The development of the Orlov Trotter can be attributed
to Count Alexei Orlov at his Khrenov Stud, which he established
in 1788. Due to the Count's part in the conspiracy to overthrow
Peter III and win the Russian throne for the Tsarina Catherine the
Great, he was made Commander of the Russian fleet. Soon after this,
he beat the Turkish in an important battle and, as a consequence,
was presented with a gray Arabian stallion, Smetanka, by the Turkish
Admiral. Smetanka was bred with a variety of Danish mares and one
of his progeny, Polkan I, went on the become the sire of the foundation
stallion Bars I. Bars I foaled in 1784, son of Polkan I and a Dutch
mare called Hartsdraver.
Bars I was moved to the new Khrenov Stud, and there he was crossed
with a variety of mares of Arabian, Dutch, Danish, English half-bred,
and Mecklenburg descent. The best of the progeny were then interbred
until fixed characteristics had been established. The Orlov was
developed as a quality carriage horse and a racing trotting horse.
Between 1885 and 1913, there was a large introduction of the
American Standardbred to the breed to increase the trotting speeds.
It is considered that this crossbreeding began to destroy the fixed
characteristics of the Orlov, and it became necessary to re-establish
the Russian breed. The modern Orlov does not compare in speed to
the American Standardbred, but it is widely used in Orlov only trotting
races in Russia. There is quite a wide regional diversity
within the Orlov breed, with the best specimens being produced at
the Khrenov Stud. They are also bred at Dubrovski, Novotomnikov
and Perm, and the horses from these different studs exhibit different
traits, although mostly coarser in appearance and conformation.
The Orlov is a lightweight but powerful horse with great stamina
and endurance, and a quit but energetic temperament. Their heads
are fine and attractive, and they should have a nicely arched neck
set high on the shoulders, which are very straight. Typically, they
have a long, straight back and powerful quarters, they tend to be
long in the leg and have well-formed hooves. Predominantly gray
in color, they can also be bay or black, and stand around 16 hh.
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