17 Amazing Thoroughbred Horse Facts

Thoroughbreds are one of the most popular breeds of horse in the world today. It’s best known as a racing horse, developed from a mix of Turkish and Arabian horses that were develop within English blood lines. It’s also one of the younger horse breeds in the world today, with the initial development process occurring in 17th century England.

Would you like to know more about this breed of horse? Then here are the Thoroughbred horse facts that you’re going to want to know.

#1. Both colts and fillies qualify for racing. 

Boys and girls can race each other or participate in same-gender events. In general terms, the colts are usually rated as faster runners than fillies. There are events where Thoroughbreds will also race American Quarter Horses and Standardbreds, which have a lineage that goes back into this breed. When at top speed, the Thoroughbred may have a stride length of over 20 feet. 

#2. Thoroughbreds are one of the fastest animals in the world. 

The highest race speed of a Thoroughbred occurred in 2008 and was actually set by a filly. At the Penn National Race Course, a filly named Winning Brew reached a speed of just under 44 miles per hour. Secretariat, often called the world’s fastest horse, was clocked at a top speed of just over 40 miles per hour in the Belmont Stakes.

#3. Thoroughbreds do more than run fast. 

The record for the highest jump for a horse is also held by a Thoroughbred. The record was set in 1949 by a horse named Huaso, who jumped a total clearance of 2.47 meters. That’s just over 8 feet.

#4a. Every Thoroughbred has the exact same birthday. 

In the official breeding records, every Thoroughbred is given an official birthday of January 1. This is done to give the horse as much time as possible to develop in case the owner wishes to pursue a racing career with the horse. Breeders will try to have the mares foal right around January 1, but if she foals a little early or a little late, the birthday is always going to be the same.

#4b. Thoroughbreds that are born in the Southern Hemisphere have a different birthday. 

The only exception to the January 1 birthday rule is for Thoroughbreds that happen to be born in the Southern Hemisphere. Horses in Australia, New Zealand, and other countries still have the same birthday, but on a different day than their northern counterparts. In the south, the official day is August 1.

#4c. The foal date will still be recorded for personal reference. 

It’s the official registrations which record the birthdays that are the same for this breed. Individual owners and breeders will usually record the exact date of birth for their records. If there is a specific Thoroughbred that you’d like to check on, then Equibase may have the exact records for the horse in addition to the registration records so you can see its precise date of birth. 

#5. Thoroughbreds also make for great trail horses. 

The greatest Thoroughbreds tend to retire from racing to have a studding career. For those that either weren’t interested in racing or didn’t find much success, this breed can have a second career as a great riding horse. Their athleticism allows them to face challenges that a trail might have, while their calmness and sense for direction allows them to enjoy a leisurely stroll when it presents itself. 

#6. The ancestry of Thoroughbreds can be traced back to three specific foundation sires. 

The horses that are the foundation sires for this breed were named for their owners: Thomas Darley, Robert Byerly, and Lord Godolphin. The horses were named the Byerly Turk, the Godolphin Arabian, and the Darley Arabian. What their actual names might have been has been lost in registration history.

Even today, almost all active Thoroughbred genes (81% of them) are derived from a total of just 31 ancestors. All horses in this breed are descendants of these three foundation stallions. 

#7. It was Robert Byerly who brought stallions from the Middle East to England. 

Byerly held the rank of Captain and did much traveling on behalf of his home country. While in the Middle East, he fell in love with the great stallions of the desert and want to bring them back to his home. Byerly was the first to bring the Turkish stallions to England’s shores and it would prove to be a very fruitful decision in the history of horse evolution.

#8. Thoroughbreds are eligible to race once they turn the age of 2. 

Horses that are newborn are referred to as foals until the time they are weaned off of their mother. This usually occurs at some point in the Autumn months. From this time until their first birthday, they’ll be referred to as a “Weanling.” After their first birthday, the Thoroughbred becomes a “Yearling.” Then, on its second birthday, it will become eligible to start racing.

#9. There is a specific distinction between colt and horse, or filly and mare. 

Males who remain intact (meaning they are able to successfully breed) are referred to as colts until they reach their fifth birthday. At that point, they earn the designation of “horse.” Females have a similar distinction. They are fillies until they reach their fifth birthday, at which time they become a “mare.”

#10. One organization oversees all Thoroughbred naming in the United States. 

In the US, it is The Jockey Club which is responsible for overseeing the naming of all Thoroughbreds. Owners in the US must submit their desired name to The Jockey Club for approval. Several restrictions are in place, including length, punctuation, and spacing. The names of famous horses cannot be used repetitively either. Misspellings, however, are sometimes approved. American Pharoah is just one such example of this.

#11. Thoroughbreds qualify in breed standard in a wide variety of colors. 

Although black Thoroughbreds tend to be the most prized in color, 90% of registered Thoroughbreds in the US are brown, bay, or dark bay. Roan and grey are uncommon colors, with cream and Palomino coloring being extremely rare, but still possible. The Jockey Club has official color standards in place that define exactly what color each specific horse will be registered under.

#12. Most Thoroughbreds are above average in size as an adult horse. 

Once fully grown, the Thoroughbred will typically stand between 15-17 hands in height. Most will weigh between 1,000-1,200 pounds. They are very spirited as a breed, considered to be hot-blooded, making it a courageous and very alert horse.

#13. Many Thoroughbreds are remarkably sensitive. 

American Pharoah had a stable buddy that traveled with him because of his restlessness and sensitivity. This behavioral treatment applies to most horses in the breed, as they tend to be a rather nervous lot. They can be easily surprised, startled, or spooked. As Marky Chavez puts it for Knoki: “It is like they are always on caffeine.”

#14. Thoroughbreds are often used to “improve” other breeds. 

The Thoroughbred often has long legs, a sleek body with good length, a straight profile, and a head that can only be defined as “chiseled.” Because of this, breeders will cross Thoroughbred bloodlines into other breeds to improve their look. Standardbreds and Quarter Horses are the two which are most heavily influenced by this practice.

#15. Thoroughbreds have a remarkably fast metabolism. 

Thoroughbreds might be considered a light horse because of their weight being less than 1,500 pounds, but they can definitely out-eat other breeds when it comes to feed. Their metabolism helps to contribute to their excessive speed, which means it needs more fuel in order to achieve peak efficiencies. This energy also means this breed tends to get restless in its stall if there is a lack of activity during the day.

#16. There are some common health issues associated with Thoroughbreds. 

The most common issues include a smaller heart than normal, lungs that may begin to bleed, and undersized hooves compared to the rest of their body. The racing life of the average Thoroughbred also means this breed experiences a higher-than-average accident rate. Many horses in this breed will suffer from constipation frequently and some may have low fertility rates.

#17. Thoroughbreds are often some of the most expensive horses in the world. 

Because of the competitive nature of horse racing, the fastest, most competitive Thoroughbreds tend to command the highest prices in today’s horse market. Stud fees for top performing Thoroughbreds can also be quite high. The Green Monkey, sired by Northern Dancer and Secretariat, sold in 2006 for $16 million. Northern Dancer commanded the largest stud fees, at $1 million, from 1984-1987.

In comparison, American Pharoah won the Triple Crown and has stud fees which are $200,000 for every healthy foal. Since May 2016, American Pharoah has earned $20 million in stud service. 

Thoroughbreds are fast, fantastic horses that love to race just as much as they love a leisurely trail walk. This is why they are loved by so many.