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15 horse breeds you should know

Published: 2017-07-04 12:44:17 Categories: Guides Rss feed

15 horse breeds you should know

Background source: 

Everybody who has ever had contact with horses know at least one breed of horses. It turns out that  virtually everybody knows Arabian horses (colloquially: Arabs) - because of their popularity and media attention. Another popular breed is Fresian horse that often appear in movies as horses of dark characters (e.g. Nazguls' from The Lord of the Rings), Thoroughbred horses (the so-called folbluts), known from racing mustangs associated with an automobile brand, which also often appear in films and animated movies placed in America (westerns of all sorts or as in Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron).

But what about the other breeds? Today we decided to take a look at this seemingly easy topic, which touches upon horse breeds. We hope that our article will allow you to learn something new and interesting :)

polskie rasysource:

Polish breeds

Poles have been engaged with breeding horses for ages, however it has been hindered by turbulent history of the country. It wasn't before the Napoleonic Wars, when in 1816 tsar Alexander the First agreed on founding the first national stud in Janów Podlaski, where the breeding of Arabian horses began.

In 1939 Poland was the 5th most populated by horses place in the world with almost 4 millions of them. However, the Second World War caused inreparable losses.

Until the end of the 80s', breeding of warm-blooded horses in Poland was focused mainly around the national studs. At the beginning of the 90s' more and more horses appearing on the hippodromes were from private stables, which was especially visible in dressage and jumping disciplines. Today it is a standard practice to seatch for horses in private stables or to use private stallion barns.


This is one of the oldest Polish breeds. Its ancestor is wild tarpan.

konik polskiSource:

History: Until the end of 18th century, the area of Eastern Poland, Prussia and Lithuania was populated by tarpans. In 1780 they were caught and put into a preserve belonging to the Zamoyski earls (the environs of Biłgoraj), from where 25 years later they were taken by peasants. In 1936 professor T. Vetulani began his works on reintroducing the breed, breeding them by the rules of the Puszcza Białowieska preserve and using the horses brought from Biłgoraj. Unfortunately, during the Second World War the breeding was destroyed and some of the horses were taken to Germany. However, it was possible to save some of the horses - in 1949 they were taken to Popielno, where works on the breed - both scientific research and breeding is continued until this day. They have two types of breeding there:

  • reserve breeding - a small herd is kept in environment as close to natural as possible - an all year long grazing on a big area (in Poland: Popielno, Roztoczański Park Narodowy);
  • stable breeding – animals are kept in stable stalls alternate with grazing on a limited arena (in Poland: Popielno, Racot Horses Stud, Dobrzyniewo, Sieraków Stallion Barn);

Body characteristics: primitive, small, of a stocky build, very nondemanding in feeding, famous for their strength, stamina and good health. Head: light, of rather straight profile and wide forehead; neck: set low, wide, short and straight; ears: thick, rather small. Shoulder blades: usually placed vertically, short; barrel: rather long; chest: deep; belly: capacious, usually saggy, truncated croup. Limbs: short, dry, usually of an improper posture; hooves: strong and rather small. Mane and tail: of thick, dense and rough hair; coat: rather dense.

Height: 134-136 cm

Coat colour: mouse-grey, sometimes with rare and slight variations, with a characteristic streak along the back (as in the primitive horses), they can also have streaks on the hocks and knees.

Hucul pony

Primitive mountain horses of energetic walk, usually used as sumpters, but also for long bareback rides - races/horse trips. They were always valued for their stamina, strength and resilience. These horses use food very effectively.

koń huculskiSource:

History: Hucul pony comes from the area of Bukowina and Eastern Carpathian Mountains, which were inhabited by Hucul people - Ruthenian highlanders making a living on breeding, pastoralism and forest works. Primitive breeding was centered in the woods, and the horses were living half-wildly on mountain pastures. During the First World War, due to growing need for horses, many animals were imported from abroad, thus the present horses were mixed even with horses having Arabian ancestors. After the First World War ended, the Hucul headage was split between Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania. In 1924 Związek Hodowców Koni Rasy Huculskiej (Association of Breeders of the Hucul Pony Breed) was founded and registration of reproductive mares began. Currently there are Hucul pony breedings in:

  • Poland: Stud in Gładyszów and Odrzechowa;
  • Romania: Bukowina;
  • Slovakia: Stud in Topolczanki;
  • Ukraine.

