or whether it is a tobiano? It’s easy — nothing to it. Just learn the patterns.

Polish Arab

Volumes have been written about the Polish Arab and more will be written because the skill of the Poles as horse breeders and horse lovers is legendary and they are still hard at work improving their already superb breeding stock. A great Polish author wrote, “having prayed to God for help, then a horse lover does his best in breeding his horses and trusts more to his own experience than to books.” So much for books on breeding! Their horses have always been in great demand because of their excellence. The oldest Arabian stud in Poland originated in 1506. The efforts of the Poles to protect their great stud horses from confiscation or annihilation in the last war is a fascinating story.

In addition to the Polish Arab, Poland has the Polish Half-bred, a breed which has English Thoroughbred, Arab, or Anglo-Arab blood on at least one side of the pedigree. He was developed to answer the agricultural need for a strong lightweight animal of good blood and bone.

Poland also had the Polish Thoroughbred, which are horses of pure English Thoroughbred stock bred and developed in Poland. These are primarily racing stock.


Quarter Horse

The Quarter Horse is so numerous and popular that he will just get the once-over-lightly here but it is interesting to note in passing that from a genealogical point of view the Quarter Horse starts from an English Thoroughbred, Janus, a 14-2 stallion that was popular in Virginia and North Carolina between 1756 and 1780. Janus, before being brought to the United States, was a race horse in England and his distance was four miles, probably attesting to his descent from his Arabian ancestors. Since all Thoroughbreds trace their ancestry to three Arabian sires, the Darley Arabian, the Godolphin Arabian, and the Byerley Turk, it is obvious that some Quarter Horse owners may be surprised to learn that their favorite mount was once just the gleam in the eye of a find Arabian stallion (many times removed).


From the sleek racy Polish Thoroughbred we turn to the heave draft horse, the Rhenish from the Rhein Province in Germany. He isn’t pretty but he’s very useful and a very “easy keeper”.


We’ve mentioned the Orlov trotting horse but Russia has several other breeds. They have the heavy-draft horse, Beetewk, the Viatka pony, the Strelets, and among others the Russian Saddle Horse, the latter a cross between the Orlov trotter and Arabs and English Thoroughbreds. The Russian Steppe horse is one of the toughest horses known. They have great speed and stamina and are great weight carriers. History records the remarkable achievement of a Cossack named D. Pieszkow, who covered 6000 miles in six months on a Steppe horse over what must be called some of the world’s worst terrain.

The Scandinavian horses include the Fjord horse, the Gudbrandsdal, and the native ponies. In the Baltic States are the small Esthonian or Smudish horse, the Zemaitukas. These are all cold-bloods and let us pass on before I have to spell them again, though more of the Zemaitukas later.

If you’ve ever wondered what kind of a horse it took to bear up under all that weight of knights in armour, the Schleswig horse of Germany is your answer. Later it became useful as a heavy cart horse.


Everyone knows the Shetland as the smallest of all breeds of ponies but not everyone knows that it is remarkable for being the strongest member of the equine family in relation to its size. Its origin is unknown but records of its existence in the Shetland Isles lying to the north of Scotland date back many centuries.

The Shire of England was another knight-in-armour carrying horse. He is presently a valuable agricultural horse, enormous in size and strength.

The Spanish Jennet is the result of crossing a native Spanish horse with Barbs or Arabs. It is famous for its beauty, great docility, and obedience. The Spanish Andalusian breed goes back to the Middle Ages and carried Arabian and Barb blood.

In this day of jet travel, probably many readers of this article will have been to Kashmir and Nepal and will be familiar with the long strings of pack-ponies traversing the Himalyans. There are two characteristic breeds, the Spiti and the Bhutia. These breeds are interesting because inbreeding is practiced to keep down the size, the breeding usually from parent to progeny rather than from brother to sister.

The Standardbred is the official name of American trotting and pacing horses. His ancestry traces to the Darley Arabian.

We have mentioned several Russian breeds but now we come to the most aristocratic of them all, the Strelet and it is, in truth, the Russian Arabian. This breed was built from native mares crossed with Anglo-Arab, Turkish, Persian, or pure Arab sires. It is named for the stud which developed it. The breed can be described as a large Arabian with all the excellent attributes of that breed and is unaffected in spite of being bred for greater size. It is a supreme riding horse and is greatly in demand for use as a Russian cavalry horse.


The Suffolk horse or the Suffolk Punch, as he is sometimes known, has a very special characteristic. He is always chestnut in color. Another curious feature of the breed is that every specimen of the breed now in existence traces its descent in direct male line in an unbroken chain to a horse foaled in 1760.

While we’re speaking of draft horses, Sweden has two you may not have heard about — the North Swedish hrose and the Swedish Ardennes.



Did you ever hear of a Tarbenian horse? His description sounds good. He is a light boned horse standing about 15-hands, of good conformation, and having beautiful action. He is dark brown or chestnut. His qualities, endurance, speed, great courage, unexacting food requirements and very great intelligence make him an excellent horse for sporting purposes. Where does he live? At the foot of the Pyrenees. His origin can be found in the Iberian horse which at the beginning of the 19th Century was improved by Arabian stallions imported by Napoleon Bonaparte. During Napoleon’s rule a great many excellent Arabian stallions cam to France.


