The Morgan Horse Breed

The Morgan Horse breed was said to have derived great benefit from one horse. There seemed, in the early 1900's, to be a unanimity of opinion that Justin Morgan was one of the most, if not the most, prepotent sire that ever lived. That the Morgan breed could possibly be improved seems to have been lost sight of. A greater tribute than this would be impossible to pay.

Foaled in 1789, one hundred and twenty years ago, humans now admit their defeat, being content to accept that which we have as absolutely good and letting it go at that. This seems to me to be the sum total of the greater part of the eulogies paid to this wonderful horse.

That Justin Morgan founded a family of horses superior to any other breed for general purposes is undoubtedly true. That the influence of Morgan blood on other breeds has been of inestimable value, must also be admitted: and, that there are registered today Morgan horses superior in every respect to the original Morgans, cannot be doubted.

The Morgan horse of a hundred years ago (circa 1800) stood about fifteen hands and weighed about one thousand pounds. He could out-pull horses weighing from thirteen to fourteen and even sixteen hundred pounds, and he can do the same today. The reason for this is very simple of analysis: Whereas the larger horses of draft blood were largely of corn blood, as they are today, the Morgan has the warm thoroughbred blood tracing to the pure blood of Arabia.

When we stop to consider the environments of the Morgan of one hundred years ago, the hardships he endured, the haphazard inbreeding practiced, it is harder to realize how he matured to a horse of one thousand pounds then, than it is to produce him uniformly today under modern conditions and scientific selection, to a horse weighing 1200 pounds and standing fifteen three to sixteen hands uniformly.

There are two elements that enter into horse breeding that almost buried the Morgan horses for years as far as the general breeding public was concerned. These were the craze for speed in the light horse and the craze for bulk in the draft horse.

In the case of the light horse the Morgan did not lose his identity, as the standard breed is registered, not on a blood basis, but rather on speed units. The Morgan horse is found almost invariably in the pedigrees of the world’s champion trotters and pacers - Dan Patch, the fastest pacer in the world, and Lou Dillon, the fastest trotter in the world.

In fact, Morgan blood is an element in the pedigree of the trotter of incalculable value as it tends to give the horse a good head, staying qualities, rapidity of action and good conformation.

With the farmer the Morgan was nearly lost sight of. The importers of draft horses, vying with each other in the matter of bulk to such an extent that quality and soundness were largely lost sight of, and were it not for the fact that most farm mares are largely of native blood, a large proportion of this blood being Morgan, the breed of farm horses would be almost useless for the work intended, as the carrying of their own weight over plowed fields would entirely exhaust their energy.

Of the influence of the Morgan horse on the saddle horse, George M. Rommel, animal husbandman of the Bureau of Animal Industry, U. S. Department of Agriculture, on page 88, Circular 137, says: "That it would be a misfortune to allow our native types to be lost is shown (1) by the influence of the Morgan on the development of the American saddle horse (2) by the influence of the various strains in the stock registered in the American Saddle Horse Register on the development of horses suitable for carriage and general purposes, and (3) by the value of certain blood lines in the Morgans and Standardbreds to produce the most useful types.

Among the most prominent sires whose influence on Kentucky saddle stock has been of permanent value, Cabell’s Lexington, Coleman’s Eureka, Peavine, Indian Chief and Harrison Chief stand out distinctly. Of these horses, all but Harrison Chief trace in direct male line to Justin Morgan and are registered in the American Morgan Register. It is well known that many of the best and highest-priced harness horses which go out of Kentucky are practically saddle-bred. The breeding of these horses is exceedingly interesting and instructive. For example, a pair known as Tattersall and Eckersail was sold about a year ago for $6000.

From the standpoint of the show ring, however, first place among carriage horses which have gone out of Kentucky must be given to Glorious Red Cloud. This horse was for a period of years, perhaps, the most sensational animal in heavy harness at the National Horse Show, and, in the opinion of some Judges, was the best horse that ever wore heavy harness in America.

