Breed Name: Hackney

Origin: England

Physical Description:

The modern Hackney is black, brown, bay and occasionally chestnut, with or without a strip on the face and white stockings. He should possess a small head, muzzle and ears and give the impression of alertness. The neck should be long and blend into a broad chest and powerful shoulders.

The ideal Hackney has a compact body with a level back and round rib, a short strong loin and level croup. His tail is either long or docked, and carried high. His legs should be of medium length with large, strong joints. The thighs and quarters are well muscled. Pasterns are of good length and slope. The Hackney has a good foot and the breed, both the horse and pony, has a good reputation for soundness.

The action of the Hackney is spectacular and distinctive. His shoulder action is fluid and free with a very high, ground-covering knee action. The action of the hind legs is similar but to a lesser degree. The hocks should be brought under the body and raised high. All joints should exhibit extreme flexion. The action must be straight and true. The whole effect must be arresting and startling, showing extreme brilliance.

Hackney ponies are shown in four divisions: the Hackney Pony , Harness Pony, Roadster Pony and Pleasure Pony. Hackney horses can be shown as singles, pairs or four-in-hands in harness, and some are shown under saddle.


The Hackney originated in Norfolk, England, where the horses called Norfolk Trotters had been selectively bred for elegant style and speed. Seeking to improve on both counts, breeders mated the Norfolk mares to grandsons of the foundation sires of the Thoroughbred. The first Hackney was the Shale’s Horse, foaled in 1760. During the next 50 years, the Hackney was developed as a special breed.

Vast improvements in British roadways in the mid-1800’s also contributed to the development of the swift-trotting horse. These roads did not demand heavy dray animals capable of tugging carts from deep ruts. Now, a man could say “Trot on” and really go.

The breeding of Hackneys in England was formalized in the founding of the Hackney Stud Book Society in 1883. This was the Golden Age of Driving, when automobiles were not even a dream. The Hackney was the ultimate driving machine of the 1880’s both in America and Britain. The first Hackney pony imported to America was 239 Stella, brought to Philadelphia by Mr. A.J. Cassatt in 1878.

In 1891, Mr. Cassatt and other Hackney enthusiasts founded the American Hackney Horse Society, an organization and registry which thrives today. From 1890 until the Depression, wealthy Americans brought boatloads of horses and ponies to the U.S. 

Breed Association:American Hackney Horse Society

(Information provided by the American Hackney Horse Society)

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