Breed Name: Thoroughbred

Origin: England

Physical Description:

On average, the Thoroughbred stands a little over 16 hands at the withers and weighs approximately 1,000 pounds. Its conformation, or physical makeup, enables it to reach speeds up to 40 miles per hour. At that rate, the Thoroughbred covers nearly 60 feet per second.

The Thoroughbred’s rear legs act much like springs as they bend and straighten during running. This tremendous “spring power” helps thrust it forward as its front legs provide “pull.” The head and long neck also help to make running smooth and rhythmic. The neck moves in synchrony with the forelegs, aiding the Thoroughbred in its forward motion and extending the “arc of flight”–the time it is literally is airborne.


The Thoroughbred is a breed of horse whose ancestry traces back more than 300 years to three foundation stallions–the Darley Arabian, the Godolphin Arabian and the Byerly Turk. Named for their respective owners–Thomas Darley, Lord Godolphin and Captain Robert Byerly- these stallions were imported into England from the Mediterranean Middle East around the turn of the 17th century and bred to the stronger, but less precocious, native mares. The result was an animal which could carry weight with sustained speed over extended distances.

Blessed with agility, grace, speed, stamina and courage, Thoroughbreds are ideally suited for any number of disciplines beyond the racetrack. They compete at the highest levels of international competition in eventing, show jumping and dressage, and also make outstanding hunters, steeplechasers, barrel racers and polo mounts. They are also used by mounted police patrols and recreational riders who appreciate their intelligence and versatility.

Primary Uses:

Thoroughbreds are primarily used for racing but their versatility makes them ideally suited for any number of disciplines, which is why so many retired racehorses are successfully transitioned into second careers. Thoroughbreds excel in the non-racing Olympic equestrian disciplines of eventing, show jumping and dressage, and also make excellent hunters, steeplechasers, barrel racers and polo mounts. They are also used by mounted police patrols and recreational riders.

Famous Horses:

Man o’ War is often regarded as the greatest of American racehorses. He won 20 of 21 starts, often in record times and by commanding margins, and later became a great tourist attraction as a stallion.

Secretariat in 1973 became the first horse in a quarter-century to win the Triple Crown, capped by his 31 length victory in record time in the Belmont Stakes. His image graced the covers of Time, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated.

Rachel Alexandra is the filly who captured the public’s fascination in 2009 by winning all eight of her starts that year by an average margin of more than eight lengths. Three of her Grade 1 victories, including the Preakness Stakes, were achieved against males.

Breed Association: The Jockey Club

(Information courtesy of The Jockey Club)

See what Thoroughbreds are available for adoption on A Home for Every Horse.


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