Body characteristics: stocky body, usually re-built; back of the neck: short; head: long, dry; neck: short, strong. Shoulder blades: short, steep, but strong; barrel: wide, deep and long; back: strong; croup: usually a bit truncated. Limbs: short, dry, strong; hooves: small and strong. Coat: dense. Usually the horses have defects of hocks.

Height: 135-140 cm

Coat colour: mouse-grey, black, rarer chestnut or piebald - most often Hucul ponies have a back streak and streaks on the limbs.

Trivia: each year in SK Gładyszów there is a party called "Hucul path," where Hucul ponies compete on a special obstacle course.


Elegant and at the same time resilient horses with efficient gaits.

koń małopolskiSource:

History: Oriental horses (mostly Arabs) have always had a huge impact on Polish horse breeding, practically from the beginning of the 18th century. Breeding of Anglo-Arabian horses has a perennial history that was lead in a precedential way: a homebred population of mares (especially small, primitive horses of peasants that descend from Konik) were ennobled with stallions from Orient countries (Persian, Arabian, Turkmenian or Turkish). In the 19th century horses of Austro-Hungarian breeding were also introduced into Polish breeding (i.e. Shagya, Furioso, Amurath, Girdan, Gazlan, Dahoman) and Arabian and Anglo-Arabian horses also. All in all, they got a horse whose popularity is still increasing - Maloposki horses are used both for recreational purposes as well as various equestrian disciplines - jumping, dressage, racing (however, not on a professional level), because of their versatility.

Body characteristics: average and dry build; head: small, noble, similar to the one Arabian horses have; neck: long and nicely formed; back of the neck: light. Shoulder blades: usually steep; barrel: rather narrow and shallow, quite long; withers: clearly visible; back: usually weak; croup: muscular and slightly truncated. Limbs: long, dry, sometimes too light. They usually have limbs defects concerning their build and position.

Height: 158-165 cm

Coat colour: they come in all colours.


They were bred to take part in jumping, dressage and teaming disciplines, and when they have more Thoroughbred in them, to eventing.

koń wielkopolskiSource:

History: The breed was formed on the area occupied by Prussians on the basis of Trakehners and East-Prussian and some of the German half-blood horses, e.g. Hanoverian, Oldenburg, Macklenburger - its origins date back to the 19th century. The main centers of breeding were: Gniezno, Sieraków and Starogard. After the end of the Second World War the rest of the horses that stayed on the area of Masuria were bred as the Masurian horses, similarly in Greater Poland (Wielkopolska), where they were called Poznans. In 1962 the two breeds were joined and got a common name - Wielkopolski horse.

Currently, Wielkopolski horses are bred in national breeding in: Liski, Rzeczna, Plękity, Posadów, Racot, Pępów, Mieczownica; as well as in private ones.

Body characteristics: head: noble and dry; neck: long, correct and properly set; shoulder blades: long; barrel: compact, not too wide, but deep; croup: properly muscular, strong and truncated; limbs: solid, dry joints and tendons; fetlocks: long.

Height: 165 cm and more

Coat colour: all basic colours (chestnut, bay and black);

Trivia: Stallions allowed to breed must go through a 100-days test or they are examined on the basis of heart in disciplines: dressage, jumping, eventing or teaming. Mares, on the other hand, are examined on the basis of a field or stationary riding, alternately on a field team test. Thus far one of the best Polish results were achieved by this breed - in 1980 during the Olympic Games in Moscow, the 10th place in jumping was won by a Wielkopolski horse named Helios with Józef Zagor as his rider, and in 1998 in dressage, Anna Bienias with her Wielkopolski Celbant placed 22 in dressage during World Championship in Rome, similar to a gelding named Martini (Wielkopolski) with Beata Stemler, who appeared on the Olympic Games in London in 2012 and placed 38th.

Silesian horse

Strong, massive horses of gentle temperament and efficient, elegant gaits due to which they are often used in teaming.

koń śląskiSource:

History: Silesian horses came into being mainly due to crossing noble mares from Silesia with Oldenburg and East Fresian stallions (very massive breeds). This process began in two national horse studs: in Książ and in Lubiąż. A horse in the type of an Oldenburg gorse was formed on the turn of the 19th and 20th century. However, the new breed was of dryer and more noble build.

