In the late 18th century, Count Aleksey Orlov, a professional horse breeder, wanted to create a fast horse able to pull the troika, a type of Russian sled pulled by three horses abreast. He began by breeding a gray Arabian stallion named Smetanka to a Danish mare named Isabelline, producing Polkan, who was bred to a Dutch mare. His offspring, Bars I, began the first Orlov Trotter and the foundation for the breed.
During the 19th century, it was considered to be the best harness-racing horse, not just in Russia, but throughout Europe, though it was used only by Russian nobility. However, before long Europeans found out about the Standardbred, an even faster trotting horse, so the Orlov Trotter was crossed with the faster breed. The result was the Russian Trotter, a faster, yet less beautiful breed.
With the creation of the Russian Trotter came devestating problems for the Orlov Trotter. Cross-breeding became so popular that the breed dwindled until it came near extinction. Only after 1920 did people begin raising pureblooded Orlovs again. When that happened, they bacame almost as popular as they once were. However, this didn't last long. During World War II, the breed once again diminished.
The Orlov Trotter first came to America in 1959, when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave several to Ezra Taft Benson, the America secretary of agriculture. Americans loved the breed, but it was still rare, and in 1997, the International Committee for the Protection of the Orlov Trotter was created.
|Alexandra Korelova and Balagur credit|
Breed Description and Uses
Orlov Trotters are a large breed, growing a average of 15.2 to 17 hands high, and are strong and muscular. They have long legs, prominent withers, broad croups, arched necks, and large, beautiful heads, complete with the expressive eyes of the Arabian. Also like the Arabian, Orlovs are usually born dark, yet grey out as they mature, though some exceptions, such such as bay and chestnut ones, have occured.
Orlovs are fast horses with the stamina of the Arabian, performing well not only in driving, as it was bred for, but also in dressage. As a matter of fact, a famous Grand Prix dressage horse named Balagur, who competed in the 2008 Olympic Games, is an Orlov Trotter.