10 Popular Russian Horse Breeds

Russian Horse Breeds
Photo by Ivan Lapyrin

Russia covers a vast geographical area, much of which is native horse territory. As a result, there are numerous Russian horse breeds available. In fact, Russia has more horse breeds than any other country.

Over time, some of these horses have become extinct; however, there are still dozens of them in existence today. Some are well-known, such as the Akhal-Teke, while others, such as the Altai, are unknown.

In this article, we’ll discuss ten horse breeds that hail from Russia.

Russian Horse Breeds

1. Russian Don

The Russian Don is one of Russia’s most cherished breeds, and it was named after the region of Russia where the Don River flows. The Don is the oldest bred Russian riding horse, with a history dating back to more than 200 years.

Don horses were the preferred mount of the Cossack cavalry due to their endurance and stamina. In fact, during the Napoleonic Wars, a Russian cavalry officer rode on two Don mares from southern Russia to Paris in 30 days.

Even though there were once thousands of Don horses, by the middle of the 20th century, there were only a few hundred left. Fortunately, a successful breeding program has allowed the Don breed to flourish once again.

Furthermore, Don horses have a muscular chest, straight neck, refined head, and strong legs. These beautiful horses stand around 15 – 16 hands tall and are often chestnut though they can be gray, black, or bay. The Don horse is now a well-liked harness horse and endurance mount.

2. Akhal-Teke

Among the different Russian horse breeds, is the Akhal-Teke. It is a breed that is famous for its stamina and speed. They have a distinct metallic sheen that distinguishes them from other horses. Their gleaming coat earned them the nickname “Golden Horses.

In addition, approximately 6,600 of these horses are still alive today. Many of these are in Russia, where they were born. Some can, however, be found in Europe and North America.

These horses can adapt well to harsh environments because they dwell in the desert. They can also endure a long time without water or food, which is why they have lived as long as they have.

3. Russian Heavy Draft

The Russian Heavy Draft horse became an official breed in 1952, but its origins date back to the 1860s. Because of their muscular build, these horses are popular candidates for agricultural work in Russia.

The Russian Heavy Draft results from cross-breeding Russian-bred grade mares with the Orlov Trotter, Percheron, and Ardennes stock. In addition to its draft traits, the breed is famous for its milk-producing ability.

Kumys, or fermented mare’s milk, has a long history of use as a medicinal tonic in southern Russia and the Central Asian steppes.

Furthermore, Russian Heavy Draft horses are little but muscular horses with a heavy cob shape. They have a robust, well-arched neck, muscular body, and feathered legs, standing between 14.1 and 15 hands.

They are usually strawberry roan or chestnut in color, but they can also be bay. These gentle horses were utilized for farm work and pulling carriages.

4. Altai

Altai horse breed is indigenous to Central Asia’s Altai Mountains. They have a short neck and a powerful back. These horses stand around 13.2 hands tall, with coat hues ranging from chestnut to black to gray. They even have leopard spots on occasion.

In addition, these breeds are usually used to develop other species since they are so strong and healthy. They are easy to manage and rarely have any flaws.

This breed evolved in a severe climate. They were raised to satisfy mountain dwellers’ needs, resulting in their sure-footed temperament and strong cardiovascular system. Above all, they are undoubtedly a horse that most people can support.

5. Orlov Trotter

Among the different Russian horse breeds are the Orlov Trotters. The Orlov Trotter is a Russian treasure famous for its extraordinary speed and endurance.

They were formerly the quickest harness horses in Europe and the most well-known breed in the county. A.G. Orlov created the Orlov Trotter at the Khrenov stud between 1775 and 1784.

Orlov bred Arabian horses with Dutch, Danish, and Mecklenburg harness breeds in order to establish a light harness breed that could withstand Russia’s harsh climate.

Following meticulous breeding, the stud gave birth to the magnificent stallion Bars I. The Orlov Trotter breed was created when the gray stallion passed on his exceptional conformation and fast trot to his offspring.

Orlov was fiercely protective of his stock, and it wasn’t until 20 years after his death that stallions were openly sold to private stud owners.

