The Morgan horse is a native American breed with an outstanding reputation for its elegance and versatility. While many breeds have found greatness due to their brilliance at a certain task, the Morgan’s greatness is based on its versatility. It is used in carriage harness, under saddle, in the show ring, sport events, and in many generally purpose activities and tasks. The foundation sire, Justin Morgan, was foaled in Massachusetts in 1789. he was a proponent sire and an extraordinary worker for his size. For many years the Morgan horse was the fastest horse for harness racing. It also earned a great reputation as a cavalry mount in the Civil War. The Morgan is the only breed accepted as the basis for the cavalry remount service.
The Morgan averages between 14.1 and 15.1 hands and occasionally reaches 16 hands. It is most frequently found in the colors bay and chestnut, although black, palomino, gray, dun, creme, and brown are accepted. The Morgan is easily recognized by his proud carriage, upright graceful neck, and distinctive head with expressive eyes. Deep bodied and compact, the Morgan has strongly muscled quarters. The Morgan horse has a dramatic gait with considerable action.
The Morgan breed was founded by a horse foaled in 1789 in West Springfield, Massachusetts. As a young horse, he was called Figure. According to the New England custom at the time, he was named after his owner, Just Morgan. When Morgan died, the horse was sold. Just Morgan proved to be a proponent sire who produced a breed which could haul logs one day and win and important race the next.
Just Morgan’s most important sons – those which carried on the best Morgan qualitites – were Sherman, Woodbury, Bulrush, and Revenge. Perhaps the most famous Morgan in harness racing was the great Ethan Allen. In 1867 at the age of 18, he won a match race with Hambletonian’s famouse sone Dexter, the supreme trotter of that time. The Morgan became a popular mount in the American west after the Civil War. It remained the favored horse for carriage work until the automobile superseded horse-drawn vehicles.
Besides Just Morgan, one of the most famous Morgan horses was Black Hawk. He was sired by Sherman Morgan and out of an unknown mare. It is said she was from Canadian breed stock. Black Hawk was foaled in New Hampshire in 1833. He was not an attractive horse and was high-strung in his youth. His owner nearly had him gelded. He became a pre-eminent sire and his get were at one time considered a separate breed of horse: “Black Hawks,” not Morgans. He was the first stallion in America to receive a stud fee of $100, a considerable sum for the 1800’s. Among his many offspring was the famous trotter Ethan Allen. Although Black Hawk died in 1856, he was still considered the second greatest Morgan sire in 1900.
The Standardbred owes its greatest characteristic – namely speed – to be history’s greatest progenitor of both gait and speed. But the Morgan greatly influenced the Standardbred’s stamina and conformation. Some 90 percent of modern American Saddlehorses such as Wing Commander and Rex Peavine trace to Peavine, a great-grandson of Black Hawk. Allen F-1, the founding sire of the Tennessee Walking Horse was a descendent of Black Hawk on his dam’s side. Some authorities assert that Steel Dust, foaled about 1845 and one of the greatest sired in the history of the Quarter Horse, was a Morgan.
1. Welsh Cob
For more information, contact:
American Morgan Horse Association
122 Bostwick Road
Shelburne, VT 05482