AskDefine | Define thoroughbred

Dictionary Definition

thoroughbred adj : having a list of ancestors as proof of being a purebred animal [syn: pedigree(a), pedigreed, pureblood, pureblooded]


1 a well-bred person [ant: mixed-blood]
2 a racehorse belonging to a breed that originated from a cross between Arabian stallions and English mares
3 a pedigreed animal of unmixed lineage; used especially of horses [syn: purebred, pureblood]

User Contributed Dictionary

see Thoroughbred



  1. bred from pure stock
  2. well-bred and properly educated


  1. A particular breed of horse (this does not refer to any pure-bred horse)
  2. A well-bred person.
  3. A person of uncommon strength or endurance.
    That athlete is a real thoroughbred.

Extensive Definition

The Thoroughbred is a horse breed best known for its use in horse racing. Although the word "thoroughbred" is sometimes used to refer to any breed of purebred horse, it technically refers only to the Thoroughbred breed. Thoroughbreds are considered a "hot-blooded" horse, known for their agility, speed and spirit.
The Thoroughbred as it is known today was first developed in 17th and 18th century England, when native mares were crossbred with imported Arabian stallions. All modern Thoroughbreds can trace their pedigrees to three stallions originally imported into England in the 1600s and 1700s, and to 74 foundation mares of English and Oriental (Arabian or Barb) blood. During the 1700s and 1800s, the Thoroughbred breed spread throughout the world; they were imported into North America starting in 1730 and into Australia, Europe, Japan and South America during the 1800s. Millions of Thoroughbreds exist worldwide today, with almost 1.3 million in the United States alone and over 118,000 foals registered each year worldwide.
Thoroughbreds are used mainly for racing, but are also bred for other riding disciplines, such as show jumping, combined training, dressage, polo, and fox hunting. They are also commonly cross-bred with other breeds to create new breeds or to improve existing ones, and have been influential in the creation of many important breeds, such as the Quarter Horse, the Standardbred, the Anglo-Arabian, and various Warmblood breeds.
Thoroughbred racehorses perform with maximum exertion, which has resulted in high rates of accidents and other health problems. Racing has been proven to have a higher fatality rate than all other legal human and animal sports. Also, Thoroughbreds are prone to other health complications, including bleeding from the lungs, low fertility, abnormally small hearts and a small hoof to body mass ratio. There are several theories for the reasons behind the prevalence of accidents and health problems in the Thoroughbred breed, and research continues into how to reduce the accident rate and treat those animals that are injured.


The Thoroughbred is a distinct breed of horse. However, people sometimes refer to a purebred horse of any breed as a "thoroughbred", though the term for any horse or other animal that is derived from a single breed line is "purebred". While the term probably came into general use because the English Thoroughbred's General Stud Book was one of the first breed registries created, in modern usage, horse breeders consider it incorrect to refer to any horse or other animal as a "thoroughbred" except for horses belonging to the Thoroughbred breed. Less common colors include roan and palomino. White is very rare, but is a recognized color separate from gray. The face and lower legs may be marked with white, but white will generally not appear on the body. Coat patterns that have more than one color on the body, such as Pinto or Appaloosa, do not exist in the Thoroughbred. Good quality Thoroughbreds have a well-chiseled head on a long neck, high withers, a deep chest, a short back, good depth of hindquarters, a lean body, and long legs. Thoroughbreds are classified among the "hot-blooded" breeds, which are animals bred for agility and speed and are generally considered spirited and bold.
Thoroughbreds that are born in the Northern Hemisphere technically become a year older on January 1 each year; those born in the Southern Hemisphere turn one year older on August 1. These artificial dates have been set to enable the standardization of races and other competitions for horses in certain age groups.


Beginnings in England

Beginnings of racing in England

Flat racing, or horse racing on a flat track, appears to have started in England by 1174, when four mile races took place at Smithfield, near London. Racing continued at fairs and markets throughout the Middle Ages and into the reign of King James I of England. It was then that a system of adding weight to attempt to equalize horses chances of winning as well as improved training procedures began to be used. Under James' grandson King Charles II and James' great-granddaughter Queen Anne royal support was given to racing and the breeding of racehorses, helping to make the sport popular. In 1727, the Racing Calendar, a newspaper devoted to English racing was founded, which recorded race results and advertised upcoming races. It was during the reigns of Charles II, Anne, King William III, and King George I that the foundation of the Thoroughbred was laid.

