10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Orlov Trotter

This well known horse is the most famous of Russia’s numerous breeds, and for many good reasons. You may have heard about the Orlov Trotter because of its legendary trot, but there is so much more to this horse than that! Read on to find out more.

1. They Are Part Arab

The development of the Orlov came about by crossing European mares (mainly English, Dutch, Mecklenburg and Danish) with Arabian stallions. The Arab influence brought a finesse and elegance to this new breed, and contributed to its spirited nature – Arabian horses are considered by many to be a hot blooded horse, and so will add a bit of sprightliness to any breed they are crossed with.

2. The Breed Was Developed In The 18th Century

Orov Trotters Are Big

Count Alexei Orlov began thee creation of this breed on his stud farm, in Khrenovskoy. Orlov was a passionate breeder, and has been credited for the creation of around seventy other animal breeds, including the Russian Wolfhound. The Count was very protective of his bloodlines, and would only sell geldings – even when stallions were requested by the Tsar!

In 1809, the stud farm was inherited by the Count’s daughter Anna, who did not have her father’s skill at horse breeding, and the stud farm went downhill rapidly. The Orlov was crossed indiscriminately with other breeds, and the quality suffered – until the stud began to exclusively raise Orlovs in 1881 and the purity of the breed was saved.

3. Orov Trotters Are Big

They are tall, robust horses which can stand up to 17 hands. They are solid and muscular, with a broad chest, a long back and well rounded hind quarters with muscular legs. The head is also large, but it bears the elegant stamp of the Arab and is refined and graceful with large, expressive eyes.

4. The Orlov Has Been Crossed With The American Standardbred

When these horses started to regain some of their former glory in the 1800s, the stud farmers decided to mix the Trotters with the Standardbreds, creating a new breed called the Russian Trotter. This breed lacked most of the traits which make the Orlov so special though, and so separate races were launched for the Standardbred and the Orlov, to keep the breed from becoming extinct.

5. It Nearly Became Extinct Anyway

The Civil War in Russia came close to wiping out the Orlov Trotter, along with many other horse breeds. Of those that didn’t die in battle, many were eaten for food, and added to that there was a massive economy collapse which meant that very few people could afford the luxury of breeding horses.

After 1920 however, these national treasures were bred again, and crossbreeding was forbidden. Numbers decreased again during the second World War, then rose after it when the state needed horses for agricultural production – Orlov Trotters were used to improve local horses due to their working ability, strength and stamina.

These days, the breed is protected by the International Committee for the Protection of the Orlov Trotter, which was set up in 1997, though it could still be considered to be in danger. Any breed whose numbers of breeding mares are less than 1000 are said to be endangered, and there are only about 800 Orlov Trotter breeding mares.

6. Orlovs Start Out Dark Colored

Many of these horses are gray, because of their Arabian origins, however all gray horses are born dark colored and lighten with age until they are completely white at maturity. The majority of Orlovs are gray, though black, bay and chestnut also exist.

7. These Horses Are Used By Russian Mounted Police

The Orlov’s impressive stature and strength make them ideal mounts for the police and the military. Their temperament also makes them suitable for this type of work; they are calm and quiet as well as athletic and versatile, meaning they will stay calm under pressure and do well in stressful situations. It’s no good to be dealing with a riot when your horse is spooky and may bolt!

8. An Orlov Holds The Record As The Fastest In Pre-revolutionary Russia

An Orlov stallion named Krepysh covered 1 mile in 2 minutes 8.5 seconds, and won more than 50 races. His record was unbeaten in the days before the Russian Revolution, and at one time the entire breed was considered to be the fastest horse on the European continent, and was much in demand because of this.

9. The Famous Trot Was Inspired By Russia’s Geography

When he was developing the breed, Count Orlov looked for characteristics that would tolerate Russia’s severe climate, substandard roads and the long distances it would need to travel. Any horse would need to have great endurance, and a long-striding trot – the trot being the least taxing gait for doing long distances at speed.

The result of this great breeder’s musings was the Orlov Trotter, with its fast, yet elegant and comfortable trot. Any horse that was born without this characteristic trot was not used for breeding – and the Count had extensive methods of testing this over short distances (400 meters) and longer (up to 22 kilometers).

10. An Orlov Trotter Is Immortalized In Leo Tolstoy’s Novella

The famous novelist wrote a story called “Kholstomer” (“Strider”) which tells the story of Muzhik, a fourth generation Orlov Trotter who was known as the fastest horse at Khrenovsky Stud. Despite his incredible speed and stamina, both necessary traits of the breed, he was castrated because of the white markings on his black coat.

The breeding standards were so stringent that these horses were not allowed to breed unless they were absolutely perfect; this included temperament, which is why the Orlov is well known for being a gentle, kind and biddable horse.

If you are looking for a strong, athletic horse which is eye catching, talented and kind, then look no further. Whether you want to get into racing, or just have a high quality riding horse, you can’t do a lot better than the Orlov Trotter.

Nicky Ellis
Nicky has been an editor at Horses & Foals since 2017. Horses have been in her life from her earliest memories, and she learned to ride a horse when she was 5. She is a mom of three who spends all her free time with her family and friends, her mare Joy, or just sipping her favorite cup of tea.


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