The Orlov Trotter

Орловская рысистая

       The blood of the Spanish horses became also very influential in the origins of Russian Orlov trotting horses. The foundation for this breed laid Alexeyevitch Grigorii O r l o v Tchesmenskii, who in the second half of the XVIII century had a large stud farm in the Voroniezh province, which was surrounded with a large steppe. In this stud farm he was breeding excellent horses of various origins and races like the English thoroughbreds, among which was the winning stallion Gunpowder (was also second in the Epsom derby 1787), the derby horse Daedalus 1794 and a herd of very pricey English thoroughbred mares. He also owned the Neapolitan horses, fancying themselves with high stepping gaits in the carriage, the heavier carosiers from Denmark, the “hardravers” from Holland, the pacers from Turkmenistan, the Karabachs from Caucasus and Arabians from the desert.

Alexeyevitch Grigorii O r l o v Tchesmenskii, (1737 – 1807) 

     From the Arabians the most precious acquisition for the farm was a snow white Arabian original Smetanka (Cream), who was known all over Arabia, Syria and in Egypt and was called “ The Pearl of the East”. Orlov Tchesmensky acquired this stallion from a sheik for 40 000 gold coins, while he was serving as an admiral of the Katherine II navy in the Mediterranean Sea. Concurrently he also obtained other Arabian stallions, like gray Saltan, bay Jashma and others, he also acquired smaller herd of desert mares, which he sent to the Tchernovoye stud farm to which belonged large, never plowed pastures of limestone rich black soil.

     Whether the Orlov trotter came to existence inadvertently or through an aforethought crossbreeding is very difficult to decide. It is certain that in Voroniezh they tried to breed first and foremost fast trotting horses, which were fashionable at that time; that was done by various cross breeding as it was recommended by the doctrine of the French natural philosopher B u f f o n, who taught that all good and valuable, but also the bad and faulty, is uniform, and if it is to concentrate in one place or in one particular breed it is necessary to use for the crossbreeding various breeds and from other lands (countries). Hence, he was recommending crossbreeding as the universal and best instrument for the refinement of the existing domestic animals. 

     Therefore even O r l o v, who was a supporter of this theory, was using intense crossbreeding techniques for the breeding of horses, importing them from other lands and countries. His favorites were the “harddravers” from Holland, who were high-stepping and fast in trot over shorter distances.

     He was mostly concerned with the production of fast trotting carriage horses and fast riding horses that would become a center of attention in Moscow. The stallion Smetanka was known for his fast trotting descendants as well as the stallion Saltan for his riding progeny. Smetanka however, did not establish the Orlov trotter breed, because his descendants, produced with mares of various races, were not uniform (various shapes and sizes). The actual founder of the Orlov trotter is considered his grandson Bars I, the genuine first Orlov trotter.

Count Tchesmenskii and Bars

     Smetanka was a refined stallion of even and dry shapes, solid bones, ample gaits, though his owner did not like his smaller size, his slim legs and the lack of massiveness in his body. In order to remove these “faults” from his descendants he was crossbreeding the stallion with tall and heavy “steel gray” mares from Denmark. From such “steel gray” mare was born Polkan I, whose exterior satisfied the demand, he was massive, strong bones, had figural appearance, but did not have genuine racing gaits. In order to remove this fault from his progeny, Orlov paired Polkan with a gray mare from Holland who excelled in a beautiful and fast trot. The product of this crossbreeding was Bars I, born 1784 in the Tchernovoye stud farm. 
    In his maturity he reached 170 cm in the withers, was somewhat on tall leg but still sufficiently wide, had small, dry and refined head, strong skeleton with massive muscles, excelled like his mother in beautiful, roomy, strong and fast trot. Orlov knew that before him was a trotter of extraordinary qualities, the type that he was searching for, but he was also aware that it is a crossbreed and did not believe that he would be able to maintain these qualities in the stallions progeny, hence he was further crossbred.

The Orlov trotter was commonly used in the agricultural collectives (kolkhoz) in the formal Soviet Union.