Foundation stallions

All modern Thoroughbreds trace back to three stallions imported into England from the Middle East in the late 17th and early 18th centuries: the Byerly Turk (1680s), the Darley Arabian (1704), and the Godolphin Arabian (1729). Other stallions of oriental breeding were less influential, but still made noteworthy contributions to the breed. These included the Alcock Arabian, D'Arcy's White Turk, Leedes Arabian, and Curwen's Bay Barb. Another was the Brownlow Turk, who, among other attributes, is thought to be largely responsible for the gray coat color in Thoroughbreds.
Each of the three major foundation sires was, coincidentally, the ancestor of a grandson or great-great-grandson who was the only male descendant to perpetuate each respective horse's male line: Matchem was the only descendant of his grandsire, the Godolphin Arabian, to maintain a male line to the present; the Byerly Turk's male line was preserved by Herod (or King Herod), a great-great-grandson; and the male line of the Darley Arabian owes its existence to great-great-grandson Eclipse, who was the dominant racehorse of his day and never defeated. main Thoroughbred horse race
Thoroughbred horses are primarily bred for racing under saddle at the gallop. Thoroughbreds are often known for being either distance runners or sprinters, and their conformation usually reflects what they have been bred to do. Sprinters are usually well muscled, while stayers, or distance runners, tend to be smaller and slimmer. The size of the horse is one consideration for buyers and trainers when choosing a potential racehorse. Although there have been famous racehorses of every height, from Man o' War and Secretariat who both stood at 16.2 hands to Hyperion (15.1), the best racehorses are generally of average size. Larger horses mature more slowly and have more stress on their legs and feet, making them more predisposed to lameness. Smaller horses are considered by some to be at a disadvantage due to their shorter stride and a tendency of other horses to bump them, especially in the starting gate.
Prices on Thoroughbreds vary greatly, depending on pedigree, conformation, and other market factors. Fewer than 50% of horses ever win a race, and less than 1% ever win a stakes race such as the Kentucky Derby or the Epsom Derby. In 2007, Keeneland Sales, a United States based sales company, sold 9124 horses at auction, with a total value of $814,401,000.00, which gives an average price of $89,259.00. As a whole for the United States in 2007, The Jockey Club auction statistics indicate that the average weanling sold for $44,407, the average yearling sold for $55,300, average sale price for two-year-olds was $61,843, broodmares averaged $70,150, and horses over two and broodmare prospects sold for an average of $53,243. For Europe, the July 2007 Tattersall's Sale sold 593 horses at auction, with a total for the sale of 10,951,300 guineas, for an average of 18,468 guineas. Doncaster Bloodstock Sales, another British sales firm, in 2007 sold 2,248 horses for a total value of 43,033,881 guineas, making an average of 15,110 guineas per horse.
In 2007, the average Thoroughbred racehorse in the United States and Canada ran 6.33 times. There were 71,959 horses who started races, earning a total of $1,217,854,602 in all placings. The average earnings per starter was $16,924.00. In Britain, the British Racing Authority states there were 8556 horses in training for flat racing for 2007, and those horses started 60,081 times in 5659 races. Horses that are finished with a racing career, but are not suitable for breeding purposes, often become riding horses or other equine companions. A number of agencies exist to help make the transition from the racetrack to another career, or to help find retirement homes for ex-racehorses. Stud fees for stallions that enter breeding can range from $2,500.00 to $300,000.00 in the United States, and from 2000 pounds to 75,000 pounds or more.

Other disciplines

In addition to racing, Thoroughbreds compete in eventing, show jumping and dressage at the highest levels of international competition, including the Olympics. They are also used as show hunters, steeplechasers, and in western riding speed events such as barrel racing. They are used in non-competitive work in mounted police divisions and for recreational riding. Thoroughbreds are one of the most common breeds for use in polo in the United States. They are often seen in the fox hunting field as well.


Thoroughbreds are often crossed with horses of other breeds to create new breeds or improve existing ones. They have been influential on many modern breeds, including the American Quarter Horse, the Standardbred, and possibly the Morgan, a breed that went on to influence many of the gaited breeds in North America. Other common crosses with the Thoroughbred include crossbreeding with Arabian bloodlines to produce the Anglo-Arabian as well as with the Irish Draught to produce the Irish Sport Horse. Thoroughbreds are often crossed with various Warmblood breeds due to their refinement and performance capabilities.

