Budenny Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Budenny is a horse breed that comes from Russia. Equine populations in the country were severely depleted after the first world war, then the Russian Revolution occurred and they were completely decimated. The goal of creating the Budenny was to have a breed of horse with the stamina to withstand the challenging Russian climate, the genetics of a stock horse, and the strength and temperament to carry a rider virtually anywhere.

Many of the horses that survived the various conflicts in the early 20th century rode the Don breed. The goal of breeding to the Budenny was to create a horse that was taller, had similar movement to a Thoroughbred, and was extremely versatile. This led to the formal development of the Budenny.

Budenny horses are not common from a global perspective. Although there are a few which reside in North America, much of the population still resides in Russia.

What Is the History of the Budenny Horse?

There are several different names for this breed of horse, depending on how the name is transliterated. It may be called the Budyonny, Budennnii, Budyenny, or Budyoni in addition to the Budenny horse.

The systematic breeding of Budenny Horses began in earners in the 1920s, but uncontrolled development of the first members of this breed began in the 19th century. Local breeders, farmers, and others in the agricultural sector were breeding Thoroughbreds to Dons in an effort to create good work horses. The Dons of the time were smaller and less refined, which meant the offspring could create a horse of larger size and speed to handle the often difficult conditions that were faced. 

The overall goal of developing this breed was to create a war horse. The Russian mounted cavalry needed replacements for their losses and the mixing of local Don and imported Thoroughbred bloodlines seemed to be the answer. Even the name of the horse is based off the Red Cavalry.

Born in 1883, Marshall Semyon Budyonny commanded a large cavalry force which allowed the Bolsheviks to sweep to victory during the Russian Civil War. He formed a friendship with Stalin, which eventually brought him to his final rank. He was brave and popular, despite being the scapegoat for the mistakes of the Soviet army during the second world war.

“A tank could never replace the horse as an instrument of war,” Budyonny once famously declared. His family came from peasant roots and he’d always had a passion for horses. His work was well-noted as a breeder, so when it came time to create a Russia-specific breed for the army, it made sense to name it after him.

There were three distinct phases to the breeding program for the Budenny. The first comes from the local traditions of not interfering with herd breeding patterns for the Dons that were pastured. This had to be replaced by assigning specific stallions to assigned mares.

Young stock would then be separated from the herd of mares so that further domestication could occur. Finally, the most valuable members of the young stock group would go through training and testing to determine how they might fit within the new breeding program.

The Budenny Horse earned its distinction as a separate breed in 1948, although the first official records for the breed were published in 1934. Although no breed associations represent the Budenny globally, there is a stud book which is maintained at the Scientific Research Institute for the Horse, which is based out of Moscow. The Institute is also in charge of overseeing the breeding program for the breed at the national level.

What Are the Characteristics of the Budenny Horse?

The Budenny Horse will typically stand 15-16 hands high. Most of this breed has a coat which is a shade of Chestnut, along with some white marking along the muzzle and feet. Breeding has been quite selective for the Budenny over the last 100 years, emphasizing strong bones, a large muscle mass, and movements that are flowing, agile, and predictable.

Since the 1950s, the average size of the Budenny has grown at the withers by nearly 3 inches.

Black and bay coat colors are also possible within the breed, though less common than the chestnut coloring. All Budenny Horses have a golden sheen to their coat as well, reminiscent of the Akhal-Teke breed, which can be traced to the genetics of the Don horses.

In many ways, the Budenny could be mistaken for a Thoroughbred at a distance. The profile of the breed is virtually the same to the Thoroughbred, though the Budenny does have a sturdier appearance to it. The two breeds share a long neck, slender legs, and a head with a chiseled appearance. 

Several restrictions apply to the stud book of the Budenny, even though it is classified as being open. Arab and Trakehner bloodlines are still allowed within the breed, but there is an upper limit of 75% placed on them. Since the 1990s, the number of Thoroughbred stallions has declined by one-third. The breed has moved away from having Thoroughbred stallions being bred to Don mares as well, with preference now being to have Budenny Horses bred to others.

World War II Changed the Budenny Breed for Good

At the beginning of the breeding program, there were 5 distinct lines that were developed to support the Budenny breed. Once Germany began moving into Russia and a threat of occupation grew, the horses were moved from their breeding farms. The movement, however, did not occur fast enough.

From the original five breeding lines, two entire herds and their distinctive genetics were wiped out because of the war. Because the herds of the Budenny Farms and the First Horse Army were moved immediately and able to stay virtually intact, the breed was able to survive and be officially recognized after the war.

Once the war ended and the breed was established, mechanization threatened its existence, just like every other breed. The Red Cavalry disbanded in the 1950s as well, an acknowledgement that tanks were superior to horses on the battlefield. Except for military parades, the role of the Budenny seemed to have been eliminated.

International equestrian competition helped to bring the breed back from the threat of extinction. The skills needed for the cavalry were the same skills needed for dressage, show jumping, and racing. By the 1960s, the Budenny began growing in popularity as a sporting horse so that by the 1980s, 1 in 4 horses that were used in competition by Russian riders came from the Budenny breed.

The future of the Budenny continues to be optimistic. Exporting is being allowed, though in limited numbers, while sport horses can be imported to improve the breed when necessary. Assuming that responsible breeding practices occur, the Budenny is ready to take the global stage in the very near future.