The Thoroughbred is most widely known as a racehorse. The popularity of the Kentucky Derby means many people are familiar with these sleek, speedy horses with jockeys crouched in their saddles racing to the cheers of the crowd. The breed is descended from three Arabian stallions–the Godolphin Arabian, the Darley Arabian, and the Byerly Turk–who were brought to England to increase the speed and stamina of the English racehorses of the day.  Thoroughbreds made their way to the U.S. in the mid-1700s, where they continued to be bred primarily as racehorses. While the term “thoroughbred” is sometimes used to describe any purebred animal, the name “Thoroughbred” is actually specific to this horse breed.

What Does a Thoroughbred Look Like?

The Thoroughbred’s overall appearance should be one of athleticism and beauty. The head should be correctly proportioned to the rest of the body and carried relatively low. The withers are high and well-defined, while the shoulder should be deep and well-muscled. The hindquarters should have long, strong muscles, giving Thoroughbreds the power and length of stride needed to reach top speeds. Chestnut, bay, black, brown and gray are the most common colors, and many Thoroughbreds have white markings on their faces and legs.

While the Thoroughbred’s fame stems from the racetrack, horses of this breed can be also be found enjoying great success in a number of other activities, including jumping, dressage, cross-country eventing and polo. Some are bred for these endeavors, while others, referred to as “off-track Thoroughbreds” or OTTBs, are retrained for these purposes after their racing careers are over. For more information, visit