Thoroughbreds

History of breeding

 

Horses were always a large part of life in England - until cars, trains and tractors came along anyway! They were a form of transport, used in agriculture and were also used in battle. Horses that performed well in battle were prized for their speed and bravery.

 

Henry VIII encouraged the breeding of horses, but he did not have much success.

 

In the 1700s, it all began to change when three Arabian horses were imported into England. The foals of these stallions and the Royal mares were the first horses to be called thoroughbreds and every racehorse is descended from one of these three.

 

The first to be imported was the Byerley Turk. He was a famous warhorse and was at many battles including the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland, where he was ridden by his owner, Captain Byerley. There were not many foals sired (or fathered) by him but his influence was still strong and his sons still stand at stud today, including Compton Place who stands at Whitsbury Manor Stud in Hampshire.

 

The Darley Arabian was the second horse to be brought to England. He was bought by Thomas Darley in Syria in 1704 when he was four years old and became a stallion in Yorkshire, siring a famous horse named Bartlett's Childers. Bartlett's Childers is the great-grandfather of Eclipse, possibly the most famous horse ever to live. Over 95% of thoroughbreds are descended from the Darley Arabian and his great-great-grandson, Eclipse. The skeleton of Eclipse can be seen at the National Horseracing Museum in Newmarket.

 

Dubawi, one of the stallions at Dalham Hall Stud is a great - great - great - great - great - great - great - great - great - great - great - great - great - great - great - great - great - great - great - great - great - great - great - great - grandson of the Darley Arabian! How far back can you trace your family?

 

 

 

The last of the three stallions to come to England was the Godolphin Arabian, who originally came from Morocco. He was a gift to King Louis XV of France and was bought in Paris by Edward Coke who is thought to have found him pulling a cart!

 

He was sold to the Earl of Godolphin who gave him his name. The Godolphin Arabian was small but his sons and daughters have had a lot of success on the track. A famous horse from this line is Seabiscuit who won 33 races and has even had a film made about him, which you may have seen.

 

Current stallions descended from the Godolphin Arabian include Dream Ahead and Tiznow, who stands as a stallion in America.


Godolphin is of course named after this famous foundation stallion.

 

As racing and breeding became more popular and the number of thoroughbreds increased, there was a need for breeding information to be recorded. In 1791, a company called Weatherbys first published the General Stud Book to make sure that each horse really belonged to the parents it was supposed to.

 

All foals must now be DNA-tested at birth to get into the Stud Book and prove that they are really a thoroughbred.