After the end of the Second World War this breed was sustained by regular pouring of Oldenburg horses' blood to the breeding. These horses were used in farming and mines, thus this breed survived in Silesia and became very popular in the South-Eastern parts of Poland.

Soon after that Komisja Księgi Stadnej (Stud Book Commission) of this breed decided that the Silesian horse will be bred in two types:

  • old type – for preserving the old type of the horse (in lineage the horse can have in the third generation up to 4 ancestors of Thoroughbred horses);
  • new type - (up to 6 ancestors of Thoroughbred horses in the third generation);

Body characteristics – old type: massive, proportional body; head: bony, big and heavy, may have a high-bridged nose; jaw: big and very clear; neck: long, muscular, similarly with barrel; croup: slightly aslope, almost straight, wide and muscular; limbs: of wide cannon bones and dry joints; hooves: big, but proportional to the whole body.

Body characteristics – new type: lighter, nobler than the old type; head: more delicate; neck: longer and neater, slightly steeper shoulder blades and croup.

Height: 160-170 cm

Coat colour:  bay, dark bay, black, rarely grey.

Other breeds



History: Offspring of the Turkmen horse, known and valued especially in China. This breed is characterised by its efficient movement - he is especially predisposed to canter, he can also move at a pace and tölt.

Body characteristics: of a noble pose; head: of a straight profile; neck: cervine; shoulder blades: of average length, sometimes steep; chest: rather shallow and slender; withers: clearly visible; croup: truncated; limbs: long, sometimes with defects; hooves: hard; coat, mane and tail: silky smooth, soft and delicate.

Height: 150-160 cm

Coat colour: usually chestnut, dun, bay with a clear coppery shine, black, and grey;

Trivia: In the ancient times, these horses were called "blood-sweating" or "heavenly horses." It is said that the "blood sweat" may have been caused by the parasites in the water drunk by the horses and the parasites tinted the horses' sweat red, or it could have been an effect of physical effort causing damage to blood vessels under a very thin skin. How much truth is in this sayings? Who knows :) 


Their very distinct feature is lack of pigment in the skin due to their coat and mane are bright - white or slightly yellow. However, they have pigment in the iris, which makes their eyes bright blue, but never red. That makes this breed not typical albinos.


History: The Western Old King horse is considered to be the founder of the breed. He has in his lineage horses of Morgan and Arabian breeds. This stallion was characteristic only in his coat. Today, the White breed is not considered a breed in most countries, however in the USA, the breeding association existing since the 40s' credits coat as a crucial feature.

Body characteristics: horses in Western type; head: of average size, dry; eyes: bright blue, bright brown, rarer dark brown; muzzle: bright; neck: well-built; shoulder blades: steep; torso: compact; croup: muscular; hooves: usually weak.

Coat colour: bright pink skin; coat, mane and tail white or bright yellow since birth.

Trivia: White horses are rare breed, used and bred as horses for courtly ceremonies in countries such as England, Germany or Spain.

Very often mistaken for one another are three breeds very popular in the dressage world: Andalusian, Lipizzan and Lusitano horses. They are three completely different breeds, but they obviously share the same history and traits that predispose them to dressage. We hope that the below descriptions will help you differentiate them from now on ;)

Andalusian horse

Koń andaluzyjckiSource:

History:  Andalusian horses descend from Sorraia ponies, which are still present in Portugal and from oriental breeds. In the second half of the 20th century, these horses were used mostly on princely courts, embodying the horse nobility. Spain Horse Riding School based their existence on this breed, giving birth to today's dressage, which began when people limited the use of heavy knight horses. Since 1912 Andalusian horses are bred under the name of Pura Raza Espanola. They opened the floodgates of other breeds, e.g. Lipizzan, Fresian horses or Kladrubers.

Today you can find this breed in South Spain - in such studs as: Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz, Seville, Cordoba - horses from all over the world come to these stables.

