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Hackney – endangered English horse breed

Published: 2022-09-12 12:34:43 Categories: Guides Rss feed

Hackney is an English carriage horse of a sophisticated movement and elegant, proportional build. The extraordinary action of both front and back limbs, their speed and strength, made them extremely popular on the brink of the 19th and 20th centuries, for pulling carriages, cabs, and coaches. Nowadays, unfortunately, this race has been taken under special care because it is in danger of extinction.


Hackney - race history

Hackney is one of the breeds descendants from Folbluts (or, Thoroughbred horses) bred in England in the 18th century. The Norfolk trotters were crossbred with Yorkshire Roadster carriage horses. Within the breeding, horses were selected for their elegance and speed. The Original Shades (father: Blaze, grandfather: Flying Childers, great-grandfather: Darley Arabian) steed is believed to be the progenitor of the race.

The term “hackney” in medieval times was used to describe light useful horses, and today it is used to describe a carriage or borrowed horse.

The breeding association was founded in 1878, and the breed registry 5 years later. Hackney was the best “motor” of the 80s’ in the 19th century, both in the US, and Great Britain. These horses were able to maintain a quick trot even on longer routes due to their durability. With the spectacular work of their limbs, they quickly became the synonym of high status in society. Hackney steeds were used for gentrifying other races.

The first Hackney pony imported to the US was 239 mare Stella, imported to Philadelphia by A.J. Cassatt in 1878. In 1891, Mr. Cassatt and other Hackney enthusiasts founded the American Hackney Horse Society – an organization and registry, which exists until today. From 1890 up until the Great Depression, rich Americans would visit England to purchase horses and ponies of the most popular Hackney lines.

rasa-konia-hackney (2)source:

Nowadays, the breeding is mostly centered in England, in the native county of the breed – Norfolk, but also the US, Canada, Africa, and Australia. In recent years, they have been on the list of endangered horse races. Currently, Hackney horses are desired for their charm and presence, but also the increasing interest in combined driving.

Now, the breeding of Hackney horses is under special care. In 2022, Rare Breeds Survival Trust announced that there are only 12 breeding steeds and 31 mares left in Great Britain. Thus, the Hackney race is considered in danger of extinction, and works on rebuilding the breeding have begun.

Hackney horses - build and characteristics

Horses of this breed have a dry read with big eyes, delicate ears, and small muzzle. Their highly set neck, steep shoulder blades, and long withers are very characteristic. Hackney’s chest is often shallow, but usually wide enough. Their back is slightly soft, contrary to their muscly, straight croup with a very high tail. Limbs are dry and long, with elongated, soft fetlocks. Usually, the joints of their legs are too lean. Hackney horses, however, have strong hooves.

Hackney’s movement is exceptionally elegant, with high action of the limbs, which is spectacular and characteristic of the race. Their canter and trot are very efficient, however, their walk is merely adequate. This race’s body is muscular. These animals are usually extraordinarily healthy.

Height: 147-160 cm

Body weight: around 450 kg

Color: bay, black, rarely: chestnut, often with white changes on the legs and head

Hackney ponies and Roadster ponies

Horses that are shorter than 58 inches (about 147 cm) are considered Hackney ponies.

Roadster pony – is a very popular type of the Hackney breed, characteristic of their high speed. They are 52 inches (132 cm) tall or less, presenting three rates of trot during shows: jog, road gait, and speed (full speed).

Hackney horse - use

Historically, Hackney horses were preferred for carriages and cabs. Today, not without reason, they are most often used for sports, usually for combined driving. They are excellent for one-, two-, and four-horse carriages.

This race is also used in dressage, jumping, and eventing. However, these horses are very demanding, and nervous, needing a steady hand in training and riding.

Hackney horses: price

Hackney horses usually cost between 1,5 and 10 thousand Pounds. On the Polish market, it is very difficult to buy a horse of this race, however, in Great Britain, you will find many steeds to purchase. The final price depends, as with any other race, on the horse’s line, breeding, achievements, abilities, and age.

rasa-konia-hackney (3)source:


Hackneys are horses that have earned their place in English tradition through the ages. Formerly, by pulling carriages, nowadays, by participating in combined driving, they delight with their exceptional movement. Now, the breed is endangered – thankfully, it becomes more and more popular.