The Orlov Trotter is a Russian horse breed that is known for its hereditary fast trot and its sublime speed and stamina. It is the most famous Russian horse and was developed in the late 18th century as a result of crossing various European mares with Arabian stallions.
They were initially used in the 19th century for riding and harness racing by Russian nobility and they were highly valued for their beauty and elegance combined with the ability to work hard. During the 20th century, however, there was the possibility of complete extinction of the Orlovs, which was mainly due to crossbreeding and the Soviet’s disregard of horse-racing, for which they were popularly used. However, the breed survived, and today fifteen stud farms in Russia and the Ukraine raise pure-blooded Orlov Trotters.
When it comes to their characteristics the Orlov Trotters are generally taller and more sturdy than Standardbreds, and the average current measurements of the Orlov stallions are 161.4 cm (height at withers), 164 cm (body length/barrel), 186 cm (chest circumference), 20.4 cm (cannon bone circumference) and for breeding mares are 160.3 cm, 163.6 cm, 186.2 cm and 20.1 cm respectively.
These horses are characterised by their large heads, large expressive eyes and long and naturally arched necks that are set high. They also have prominent withers and a broad coup. The Orlovs have muscular bodies and their legs are also very strongly built, with prominent joints and clearly defined tendons.
Their color is dictated by their Arabian origins, which means that many Orlovs are grey at maturity, however they are more often than not born a darker color at birth. (Grey horses are born dark and slowly lighten as they age until their hair coat is completely white.) At maturity, the colors of Orlovs are: grey (46%), black (28%), bay (20%) or chestnut (5%).
Photo from Wikimedia Commons