Morab Horse Origin and Characteristics

Until 1973, the Morab horse was an undocumented breed. Most Morabs that were bred in the first century of the breed’s existence were registered with the American Morgan Horse Association, if they were even registered at all. Because the stud book was open at the time, all Morabs that were accepted for registration are officially part of the Morgan breed and are considered disassociated from the Morab breed.

The modern Morab horse has the breeding program of Martha Fuller to thank for its existence. Started in 1955 after several attempts to breed a horse that could compete on the open show circuit in California and throughout the United States, the initial registry is often referred to as the “Clovis Registry” because of the location of Fuller’s program.

In the early 1980s, after Fuller died, the American Morab Horse Association closed its operations. This allowed the North American Morab Horse Association to form, offering registration and promotion of the breed so it could continue. All Clovis-based horses were allowed to register, even though many were registered based on type instead of lineage.

An international association was established for the Morab horse in 1987 and continues to operate today. The goal is to emphasize a true Morab-type horse based on established Morgan and Arabian lineage.  A purebred association was started in 1998 and a third registry for Morabs was started in 1999 in the State of Illinois. 

The History of the Morab Horse

The Morab horse is a breed that was developed through the cross-breeding of Morgans and Arabians. The first efforts at creating this breed occurred in the late 19th century when there was a desire to create a carriage horse that could also perform moderate farm work. It resulted in a horse that was competitive, attractive, while retaining the power and stamina needed for everyday tasks.

Beginning in 1857, the recommendation to breed Morgans to Arabian mares, if no purebred Morgan mare could be obtained, was published in an essay by D.C. Lindsley. The essay, titled The Morgan Horse, caused many breeders to follow the recommendation. By combining “Morgan” and “Arabian” together, the breed obtained its name and has kept it ever since.

William Randolph Hearst is credited with coining the term that would eventually become the name of the breed. 

From these initial efforts, a horse named Golddust was produced. Golddust was an excellent trotting horse, a great walker, and had almost unparalleled success in the show ring at the time. He would sire over 300 foals and more than 100 Morab horses have their lineage traced to him at this time.

Between the 1880s and the 1920s, there is a large gap in the history of the Morab horse. It wouldn’t be until Hearst, who had an extensive Arabian breeding program, started a Morgan breeding program as well and mixed the two operations together. The Hearst ranch would register over 100 horses with the American Morgan Horse Association, with 18 of them being Morabs.

Several notable Morab horses to continue the establishment of the breed came from the stud farm in Stamford, Texas owned by the Swenson brothers. They had 7 Morgan mares and 3 Arabian stallions, along with two Morgan stud colts, at the beginning of their operation and helped to drive the Morab toward official recognition.

Expected Characteristics of the Morab Horse

The Morab horse retains many of the notable characteristics of the Morgan and Arabian breeds. Most individuals should have a compact appearance, but still have a substantial structure to their appearance that speaks of power and performance. Their muscle structure is sleek instead of bulky, which helps to provide a visual aesthetic that speaks of refinement and elegance.

The neck of the Morab should be set deep, arched, and notably strong. This provides the horse with better fluid mobility and allows for easier breathing. The back length is a bit shorter than average, a common trait in breeds that come from Arabian ancestry, but the undercarriage is exceptionally developed and there is great power generated from the movement of the horse.

Morabs should have a head that has excellent definition, offering a concave profile, wide forehead, and a jaw that is noticeably muscled. The muzzle is quite substantial, which is a trademark of the Morgan lineage within the breed. They should have bright, expressive eyes and ears that are small, but alert, and sometimes tipped or fluted.

Mature Morab horses should have a broad chest that is quite noticeable. There should be extra space around the back ribs and the heart, with added width around the hip. The legs should be sound, straight, and long with large joints and flat bones. This creates a broad, long forearm and a short cannon bone.

All solid coat colors exist within the Morab breed, with a mane and tail that is noticeably thick, flowing, and wavy. Bay, gray, and chestnut are the most common coat colors. Because of the Morgan influences on the breed, there are frequent palomino and buckskin coat colors compared to other breeds. Patterned coats are not considered acceptable, but roaning and the dun pattern are occasionally seen.

White markings found on the legs or the face are common and considered acceptable. 

Most individuals will stand between 14.2-15.2 hand high, but some stallions have been known to exceed 16 hands high. Most Morabs are not gaited, but because of the Morgan bloodlines and the ambling gait that a few have had in the past, there is the possibility of a Morab being gaited. The intermediate gait is often the singlefoot, but a true rack and a fox trot have also been seen within the breed.

Some Morab horses will also possess a natural high knee and hock action, but will also retain the free-flowing gait that is the hallmark of the breed. This creates a horse that is eager, personable, but still easy to handle.

The Future of the Morab Breed

After some initial stumbles and confusion, the Morab horse has finally developed an association that has led to the advancement of the breed in the equine world. The breed associations have come together under the purebred banner to promote programs and opportunities to breeders that are active with these horses.

In the past, horses in previous Morab registries were accepted without question. Now those horses are excluded without question because of doubts that exist regarding their lineage. Morabs with documented 50/50 bloodlines are only accepted for registry today and no crossing back to create 75/25 mixes are allowed.

Now that Arabian and Morgan parentage must be documented, the Mora horse is set to grow. With its friendly disposition and willingness to work, it is easy to see why so many people are seeing the Morab as the breed for them.