The Orlov Trotter was developed in 18th century Russia by Count Alexei Orlov. The breed orignated through the crossing of European mares with Arabian stallions. The foundation sire of the breed was Bars I, a stallion of Arabian, Danish and Dutch breeding, foaled in 1784. Orlovs were originally used by Russian nobility for riding and harness racing. The breed faced extinction when breeders began crossing the faster Standardbreds with Orlovs, and further after the Russian civil war when horse breeding became a luxury few could afford. Today the breed is carefully protected at several Russian and Ukrainian stud farms, but with approximately 800 mares, Orlovs are considered to be in danger.
Orlov Trotters are built to be strong but fast work horses, with substantial bone and broad through the chest. The neck is high and arched thanks to the breed’s Arabian influence, but the head is large with prominent, expressive features.
The modern Orlov Trotter is distinctive in its type and conformation. Its head is well proportioned and clean cut, poll long and jaws broad, neck long and muscular and often high-set, withers medium in height and length, back long and flat and sometimes slightly dipped, loin of medium length and flat, croup straight and nicely rounded, chest wide, medium-deep, ribs well sprung, legs properly set and the joints well developed, often somewhat coarse. The forearm, cannon and metatarsus are medium in size, the pasterns often short and straight. The limbs are sometimes hairy. The colors are grey, bay, black and chestnut.
The adaptability of the Orlov Trotter to either stable of pasture management has contributed to its spread to various parts of the country as well as to the development of specific lines. For instance, Dubrovski, Khrenov, Novotomnikov and Perm stud types have been formed, with distinctive exterior features. The Khrenov is the most popular standard type of the Orlov described in all textbooks and guides. The Dubrovski type is distinguished by smaller size, somewhat more primitive build, fleshiness and solid build. The Novotomnikov is characterized by its clean build, prominent “Arabian and swan-like” breed features and more rapid maturity. The Perm types is the most fleshy and large type with a somewhat coarse build characteristic of carriage horses.
The average speed of adult trotters is currently 2 min 20 sec for 1600 m; the record is 2 min 1 sec.
Pure breeding is the main method of producing the Orlov Trotter. No depression of the main economic characters occurs with up to 5% of inbreeding.
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