Thoroughbred Horse Pedigree and Bloodlines

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The history of the thoroughbred horse, pedigree and bloodline research.

Thoroughbred pedigree search - nicking, sales results, dam and sire report information.

Thoroughbred Pedigree

Thoroughbred Pedigree:  The history of the thoroughbred horse.
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The thoroughbred horse is a breed of horse developed in the 18th century.  English mares were bred to Arabian stallions in order to create a breed of horse capable of running great distances.  All modern thoroughbred horses are descendants of three horses:  the Darley Arabian, the Godolphin Arabian, and the Byerly Turk.  These horses were named after their owners - Thomas Darley, Lord Godolphin and Captain Robert Byerly. 

The story of the thoroughbred horse began somewhere in the inhospitable deserts of the Middle East, centuries ago, a breed of horse came into being that would influence the equine world beyond all imagination. In the sweet grass oasis along the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers in the countries that are now known as Syria, Iraq and Iran, and in other parts of the Arabia peninsula, this hearty horse developed and would soon be known as the Arabian horse.

Long before Europeans were to become aware of its existence, the horse of the desert had established itself as a necessity for survival of the Bedouin people (nomadic inhabitants of the Middle East desert region). The Arabian horse was primarily an instrument of war, as were horses in general in most societies of the time. A well-mounted Bedouin could attack an enemy tribe and capture their herds of sheep, camels and goats, adding to the wealth of their own tribe. Such a raid was only successful if the aggressors could attack with surprise and speed and make good their escape. Thus 'survival of the fittest' ensured that the Arabian horse was continually improved over generations.

Races between tribes were held with the winner taking the best of the loser's herd as their prize. Breeding stock could be bought and sold, but as a rule, the best "war" mares carried no price. Through the centuries the tribes who roamed the northern desert in what is now Syria became the most esteemed breeders of fine horses. No greater gift could be given than an Arabian mare. The value placed upon the mare led inevitably to the tracing of any family of the Arabian horse through his dam. The only requirement of the sire was that he be "Asil", or pure. If his dam was a mare of a great mare family, so much the better. Mare families, or strains, were named, often according to the tribe or sheik that bred them.

The Bedouin valued purity above all others, and many tribes owned only one main strain of horse. While the Bedouin bred their horses in great obscurity, the highly war like people of the East rode their Barbs and Turks into Europe, bringing havoc with them and leaving waste in their wake. Europe had developed horses through the Dark Ages to carry a knight and his armor. Their lighter horses were from the pony breeds. They had nothing to compare with the small, fast horses upon which the invaders were mounted. An interest in these "Eastern" horses grew, along with fantastical stories of prowess, speed, endurance and even jumping ability.

As the world slowly shrank due to increasing travel abroad, the Turkish rulers of the Ottoman Empire began to send gifts of Arabian horses to European heads of state. Such was the nature of The Godolphin Arabian (sometimes called "Barb") imported to England in 1730 as well as The Byerley Turk (1683) and the Darley Arabian (1703). These three "Eastern" stallions formed the foundation upon which a new breed, the Thoroughbred, was to be built.

Until such time that geneticists prove otherwise, it is believed that the Thoroughbred's ancestry traces back more than 300 years to these 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 Byerley (the second e was accidentally dropped) - these Arabian stallions were bred to the stronger but less precocious and swift native English mares and the result was the Thoroughbred.

The result was a horse that could carry weight with sustained speed over extended distances, qualities that brought a new dimension to the burgeoning sport of horse racing. Thoroughbreds weigh less than many other breeds of horse and stand out because of their delicate heads, trim bodies, strong chests and relatively short backs. They are also known for being rather high-strung. So began a selective breeding process that continues to this day, breeding the best stallions to the best mares, with the proof of excellence established on the racecourse.

While the Bedouins maintained a strict registry of the breed in order to maintain its purity, the first Thoroughbred "Stud Book" was created and maintained by James Weatherby in 1791, almost some 100 years following the importation of the three foundation stallions. His General Stud Book listed the pedigrees of over 350 mares. Each of these mares could trace their beginnings back to ECLIPSE - a descendent of the Darley Arabian, MATCHEM - a grandson of the Godolphin Arabian or HEROD - a great grandson of the Byerly Turk. Weatherby's General Stud Book is still published and maintained by Weatherby and Sons in England.

