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August 15, 2008 | | Comments 0

Russian Trotter Horse

Russian Trotter Horse

Developing the Russian Trotter

There is no question what the Russian Trotter is built for. The name of the breed alone strongly suggests that it is built for racing. The initial objectives of breeders were indeed to develop a horse that would be unbeatable on the race track. Unfortunately, the story of the Russian Trotter never did run very smoothly.

Even before mechanization and industrialization created a shift in horse functions, racing was already a popular past time. It became even more so when horses were no longer so much in demand in agricultural fields. At some point in the 1800s, one horse breed excelled in the race track and that was the Orlov Trotter. Aside from being a swift horse breed, this Russian bred horse also had an elegant and regal conformation that made it appealing to racing fans. The Orlov Trotter was Russia’s pride.

The Orlov Trotter however was not to reign supreme in the next century. The breeding of the American Standardbred seriously threatened the Orlov supremacy. When the two horse breeds were pitted against each other, the Standardbred emerged superior and victorious. It was at this point that Russian breeders decided that something had to be done.

In a way, the decision to find a way to surpass the Standardbred was also a matter of national pride. For true horse and racing enthusiasts, it was no small thing to be overthrown in the track by a foreign horse breed. The only way to regain the top spot in the race track was to resort to interbreeding. From 1890 until the early 1900s, Standardbreds were brought in to Russia where they were paired with Orlov Trotters. The offspring of these pairings became the Russian Trotter.

Naturally, some did not like the idea of interbreeding. It was ideal to maintain a pure Russian breed but there was no other choice. Indeed, the linking of the two breeds did produce a horse that was faster than the Orlov Trotter. The only problem was that it was not as refined and physically admirable as the Orlov Trotter. The Russian Trotter had a fairly impressive height and body build but it sometimes had some defects. The legs of some horses in particular were knock-kneed. Other horses also had sickle hooves. At some point in the breeding program, it seemed as if the mix of the two breeds only produced an inferior breed.

In the 1900s, the Russian Trotter encountered more obstacles. Like other horse breeds, the civil war and the Second World War diminished their numbers. Aside from being killed, others of the breed began to function as utility horses. After the armed conflicts, the French Trotter, another fast breed, emerged and presented a second threat to the Russian Trotter.

Despite the obstacles and conformational problems though, breeders have continued their efforts to improve the breed. The breed was officially recognized in 1950. A decade or so later, more Standardbred influence was introduced. To this very day, loyal breeders continue to support and promote the breeding of the Russian Trotter.

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