The Morgan horse is not only one of the world’s most popular breeds, but it also lays the claim of being one of the first breeds developed in the US.
The breed was named after Justin Morgan, the owner of the foundation sire of the breed, a stallion named Figure. The development of the breed first began in 1792, when Justin Morgan received the stallion from someone who owed him money.
Figure, the foundation sire, is said to have stood at 14 hands tall, weighing up to 450kgs. He was famed for his conformation, temperament, athletic nature and distinctive appearance and eventually became known as the Justin Morgan horse. The exact genetic lineage of Figure is unknown, though it is thought to have been offspring of a Thoroughbred horse named Beautiful Bay.
Up until Figures death in 1821, he was extensively bred, though there are only records of six sons from the horse, three of which were used as the foundation bloodstock of the modern Morgan breed.
The breed became increasingly popular in the US, due mainly to its conformation and athleticism. For these reasons, it was originally used for horse racing, carriage driving and other leisurely purposes, before it began being used for draught purposes, pulling consignments of gold and artillery for the army. In fact, Morgan horses were used by both sides of the American Civil War as Cavalry mounts.
The Morgan trotting stallion was only first exported to the UK in 1860, where it was used to improve the Hackney horse breed. In its native US, Morgan mares were introduced to large Texan horse herds and penultimately led to the development of the American Quarter breed.
By the late 1870’s, horse enthusiasts began seeking and breeding longer-legged breeds, leading to Morgan horses being again crossbred. This threatened the existence of the original form of the Morgan breed, until the establishment of the Morgan Horse breeding program. This lasted until the 1940s and aided in the dispersal of Morgan horses throughout the US. By 2012, Morgan horse populations had increased to 179,000 strong and it is estimated that there are well in excess of 180,000 specimens worldwide today.
Characteristics and Uses -
Today, the Morgan horse breed is primarily reared for event purposes, such as show jumping, dressage, endurance riding, cutting and pleasure riding. They are also still used as driving horses in the US and are regular participants in driving competitions also.
A compact and strongly shaped breed, Morgan horses are best known for their strong legs, laid back shoulders and strong, muscled hindquarters. At full maturity, a Morgan horse can reach from 14.1 to 16.2 hands tall, with some slight variations.
Morgan horses can be found in a variety of colours from bay to black, chestnut, grey, roan, silver dapple and dun. Other buckskin, palomino, pinto and cream variations are also accepted. The tobiano pattern, however, is not an accepted form.
One of the world’s most popular breeds and is it any wonder, the beautiful Morgan horse.
Watch the Morgan Horse in action below!
Main Pictures - Mid-Atlantic Morgan Horse Sale and candomorgans.com