The first Thoroughbred to reach America, a stallion named Bulle Rock, arrived in 1730. Over the following 45 years, 186 Thoroughbreds would be exported from England to the American colonies, forming the foundation of the Thoroughbred family tree that American horse owners have bred ever since. As horse racing prospered and expanded in America, Colonel Sanders Bruce of Kentucky published the first American Stud Book in 1873. Col. Bruce devoted a large part of his life to the study of pedigrees, and published six volumes of the American Stud Book through 1896 at which point its care was taken over by The Jockey Club. Today the Jockey Club's pedigree database contains over 3 million horses whose ancestry can be traced back to the 1800's.

The desire to breed and race a champion has fueled the thoroughbred industry since its creation. There are no guarantees that breeding a champion mare to a champion stallion will produce a future Kentucky Derby winner, but that is the underlying philosophy in thoroughbred breeding and the basis for improvement of the breed. Breeders judge the conformation of their horses and try to enhance the qualities of their stock by breeding to stallions who posses desirable attributes.

Thoroughbreds' racetrack earnings can be matched, if not surpassed, by the money they earn as the sires and dams of future stars. Horse breeders pay stud fees, which can run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, for the privilege of mating their female horses with particularly fast or well-bred male racehorses. Owners hope that the coupling will produce a champion, who will one day become the source of still more champions. Horse buyers usually pay more for male horses, called stallions, than for females, called mares, because stallions can mate with a few dozen mares a year, while mares can only give birth to one foal per year.

As the progeny of a stallion become more and more successful on the track, that stallion can command a higher stud fee and attract the best mares. Storm Cat currently stands for $500,000 at Overbrook Farm in KY. Storm Cat's sons and daughters have earned nearly $100,000,000 on the track and he has become a "sire of sires" - his son's are among the most expensive and successful sires in the thoroughbred world. Just as important as the sire and maybe more so is the mare. La Troienne, the most influential mare of the 20th century produced 14 foals. The number of champions that can trace their bloodlines to La Troienne is astounding. Seattle Slew, A.P. Indy, Sea Hero, Go For Gin, Easy Goer, Black Helen, Tejano, Polish Navy, Woodman, Buckpasser, are but a few of the horses linked to La Troienne. Smarty Jones also has two crosses of the important broodmare La Troienne. One is through Elusive Quality's dam's sire, Hero's Honor, whose third dam, Searching, was a War Admiral / La Troienne mare. The second one is through Smarty Jones's own tail-female line, going back to his fifth dam, Striking, also bred on the War Admiral / La Troienne cross.

The study of thoroughbred pedigrees and bloodlines is an art, science, and history lesson all rolled into one. Linking modern day champions to the champions of the last century is a testament to the success of the thoroughbred horse and its future.

Breeding the ultimate racehorse has challenged the minds of breeders and theorists for more than 200 years. Now, for the first time, students of bloodstock breeding have an opportunity to examine the theories of genetics, biomechanics, nicking, dosage, inbreeding, outcrossing, statistical methods.

 

 

 

McLean discusses genetic affinities and pedigree patterns, analyzes the pedigrees of important sires and ancestors to isolate elements of speed and stamina, explains what characteristics to look for in a sire, and updates the "elite" mare list.

Breeders will be especially interested in McLean's analysis of the conformation of many of the breed's most illustrious sires and the physical attributes and faults they passed on to their progeny. Best of all, he tells the current sire and dam lines most likely to produce quality racehorses.

"The Byerley Turk: The Incredible Story of the World's First Thoroughbred", is a fantastic story, masterfully told. It is a story of a horse, from his auspicious birth while in the care of his Turkish groom, to his peaceful death while in the care of the wealthy Englishman, Robert Byerley. It is most compelling, and contains a graphic intensity that the author Jeremy James, who has knowledge and experience with horses, weaves into his story.