Body characteristics: noble posture, physical features like Iberian horses - muscular, of average size, compact build and elegant movements; head: of a noble, slightly sunken or straight profile, dry; neck: highly set and strongly built; shoulder blades: diagonal; torso: stocky; limbs: dry, sometimes too delicate; croup: muscular.

Height: 155-162 cm

Coat colour: usually grey, rarer bay, dun or black

Trivia: These horses were so valuable that their export without clearance was punished by death.


Koń lipicański 1Source:

Koń lipicański 2


History: By the end of the 16th century, king Carl the Second introduced Spanish horses to his stable in Lipizza (today it is in Slovakia), which were crossbred with Frederiksborg, Kladruber and Neapolitan stallions. Today's lineage of Lipizzan horses come from the founder-stallions: Conversano, Neapolitano, Pluto, Maestoso, Siglavy or Favory, but also Tulip and Incitato (the two latter can be found in Hungary).

The main breeding are set on the area of former Austro-Hungarian monarchy and in Italy. In Austria, the most famous breeding is the national one held in Piber in Styria.

Body characteristics: horse in a baroque type with visible physical features of an Iberian horse; head: of a straight or high-bridged profile, sometimes similar to oriental horses; neck: massive, but swan, highly set; shoulder blades: usually short; withers: flat; back: long, of a weak construction; barrel: deep and wide; limbs: dry, strong; croup: muscular.

Height: 148–158 cm

Coat colour: usually grey, rarer bay or black

Trivia: Austrian Lipizzan horses go to the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, and in other countries where they are bred, most of them are used as tough farm horses. This breed sometimes has a defect of movements - the horses throw their limbs in circular movements to the outside instead moving in the proper straight line.


These horses are very similar to the above mentioned ones (Lipizzan and Andalusian), but they have less features inherited from their Arabian ancestors.

Koń luzytańskiSource:

Koń luzytański


History: Like in the case of Andalusian horses, their ancestor is the Sorraia pony, who still can be found in Portugal in small herds. Of a big influence on the Lusitano breeding was the Moorish invasion on Spain in 710, which brought new blood - of horses coming from North Africa and Barb horses (as these horses were mounted by armed Moors).

The Altér real breed is considered to be a variation of the Lusitano breed. The most noble breeding is the Veiga lineage.

Body characteristics: head: of a high-bridged profile, noble; neck: swan; shoulder blades: well-built; limbs: long, dry, strong; croup: muscular, slightly truncated.

Height: 150-160 cm

Coat colour: all basic colours, but most often they are bay, grey or dun

Trivia: These horses are preferred not only for jumping, but also for parades, bull fights and jumping - as an example might serve Novilheiro horse, who along with John Whitaker has won competitions on the Grand Prix level.


Horse belonging to the wester group, characterised by a calm personality, speed, stamina, certainty of gaits and the so-called feeling of cattle.


Appoloosa 2Source:

History: Spanish conquistadors brought them on the territory of today's America. The regular breeding was held by Native Americans from the Nez Percé tribe, mostly breeding horses of spotted coats. Unfortunately, during fights and formation of reservations, many horses have died and those which survived have created a small breeding in 1938. Today it consists of approximately 500 000 horses and constantly grows - it is the most popular and liked breed of horses in America. In Moscow in Idaho there even is an information center in the headquarters of Appaloosa Horse Club.

The breeding is highly developed in the US, but it exists also on other continents.

Body characteristics: head: dry, wide; ears: small; neck: well-built, of average length; shoulder blades: diagonally places; withers: not clearly visible; back: wide, strong and short; chest: wide and deep; croup: muscular, truncated; limbs: proper, dry, of visible joints, sometimes too light; fetlocks: sometimes steep; hooves: small and strong.

Height: 145-160 cm

Coat colour: spotted

American Saddlebread

Common in America dobbin and riding horses.

American SaddlebreadSource:

American Saddlebread 2

Source:, phot. Leslie Potter

History: This breed came into being by crossbreeding riding and teaming horses - e.g. Hobby and Galloway ponies with other breeds: pacing Narragansett, Morgan and Canadian trotters. Due to selections in Kentucky and Virginia it was possible to get the American Saddlebred horse - of comfortable gaits (apart from the three basic ones, they also have a slow gait and rack), useful for teaming and light farm works. In 1981 Saddle Horse Breeders' Association was founded in Louisville.

