An English thoroughbred is primarily bred for horse racing. Because horses of this breed are considered to be the fastest horses in the world. But these horses have also made a name for themselves in the versatility and in the refinement of warmblood breeding.

Origin and History

The breed of the English thoroughbreds was a special breed for horse races from the beginning. The horses were “bred through”, the only selection feature in the development of the breed was the speed of the race. The appearance or size of the horses did not matter. The English call the English thoroughbreds “Thoroughbred” and the French “pur sang” (French for pureblood). The pedigrees of the mares go back to the 17th century.

The names of the founding stallions Byerley Turk, Darley Arabian, and Godolphin Barb are well known today, and one suspects among them an Akhal-Teke, an Arab, and a Berber, whereby the stallion Darley Arabian is probably the progenitor of over 90% of today’s English thoroughbreds.
Today there are two different types of English thoroughbred: On the one hand the so-called “Stayer”, the large-framed horse that is ideal for long-distance races. And on the other hand the more compact, smaller type, which is also more muscular and was mainly used in the USA on shorter racetracks. A third type, the “steeper”, originated in England. These big-boned horses are considered late-ripe and are rare today.

The classic horse races contested by the Stayers run over distances of 1,609 meters (1 mile), 2,414 meters / 1.5 miles, and 2,937 meters (1 mile 6 furlongs or 132 yards). In addition to the so-called flat races, there are also obstacle races in which steeples predominate. These obstacle races are controversial and sometimes notorious because they have a high accident rate and a high risk of injury to the horses.
The English thoroughbred is just as important for the breeding of modern warm-blooded animals as it is for racing history. With his help, the heavy workhorses became modern sport horses. Well-known so-called refiners in warmblood breeding are “Ladykiller” among the Holsteiners and “Der Löwe” among the Hanoverians. Thoroughbreds can be found in the lines of many warmblood horses to this day. These can be recognized in the family tree by the “xx” behind the name.
Half-bloods, i.e. horses that are both thoroughbred and warm-blooded parents, are still the most successful eventing horses to this day.


English thoroughbreds are not considered easy to handle and ride. They are sensitive and learn quickly and need an experienced rider, but whoever can handle them has a wonderful, hard-working horse.


An English thoroughbred is a long-legged, noble horse with a fine head, dry joints, and long lines. It has a long neck with a slight poll, a rather long back, a narrow chest, and a good saddle position. The bloody horse is characterized by fine top hair and rather thin long hair. Unfortunately, the hooves are sometimes of poor horn quality.
Long, flat gaits are typical of the English Thoroughbred, who make a lot of ground in all gaits. The gallop is wide, which sometimes creates difficulties in the assembly.

Suitability / Use

English thoroughbreds are bred for horse races and of course, excel in this discipline. Often they can jump well, but for the high jumping competitions they sometimes lack the appropriate technique and the flat gallop makes it harder for them to collect. On the other hand, they can often score in versatility, the long galloping distances suit them as well as the natural obstacles. But there are also English thoroughbreds who are pleasant leisure horses after a racing career.


English thoroughbreds are not robust horses: they need a relatively large amount of concentrated feed. Their energy expenditure is quite high, which is why they seldom get along with roughage feeding. Of course, they can and must still be kept with plenty of exercises and need a lot of contact with their conspecifics. A sensible shelter and a dry sleeping area are more important to them than the robust Icelander, who with his thick fur can sometimes stand in the rain. The silky fur of the thoroughbred is not as dense, even in winter fur, like that of more robust breeds.

Diseases Typical of the Breed

Hoof problems are not uncommon and poor quality horn is typical.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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