In the foregoing remarks it is shown clearly that there are certain lines of breeding found in the Saddle Horse Register which can be relied upon to produce carriage horses.

In Kentucky, the breeding of horses for individual excellence of conformation, quality and action, is carried to a greater degree than in any state, and, contrary to public opinion the most of men outside of the Thoroughbred establishments who make their living from horse breeding, in Kentucky, in the Bluegrass counties at least, are not breeding for speed, but for type.

This has been going on for years, and for this reason the good, handsome horses of Kentucky have usually been appreciated, their history traced, and their descendants accounted for. If the same careful attention to points of conformation and action had been shown fifty years ago by Morgan breeders in New England and had there been displayed the same enthusiasm for, and loyalty to a valuable local type of horses, there would now be no necessity for government aid to save the Morgan horse from destruction. If horsemen in the corn belt had paid less attention to the speed records of their stallions in their localities, and more to their individuality, the carriage horse work of the Department of Agriculture would be out of place.”

To Joseph Battell, of the Morgan Horse Register, and to the horse shows, are due the renaissance of the Morgan horse; and that he will in the future perish is not to be thought of now.

With the government's breeding establishments the line will be perpetuated, and through the Morgan, the Standard bred, and the Kentucky saddle horse, will be produced a type of horse, that for quality, style, docility, speed and dynamic energy, will surpass any breed of horses produced by any other nation of the world.

Reference Note.—Justin Morgan according to the tabulated pedigree, Vol. 1, American Morgan Register, was of Arabian and thoroughbred blood. Sired by True Briton, son of Lloyd’s Traveler, son of Morton’s Imported Traveler and Imported Jennie Cameron; dam Betty Leeds, daughter of Babraham by Godolphin Arabian, and out of a mare by Bolton Starling, she out of a mare by Godolphin Arabian.

The dam of Justin Morgan is given as by Diamond by Church’s Wildair by Imported Wildair by Cad by Godolpin Arabian. This carries us to the desert, where the Arabs created breeds which have survived the vicissitudes of time.

The axiom is that purity of blood will breed on with a higher degree of certainty than any other; therefore, Oriental strains are always valued in a pedigree.

Goldust's dam was the Hoke mare by Zilcaadi, a chestnut Arabian horse, presented by the sultan to Mr. Rhind, U. S. Consul, and by him imported; and his second dam by Imported Barefoot, son of Tramp.

Goldust was a most beautiful horse of sixteen hands and weighed 1275 pounds and one of the greatest sires of the country. He established a family noted for good looks as well as for speed and endurance. Golddust, according to Mr. Battell, traced through Justin Morgan as well as the Hoke mare to the pure blood of Arabia.

Daniel Lambert's dam was Fanny Cook, a handsome and highly organized chestnut mare by Abdallah, son of Mambrino by Imported Messenger; second dam by Stockholm’s American Star, by Duroc by Imported Diomed.

We would hardly look for a coarseness in breeding of this kind, but rather improvement in quality and finish. Got by Robin, or Red Robin: second dam, dark brown, bred by Mr. Bermis, of Baltimore, Vt, a mare of Morgan build in appearance, and said to be Morgan; third dam, a chestnut mare, brought to Chester, Vt , by Dr. Chandler of that place, from Tunbridge, Vt., and said to be by Justin Morgan.

One of the mares bred to Ethan Allen was the famous chestnut, Pocahontas, by Iron’s Cadmus, who paced to a wagon record of 2:17 1/2 in 1855. The fruit was the handsome bay mare, Pocahontas, foaled in 1859, who trotted to a record of 2 20 3/4 at Boston, July 26, 1866. This mare was then sold to Robert Bonner for $40,000 and she was long a shining light of that world-famous stable. Pocahontas trotted a mile for Mr. Bonner in 2:17 3/4 and died without issue. These three horses were improved Morgan horses in the generally accepted sense.