     Bars however, distinguish himself in his well-developed individuality that he passed on his descendants, whether he was paired with English thoroughbreds, mares from Holland or Denmark. Hence, Orlov ordered inbreeding for pairing the selected progeny. The over all status of the stud farm was at that time quite diversified, 118 horses, from which 41 were stallions and 77 mares, from all these there were 12 Arabian stallions and 10 mares, 3 Persian stallions, 3 Turkmen stallions, 1 stallion and 3 mares from Caucasus (Karabach), 1 Don mare, 32 English thoroughbred stallions and 5 Mecklenburg mares, 1 Spanish mare, 1 Neapolitan mare, 3 Polish mares, 1 mare from the Ukraine, 1 stallion and 1 mare of the lowland (marsh land) type, more likely Holland-Friesland or Denmark origin.
(P r i d o r o g i n)
     Bars begun to breed in the year 1789 and died in 1808, one year after his owners death. During his 19 year breeding carrier in the stud farm, Orlov selected from his progeny 11 of his sons for the breeding of trotters, from which only three became the founders of blood lines of the Russian trotters, which remain till this day. They were; Ljubezny I, Dobry I, Lebed I. Ljubezny left after himself 2 daughters, Dobry 1 son and 17 daughters, Lebed 14 sons and 167 daughters.

The typical use of the Orlov, trotting in the middle of the Russian Troika (Triga), while side horses gallop.

     The least of the dissimilar blood in himself had Ljubezny, the most Dobry, who himself was a product of crossbreeding of Bars I with an English thoroughbred mare. The center between these two were Lebed I, son of Bars I out of mare “Nevinna”, daughter of the Angloarabian Falkersan, who was the son of Smetanka and out of an English thoroughbred mare of unknown name.

     The most important for the development of the Orlov trotter in Tchernovoye was Lebed I, while the blood of Dobry was more dominant in the private stud farms. In the development of the Orlov trotter, the right hand of Orlov Tchesmensky were his “stable master” Kabanov and his serf Shishkin, who was an extraordinary hippologist, even though he lacked higher education.

    Orlov knew that from the crossbreds he could not expect a balance and stability in their progeny, therefore he followed the example of the English horse breeders Bakewell, Colling and Tompkins who used the inbreeding technique there, where there was a need to solidify a collection of desired characteristics, in Orlov case connected with roomy trotting gaits.

     He also used the English thoroughbreds when in question was the improvement of speed, the correction of the skeletal mechanics and improvement in the strength of the back and its bonding with the loins.


     Lebed was born in 1804, sired by 20-year old stallion. When comparing his progeny with the halfblooded progeny of his 10-yr older brother, the descendants of Lebed I showed better quality. In the later stages it became apparent by the Orlov trotters that the stallions produced better offspring during their advanced age then in their younger age, which also proved itself elsewhere. For example the American trotter Hambletonian was sired by 26 years old Abdela, or Messenger produced his best son Membrin when he was 26 years old etc. There is of course many other contradicting cases however, it is important to emphasize that one should not devaluate the progeny of older stallions.
    Orlov was very jealous of his horses and during his life and his daughter’s Anna, who inherited the stud farm, the sale of stallions from the stud farm was forbidden, only the geldings were sold off. This of course did not impede the establishment of two smaller stud farms after Orlov’s death and the Kazakov’s stud farm, who was the nephew of Orlov’s daughter.

Original Orlov Trotter Borzoi, born 1948 in Tchernovoye, sire Ulov, dam Bandura 157 cm - 15.2 hands
weight 500 kg - 1102 pounds

       Shishkin had the same opinion on the breeding of Orlov trotter as Orlov himself, with whom he worked. After the death of Orlov, Shishkin had to submit himself to the will of the Orlov countess, who wished to breed in Tchernovoye the big figural, high stepping black horses for the carriage service for the Moscow’s metropolitans and other bishops (archiers). In order to satisfy the countess’s demand, Shishkin had to open the gate to the western type horses and imported mares and stallions from Holland. From these horses the most influential was the stallion Visapur out of a Dutch mare and by the Tchernovoy’s stallion “Ljubimetz”. These horses have significantly worsened the temperament and the lightness of trot of the original horses and inserted in them certain lymphatics, which can still be seen in some of the Orlov trotters today. From that day and age, the preferred color in the Tchernovoye stud farm was black to the detriment of the previous gray that was the inheritance of the stallion Smetanka.  
     In 1840 Anna Orlova sold the entire Tchernovoye stud farm, which included 110 000 ha (about 425 square miles) of land, for 8 million rubles to the state. The inventory of the stock consisted mainly of the Orlov trotters, but also great number of the Orlov riding horses of the oriental halfbloods or Anglo Arabians, and also three herds of English thoroughbreds.