Thoroughbreds are next in alphabetical order and were mentioned in the beginning as a breed with which everyone is familiar. Yet I wonder how much you do know about the Thoroughbred. He is undoubtedly the best known of all British breeds. But did you know that the English Thoroughbred is of foreign blood? Lady Wentworth writes in Horses of Britain: “The English Thoroughbred, though foreign of blood, is called English because of the long time it has been bred and developed in England, the Thoroughbred because it originated from the Arabic Kehilan of which Thoroughbred is the literal translation and which is the generic term for the Arabian breed, meaning pure-bred all through.”

Thoroughbreds trace their ancestry to three Arabian sires and their names are well known — the Darley Arabian, the Godolphin Arabian, and the Byerly Turk. It has been suggested that those famous horses were put to English mares but there can be no question that the foundation mares were eastern mares and no doubt Arabian. This is the opinion of R. S. Summerhays, English author of many books on the horse. One-half of all Thoroughbred horses racing in America today are descendants of the Darley Arabian.


Australia and New Zealand have a pony that suggests the Appaloosa in type — the Timor. It may be any color but one that frequently occurs is a chocolate body, cream spots, and cream mane and tail. They are popular for stock work because they can carry heavy weights, are tireless and sure-footed.

Trakehnen or Trakehner

The Trakehnen or Trakehner takes its name from the stud in East Prussia where the breed was founded in 1732 by William I of Prussia, father of Frederick the Great. The foundation stock was supplied partly from Royal Studs and partly by importation of high-class Arabians from Poland. This breed has been fostered with characteristic German thoroughness. At the Trakehnen Stud, the service period begins at the end of November and foals are left with their dams until 4 ½ months old. As 3-year-olds they go to the training establishment where they remain for a year. When 4 they are admitted to vigorous trials which include hunting with packs of hounds and cross country races, over fences, banks, and open ditches. The best are retained at the stud for breeding. The second best go to the State Stud and the third class sold to private breedrs. Those who did not pass are castrated. The Trakehnen Stud was destroyed during World War II but the breed is being preserved in what is now Poland and in Germany where it is known by the name of East Prussian.

The Byerley Turk was mentioned earlier as one of the three foundation sires of the Thoroughbred. He was imported into England from Turkey in 1689 although certain authorities claim that he was not a Turk but an Arab. The old Turkoman horse was identical with the Mongolian horse of Upper Asia. The most typical indigenous horses in Turkey are the Kurdistan ponies. It is the custom to cross the native mares with Arabian stallions to produce the Kurdistan.

U – V


There seems to be only one horse whose name begins with the letter V ¬— the Viatka, regarded as a Russian breed. They are descended from the Kleppers and are an exceptionally hardy breed. They grow an immensely heavy winter coat to protect them from the bitter cold.

W – X

Wild Horse isn’t just the name you’ve given to some unruly beast. Wild Horse is a distinct breed ± it is the one prehistoric artists drew pictures of on the walls of caves and the same horse exists today on the highlands of Central Asia. They are a small, pony-like creature with a large heavy head, Roman nosed, and with a tufted tail. Naturalists generally agree that it is a distinct species known as equus przevalskii. Many of the norther European breeds trace their descent or have been influenced by the Wild Horse. There are a few of this species on view at several zoological gardens — principally in Great Britain.


Fashion influences horse breeding as shown by the development of the Yorkshire Coach horse. Elegant vehicles were appearing in fashionable London in about 1790 and they created an enormous demand for a bigger, lighter, and more flashy horse. Consequently, they crossed the Thoroughbred and the Cleveland Bay, infused Arab and Barb blood, and came up with the strong good-looking Yorkshire Coach. He is fast dying out now because who has a coach these days besides the Queen of England and the Broadmoor Hotel?


We finish the alphabet with three Z’s — the Zebra, the Zeeland horse, and the Zemaitukas. The Zebra — a term meaning striped — is the cousin of the horse. It is not a breed of the horse family but the descriptive name given to the three distinct species of equus. The Zebra is a singularly uncooperative animal and we leave him to the zoo to cope with.

The Zeeland horse goes back to earliest times. He is a product of the Netherlands and was remarked upon by the Romans during the invasion of the Low Lands by Julius Caesar. The Emperor Napoleon used them during his campaign in Russia and they were used extensively in World War I. They are still very popular as an agricultural horse.

The last “Z” is the Zemaitukas of Lithuania. They are a very ancient horse of two main ancestral strains. The Tartar pony of the Steppes and the Arabian. It is one of the toughest horses to be found due to the law of survival of the fittest. They were known as a distinct breed as far back as the 13th Century; the horses being used for cavalry mounts in the guerilla warfare that was so popular in that era. They were renowned for their staying power, almost indestructible legs and feet, and their ability to live, as the saying goes, on the smell of the grain bag.

We’ve now gone from A to Z. We began with a superb horse, the Akhal-Teke and ended with a superb horse, the Zemaitukas. We’ve glimpsed superb horses all the way through the alphabet and in that brief look we’ve had a startling conclusion emerge — that we had better take a good look at the Arabian horse. He has been the foundation stock or had contributed to the founding of at least 50 breeds of horses. The Arabian seems to be the essential ingredient of any recipe designed the improve the “equine soup”.

This article was originally published in the April 1963 issue of Western Horseman.

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