Orlov Trotter: Introduction to Horse Breeds

The Orlov Trotter was once a prized Russian horse breed, but various wars and cultural changes have threatened its survival. This versatile horse’s combination of speed, strength, endurance and pleasant temperament makes it an excellent choice for many riders – if they can find this rare breed. The development of the Orlov Trotter took place hundreds of years ago with careful and selective breeding, and now a number of dedicated breeders are working to ensure the breed’s survival for centuries to come.

Variety Overview

weight: 990 lbs

high: 15.2 to 17 lots

Body type: Large, muscular “gentle giants”

Most suitable: Driving, mixed driving and sports that require athleticism and endurance

Life expectancy: 30 years

The History and Origin of Orlov Trotters

The Orlov Trotter is the most famous horse breed in Russia, originated between 1775 and 1784. The breed was developed by Count AG Orlov, who tried to develop a light harness that combined speed and endurance. Additionally, the breed needs to be able to withstand Russia’s harsh climate, and the horse needs to be robust enough to ride on the country’s poor quality roads.

Count Orlov’s Khrenovsky stallion is located in central Russia and can accommodate up to 3,000 horses at a time for the breeding program. Count Orlov kept meticulous records of his crossing of European mares and Arabian stallions. He highly protected the breed and only sold geldings, although 20 years after Count Orlov’s death, tradition changed and stallions were sold to private owners.

The Orlov Trotter became a popular harness racehorse in the mid to late 1800s. These horses outperformed the best horses in Russia and Europe. While standard stallions were still proven to be faster than Orlov trotters, the breeds were crossed to produce Russian trotters.

Horse breeding suffered huge losses during the Civil War, but Orlov’s trotters recovered in the early 1900s. This hardy breed was used as a farm and transport horse, and did return to racing in the 1930s. World War II also reduced the breed’s population. The International Committee for the Conservation of Orlov Trotters was established in 1997 to ensure the preservation of the breed. Today, these horses are raised on 12 stud farms in Russia and 3 in Ukraine.

Orlov trotter horse size

Orlov Trotters typically stand between 15.2 and 17 hands and weigh about 990 pounds. They are large, muscular horses often referred to as gentle giants.

Breeding and Use

The Orlov Trotter is a versatile breed, so while it’s still suitable for harness work, it can do so much more. These horses have a quiet temperament that makes them ideal for driving, work, sport or recreation. The Orlov Trotter’s speed and stamina make it an excellent all-around driver.

The future of the breed is largely in the hands of Russian stud farms. There are only about 800 mares in total on these farms, which means the breed’s survival could be at risk. This somewhat rare breed needs the support of dedicated breeders and breed enthusiasts if it is to survive.

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colors and markings

Base horses were chosen for their striking gray coat, which most modern Orlov Trotters still have. Black, laurel and maroon coats are also commonly seen in this breed.

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Unique characteristics of Orlov trotters

The Orlov Trotter has a remarkably fast trotting form. While other breeds have a fast trot, the Orlov Trotter combines this trait with unusual stamina and strength. These qualities make the Orlov Trotter not only suitable for harness racing, but also a versatile horse for riding, farming, driving and more.

Diet and Nutrition

These horses are very hardy and they can adapt to both stable and pasture life. Many stud farms keep these horses mainly outside in herds. These horses can survive on pasture alone, but if quality pasture is not available, they may need supplemental hay or grain.

Common Health and Behavioral Issues

The Orlov Trotter is a hardy variety. Because it was selectively bred to withstand the Russian climate and tough roads, it tends to be a healthier, more robust horse.

These horses are also known for having a great temperament. They are flattering and smart, making them suitable for many riders, including beginners.


The Orlov Trotter does not have any specific grooming needs, but like all horses, it will benefit from regular grooming and care. Regular curry helps maintain a healthy, shiny coat. This breed has strong, healthy hooves, but regular farrier care is important to keep them healthy.


  • Hardy varieties with minimal health problems

  • Excellent strength and endurance

  • Versatile and applicable to many disciplines

Champion and Celebrity Orlov Trotter Horse

Certain famous Orlov Trotters helped shape the breed:

  • Smetanka is an Arabian stallion that gave birth to five horses after a year of breeding. All Orlov trotters can trace their lineage back to Smetanka.
  • Krepysh was an Orlov trotter who set a record in the 1600m in the early 1900s. He earned himself the title of “Horse of the Century” with incredible speed.
  • Pion was an influential Orlov Trotter stallion with a record of 3,200 meters.
  • Ippik is a grey Orlov Trotter stallion who still holds the record for the 2,400m race.

Is Orlov Trotter right for you?

Orlov Trotter has many desirable properties. It’s strong, strong, and has impressive stamina. It has a great temperament and is easy to train. It’s also versatile, so whether you’re looking for a driving horse, harness racer, workhorse or recreational riding, this breed has something for you.

How to Adopt or Buy Orlov Trotter

Unfortunately, Orlov Trotter is very rare. While some of these horses have been imported into the United States, it is unusual to see any of them for sale. Prices of horses available for sale can be high, and sellers may ask for horses to go only to breeders.

While you may not be able to buy an Orlov Trotter for yourself, Standardbred offers many similar features. This breed is more readily available and you can adopt a retired racehorse standard breed from horse rescues across the country. Alternatively, you can buy this breed from private sellers, trainers and breeders. While the Standardbred isn’t quite the same as the Orlov Trotter, it’s a more practical compromise, and this breed will serve a variety of riders well.

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