Additional gaits - tölt's variations:

slow gait - lofty, four-beat, slow, with moments of "freezing" before putting a leg down,

rack - also a four-beat gait, but quick,

Body characteristics: head: of average size, dry; ears: small, falciform; neck: long and very highly set; shoulder blades: slightly steep; withers: well-formed, above the croup line; back: strong; chest: wide; croup: short and straight; limbs: light; fetlocks: long; joints: slender and well-rounded; hooves: long; tail and mane: silky smooth.

Height: 150-160 cm

Coat colour: usually bay or chestnut

Trivia: For horses of these breed a special type of shoes is needed due to their hooves. The horses have a surgery that should raise their tail and set it higher, which should add elegance to their appearance when they are harnessed to a buckboard or a carriage. 


Elegant teaming horses with high action of limbs in trot.


Heckney 2


History: The name hackney comes from Middle Ages and means a light usable horse, later a borrowed or carriage horse. This breed comes from Thoroughbred horses. The father of this breed was Original Shales stallion. As time went by, the quick Norfolk trotters were crossbred with Yorkshire Roadster teaming horses and selected for their elegance and speed. In the 1880s a breeding organisation for this horses was founded and a few years later also a breeding book.

These horses were bred mainly as "exclusive" teaming horses due to their limbs' action, which despite being impressive, caused the horses to be slow.

The breeding is held mainly in England, in Norfolk county, but also in Canada, Australia, USA and Africa.

Body characteristics: head: dry, with big eyes, small muzzle; ears: delicate; neck: highly set; shoulder blades: steep; withers: long; back: slightly soft; chest: might be shallow, but usually is wide enough; croup: muscular; limbs: dry; fetlocks: long, soft; joints: sometimes too slender; tail: highly set.

Height: 150-160 cm

Coat colour: mostly bay and black,

Trivia: There is also a miniature version of the Hackney breed, which came into being because a breeder from West England, who at the beginning of the 19th century started crossbreeding Hackney horses with Fell ponies. Colts from such horses maintained the personality and gait of their bigger ancestors.

Paso Fino

Paso finoSource:

Paso Fino 2

Source:, phot. Darlene Wohlart

History: Paso Fino comes from Iberian horse that was brought to South and Central America during the conquest of these territories by conquistadors. These horses were bred, maintaining their pure blood line and selecting for usefulness as riding horses and their predisposition to tölt. Their popularity in the last years has definitely increased and is still growing.

The breeding is mostly set in South America: Colombia, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

Body characteristics: head: of a straight or slightly high-bridged profile, and average size; neck: highly set and very strong; shoulder blades: diagonally placed and long; withers: not clearly visible; back: well-built, strong; chest: deep, but not too wide; croup: muscular, round and slightly truncated; limbs: delicate, but strong; joints: big; hooves: hard, small.

Height: 140-152 cm

Coat colour: in most colours with the exception of piebald,

Trivia: During shows, this breed is judged by the quality of their gaits: paso fino (tölt at the walk pace), paso corto (tölt at the trot pace) and paso largo (tölt at a very rapid pace).

Selle Français

These horses are famous for their energetic and elastic gaits of great involvement of hinder legs, which predestines them for virtually every equestrian competitions, especially jumping.

History: This breed came from crossbreeding of native French horses, oriental and German horses. In the 19th century a bit of Folblut's and trotter's blood was also added to the breeding. At that time this breed was called Anglo-Norman (used until recently) and it had four variations: teaming, strong and stocky (cob), riding, and trotting, which were recorded in the breeding book and crossbred between one another. Due to constant crossing of mares and Thoroughbred stallions the today's Selle Français breed was attained – brave and strong sport horses of big bodies that have enormous influence over other modern breeds.

The biggest breeding of these horses are in Normandy (North France) - studs St Lô and Le Pin.

Body characteristics: head: usually of a slightly high-bridged profile and average size; neck: sometimes not well-formed, but always strong; shoulder blades: diagonally places and long; withers: well-formed; back: solid; croup: muscular, long and strong; limbs: strong; joints: strong; hooves: hard and small.

Height: 155-175 cm

Coat colour: various shades of chestnut, bay, rarer black or grey.

Selle FrancaisSource:

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