Health issues

Although Thoroughbreds are seen in the hunter-jumper world and in other disciplines, modern Thoroughbreds are primarily bred for speed, and racehorses have a very high rate of accidents as well as other health problems.
One tenth of all Thoroughbreds suffer orthopedic problems, including fractures. Thoroughbreds also have other health concerns, including a majority of animals who are prone to bleeding from the lungs (EIPH), 10 percent with low fertility, and 5 percent with abnormally small hearts. which contributes to foot soreness, the most common source of lameness in racehorses.

Selective breeding

One argument for the health issues involving Thoroughbreds suggests that inbreeding is the culprit. Thus, goes the theory, the modern Thoroughbred travels faster than its skeletal structure can support. Veterinarian Robert Miller states that "We have selectively bred for speeds that the anatomy of the horse cannot always cope with."

Excess stress

The high accident rate may also occur because Thoroughbreds, particularly in the United States, are first raced as 2-year-olds, well before they are completely mature. Though they may appear full-grown and are in superb muscular condition, their bones are not fully formed. Studies have shown that track surfaces, horseshoes with toe grabs, and high-intensity racing schedules may also contribute. One promising trend is the development of synthetic surfaces for racetracks, and one of the first tracks to install such a surface, Turfway Park in Florence, Kentucky, saw its rate of fatal breakdowns drop from 24 in 2004–05 to three in the year following Polytrack installation. The material is not perfected, and some areas report problems related to winter weather, but studies are continuing. but also controversial, due in part to the significant challenges in treating broken bones and other major leg injuries. Leg injuries that are not immediately fatal still may be life-threatening because a horse's weight must be distributed evenly on all four legs to prevent circulatory problems, laminitis and other infections. If a horse loses the use of one leg temporarily, there is the risk that other legs will break down during the recovery period because they are carrying an abnormal weight load. While horses periodically lie down for brief periods of time, a horse cannot remain lying in the equivalent of a human's "bed rest" because of the risk of developing sores and internal damage and congestion. On the other hand, advocates of racing argue that without horse racing, far less funding and incentives would be available for medical and biomechanical research on horses. Although horse racing is hazardous, veterinary science has advanced. Previously hopeless cases can now be treated,



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External links

thoroughbred in Arabic: خيول ثوروبريد
thoroughbred in Czech: Anglický plnokrevník
thoroughbred in German: Englisches Vollblut
thoroughbred in Spanish: Purasangre
thoroughbred in French: Pur-sang anglais
thoroughbred in Italian: Purosangue inglese
thoroughbred in Lithuanian: Grynakraujai jojamieji arkliai
thoroughbred in Dutch: Engelse volbloed
thoroughbred in Japanese: サラブレッド
thoroughbred in Norwegian: Thoroughbred (Engelsk fullblod)
thoroughbred in Polish: Koń pełnej krwi angielskiej
thoroughbred in Portuguese: Thoroughbred
thoroughbred in Russian: Чистокровная верховая
thoroughbred in Simple English: Thoroughbred
thoroughbred in Finnish: Englannintäysiverinen
thoroughbred in Swedish: Engelskt fullblod
thoroughbred in Chinese: 純種馬

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

American trotter, Appaloosa, Arabian, Barb, Barbary horse, Belgian, Brahman, Cleveland Bay, French coach horse, Galloway, Hambletonian, Shetland, Shetland pony, Shire, Suffolk, Turk, archduke, aristocrat, armiger, baron, baronet, blue blood, blue-blooded, count, daimio, duke, earl, esquire, full-blooded, genet, gentleman, grand duke, grandee, hidalgo, highborn, highbred, jennet, lace-curtain, laird, landgrave, lord, lordling, magnate, magnifico, margrave, marquis, noble, nobleman, of good breed, optimate, palomino, palsgrave, patrician, pedigree, pedigreed, peer, pur sang, pure-blooded, purebred, quarter horse, saddle horse, seigneur, seignior, silk-stocking, squire, swell, upper-cruster, viscount, waldgrave, well-bred, wellborn
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