Home / Russian Horses / Orlov Trotter

By Jeffery Garfield

Last updated: 23rd March 2018

Orlov Trotter


Jeffery Garfield
Last updated: 23rd March 2018

The Orlov Trotter is a well-known Russian breed of horses developed by crossing Arabian stallions with mares of different European breeds. Famous for its incredible speed and agility, the Orlov trotters were extensively used for harness racing and general riding by the members of the Russian nobility. The Orlovs have the distinctive structure of light harness horses combining a light but powerful body with an all-round elegance.

Orlov Trotter Pictures

Quick Facts

Other Names Orloff Trotter
Common Nicknames Orlov
Temperament/Personality Calm, quiet, gentle, versatile, and docile; a willing worker
Types Four types based on size

Large/massive: a long body with a well-proportionate barrel and slightly short legs

Large/rangy: a stronger constitution with longer and stronger legs

Medium-sized: slightly smaller with a dryer structure, full-bodied

Average: the most common type

Physical Characteristics A muscular body; a pair of expressive eyes set on a large head; long and arched neck; broad hindquarters and prominent withers; powerful legs with well-defined joints and tendons
Colors Even though these horses are born dark, they gradually turn lighter and at maturity they become black, bay, gray, or chestnut
Common Use Commonly used in competitive horse driving and harness racing; the mounted police in Russia use the Orlovs for their tall and massive structure, some Orlov crossbreeds are also used as light carriage horses
Lifespan/Life Expectancy May live up to 32 years
Height (size) Stallions

  • Height at withers: 15.89 hands (161.4 cm)
  • Barrel: 16.14 hands (164 cm)
  • Chest circumference: 186 cm
  • Cannon bone circumference: 20.4 cm


  • Height at withers: 15.78 hands (160.3 cm)
  • Barrel: 16.1 hands (163.6 cm)
  • Chest: 186.2 cm
  • Cannon bone circumference: 20.1 cm
Health A healthy breed with no known health concerns
Blood Type Warm-blooded
Gaited Yes, has an impressive fast trotting movement
Popular Traits Strong drive, toughness, and sure-footedness; high endurance, swiftness, fertility
Feeding/Diet A diet comprising a considerable amount of protein and carbohydrates is necessary since it has high energy needs; in addition to hay and grass, provide grains like corn or oats with protein supplement; it will also benefit from a legume-rich-hay; plenty of clean, fresh water is needed
Country of Origin Russia
Ancestors Arabian, Dutch, English, Danish, and Mecklenburg horses
Year/Time of Development 1784

Orlov Trotter Video

History and Development

During the late 18th-century, Count Alexei Orlov (the founder of Khrenovskoy Stud farm in Russia) bought a silvery-gray Arabian stallion named Smetanka. It served as the breeding stallion until its death the next year. Smetanka was crossed with a Danish mare called Isabelline, producing a stallion named Polkan in 1778. A gray stallion named Bars I, regarded as the first Orlov trotter, was developed in 1784 when Polkan was crossbred to a gray Dutch mare.

Count Orlov was so pleased with the size, elegance, and agility of the newly developed breed that he decided to preserve its characteristics by crossbreeding Bars I with different mares including English half-breeds, Dutch, Danish, and Mecklenburg horses. After Count Orlov’s death, his daughter Anna took charge of the stud-farm in 1809. However, she was not adept at horse breeding. The quality of the trotters fell because of intensive crossbreeding with different European breeds.

After few decades, the Orlov trotters regained some of their lost glory, and the private stud-farms started raising some of the best trotters. With the formation of a Trotting Society in Moscow in 1834, horse racing competitions were organized in which the trotters emerged as the finest racing horses not just in Russia but also in Europe. The introduction of harness racing totalizators in 1877 led to major changes in the breeding program of Orlovs. The stud-farmers mixed the trotters with the Standardbreds creating a new breed called the Russian Trotter, which lacked most of the special traits of the traditional Orlovs. In an effort to save these horses from disappearing, the government launched separate races for the Standardbreds and the Orlovs.

During the Russian Civil War as well as the Second World War, the population of Orlovs declined as most of the horses were killed either on the battlefield or for meat. After the war, there was a desperate need for horses that could restore agricultural production. The trotters were again used for the improvement of the local horses. With the advancements of agricultural equipments during the 1950s, the need for raising these horses decreased.

An International Committee was set up in 1997 with an objective to preserve these horses. Today, three Ukrainian and twelve Russian stud farms raise pure-blooded Orlov trotters.

Interesting Facts

  • An Orlov stallion named Krepysh was regarded as the fastest horse in pre-revolutionary Russia. It holds the record of covering 1 mile in 2 min 8.5 sec and winning 55 racing competitions.
  • In 1867, a trotter named Beduin covered 3500 feet (about 3 verstas) in 1 min 32 sec beating Flora Temple, the fastest Standardbred of that time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our newsletter