Orlov trotter Pokaz, Russian export

     During the first faze of the state care for the Tchernovoye stud farm the breeding of the Orlovs was not quite on the same level as in the former times. The youngsters were badly raised, the training did not start till they were two and half years old; the training in general was lacking in the young horses as well as in the older ones, which of course resulted in weakening of energy, speed and endurance, weaker skeletal structure and muscles, worsening of the hooves etc. During those days, the material in the privately owned stud farms was much better. Shishkin after the death of his son sold his stud farm in 1844 to Ochotnik and Tulinov, who followed in the steps of Shishkin; selecting the breeding stock mainly by speed, therefore the Tulinov’s trotters became too light and narrow. In such state Ochotnik gave the stud farm to the state to have it taken over by the Tchernovoye stud, were it for a while formed a separate herd that eventually died out with the rest.
     The middle of the 19th century were critical times for the preservation of the Orlov trotters; the quality of the Tchernovoye stock was decreasing, the interest in the American trotters , who were beginning to appear on the tracks of Europe at that time, was on the rise, . 

The entrance of the Tchernovoye Stallion Stable

"Taboon" of Orlov mares in the Tambovskoy region

     Despite all that the Orlov trotter Beduin surprised all the horse experts at the Paris International Show by wining a race while traveling one verst in 1 minute and 32 second. (Verst is a Russian measure of linear distance equivalent to about two thirds of a mile). He won this race over the fastest American trotter mare Flora-Temple, who came through the finish line 4 seconds behind. The sixties and seventies of the 19th century were very favorable for the Orlov trotters. High running records and performances were awakening the horse public interest in the Orlovs, who were then often sold for high prices to Italy, France, Germany and Austria, and not only as sport horses but also as reproducers of solid and durable horses. Of course the competition with the American trotters remained and was on the rise, especially when they competed on the Russian racetracks for the first time between the year 1889 and 1890. 

     In those days it became obvious that the Orlov trotter cannot equal the speed of the American trotter (Standardbred). This prompted the breeders to more intense work. The Orlov trotter begun to train in the two wheelers, rather then in the four wheelers as it was customary till then. The shortcomings were corrected with better upbringing, suitable training and more careful selectiveness. All breeding material was carefully examined and underwent scrutinizing study of bloodlines (est. 1839) to separate individual lineages from which originated horses that proved themselves on the racetracks.

     In the state’s and private stud farms the breeding material was overhauled for exterior, blood lines and performance and the horses were divided on pure blooded Orlov trotters, crossbred trotters having more or less trotting blood and horses that either proved themselves on the track or not. In 1889 was established The New Orlov Trotter Stud Book, which was closed in 1905 (closed means no other breeds or crossbreeds accepted). Later on however, according to various opinions on pure breeding and breeding basics , some exceptions were made in allowing some breeding outside the Stud Book. Still in 1908 there were accepted into the Stud Book horses that had minimum of the Orlov blood of 7/8 on 15/16, 31/32/, 63/64 etc. These arrangements had substantial influence for the uplifting of the Orlov breed however; this became noticeable after two or three decades, when the build and speed of the trotters significantly improved to those of forty years ago. Horses became dryer, deeper, wider, lost a little of the formal mass but gained in speed, endurance and more refined exterior. The speed of the Orlovs in the middle of the 19th century over three versts (3200 m – 1.99 miles) was around 6 minutes, about a hundred years later 4 minutes and 20 seconds over same distance (Prawochodenski).

Page 2 (coming soon)

Translated by Ludvik K Stanek a.k.a. Lee Stanek from the 1953 Special Zoo-Technique - Breeding of Horses
Published in 1953 by the Czechoslovakian Academy of Agricultural Science and certified by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Written by: MVDr Ludvik Ambroz, Frabtisek Bilek, MVDr Karel Blazek, Ing. Jaromir Dusek, Ing. Karel Hartman, Hanus Keil, pro. MVDr Emanuel Kral, Karel Kloubek, Ing. Dr. Frantisek Lerche, Ing. Dr Vaclav Michal, Ing. Dr Zdenek Munki, Ing. Vladimir Mueller, MVDr Julius Penicka, pro. MVDr Emil Pribyl, MVDr Lev Richter, prof. Ing. Dr Josef Rechta, MVDr Karel Sejkora and Ing. Dr Jindrich Steinitz.