Furthermore, the Orlov Trotter is a versatile breed with several uses, including harness raising, combination driving, carriage driving, and riding. You can identify them by their elegant head, arching neck, strong torso, and powerful legs.

These magnificent horses typically stand 15.2-17 hands tall and are gray in color, though they can also be chestnut, bay, or black.

6. Anglo-Kabarda

Anglo-Kabarda was created by crossing a Kabarda and a Thoroughbred. Depending on the horse, this horse breed contains between 25% and 75% Thoroughbred DNA.

There are also many varieties of these horses, depending on how much DNA each breed contributes.

In addition, there are three major types: “basic,” “oriental,” and “massive.” The type names aren’t particularly descriptive of the horse’s purpose. The basic breed is medium-sized and well-muscled; they make good all-around horses.

The oriental type is smaller and lighter in weight. Their heads are also smaller but famous for their huge eyes. The massive type is, as the name suggests, larger. People mostly use them as carriage horses.

7. Budyonny

The Budyonny horse was created as a military mount after the Russian Revolution and was named after Marshal Semyon Budyonny. Budyonny set out to produce a military riding horse after the country’s calvary herd was diminished.

Budyonny horses result from crossing Russian Dons with Chernomor mares and Thoroughbred stallions. Anglo-Dons were the first Budyonny horses that were bred with foundation stock. The stock included 657 Anglo-Chernomor, Anglo-Don, and Anglo-Don/Chernomor crosses mares.

Once the breed was established, Budyonny horses served as cavalry mounts during WWII. They were excellent battle mounts because of their bravery, endurance, athleticism, and willingness. Moreover, they gained popularity as sport horses after the war.

Today, the breed’s uses include driving, endurance, dressage, jumping, and eventing. In addition, these horses have an athletic build with a well-muscled body and wide chest.

They stand between 15-16 hands tall and are mostly chestnut, though they can also be black, gray, brown, or bay.

8. Bashkir

The Bashkir is among the Russian horse breeds. This lovely breed is a product of the Russian Federation of the republic of Bashkortostan. They are a smaller breed of horse, barely reaching a height of 14 hands, with very wide and deep chests. 

Also, these sturdy horses have rather large heads and short necks. They are famous for their exceptionally thick coat, often so thick that it is curly.

However, there are two main types of this breed, though they don’t have a specific name. One is lighter, and people mostly use it for riding, while the other is heavy and from the steppes. Both types are incredibly resilient and can survive harsh climates.

Nevertheless, there are many different uses for these horses. They work excellently as riding horses but also work well for farm, pack, and harness work.

Not to mention, they can draw sleights over many kilometers every day. Some of the indigenous tribes breed horses for the large amounts of milk the mares produce.

9. Yakutian

The strong Yakutian horse breed is indigenous to Siberia’s Yakut region of Russia. They are among the oldest and most distinctive horse breeds, often called the Yakut horse.

Yakutian horses can endure subzero temperatures that other horse breeds cannot. They can withstand the harsh winters of Siberia, where temperatures can drop as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit.

This amazing breed has undergone morphologic, metabolic, and physiologic adjustments in 800 years.

Furthermore, Yakutian horses are highly resilient, with small, compact bodies ranging in size from 12- 14 hands.

The residents in the area have long relied on these horses for transportation, milk, and, in certain cases, meat. During the winter, Yakutian horses develop long, shaggy coats similar to Woolly Mammoths.

During the winter, the Yakutain’s hair can reach eight centimeters in length and is unusually dense, unlike other breeds.

They engage in standing hibernation during winter, slowing their metabolism while remaining mobile. They are the only horse breed to have this special capacity.

10. Deliboz

What’s this list of Russian horse breeds without the Deliboz? The Deliboz is a light riding horse. They are a lost specie from Russia, though they did go through some careful breeding in the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic.

They are mostly available in grey coat colors, although other darker colors exist too. In addition, this breed can serve as a race, pack, and transportation horse.

They’re adorable, whimsical, and somewhat aggressive. Also, they come in different coat colors such as chestnut, buckskin, palomino, gray, dun, and black.


We hope you enjoyed getting to know some of these Russian horse breeds. They’re all beautiful and unique, although most are on the verge of extinction. Which of these horse breeds is your favorite? Kindly share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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