The Orlov Trotter is a horse breed with a hereditary fast trot, noted for its outstanding speed and stamina. It is the most famous Russian horse.
Legend has it that an idea to produce superb Russian horses first occurred to the Orlov brothers, when they, favorites of Catherine the Second, were meeting her on a road when she was dashing from Tsarskoye Selo to St.Petersburg to head her coup de t’etat against her husband Peter III. But en route, of all the moments, her coach came to a grinding halt, because her fancy European horses couldn’t stand the pace. The officers rushed to a nearest bawdy tavern, borrowed a set of hardy but unattractive nags and harnessed them onto the imperial coach to haul Catherine to her destination. Catherine’s and the Orlov’s lives hung on a thread.
This unglamorous episode put one of the brothers, Alexey, in mind of producing some time in the future a Superb Horse. And so, when retired, Alexey Orlov got round to it, breeding in parallel a Superb Trotter and a Superb Mount (Orlov–Rostopchin). And both of his undertakings were a huge success. Orlov trotters were the first breed developed in Russia with method and perseverance.
The Orlov trotters are in general taller and more robust than Standardbreds. The average current measurements for Orlov breeding stallions are 161.4 cm (height at withers), 164 cm (body length/barrel), 186 cm (chest circumference), 20.4 cm (cannon bone circumference) and for breeding mares are 160.3 cm, 163.6 cm, 186.2 cm and 20.1 cm respectively. In appearance, the Orlovs are characterized by a big head, large expressive eyes, a long and naturally arched neck set high, prominent withers and broad croup. The body is muscular. The legs are strongly built, with prominent joints and clearly defined tendons.
Due to its Arabian origins, many Orlovs are grey, at maturity, though all are born a darker colour at birth. (Grey horses are born dark and slowly lighten as they age until their hair coat is completely white.) At maturity, the colors of Orlovs are: grey (46%), black (28%), bay (20%) or chestnut (5%).
As a hot-blooded equine, like their Arab ancestors, they are more sensitive and spirited than cold-blooded or warm-blooded breeds. These qualities often make them unsuitable for novice horse owners, but those with equine experience appreciate that these high-strung animals make extraordinary partners with correct and careful training.
This breed is perceived as a generally healthy breed. With no known breed-specific health issues, owners just have to ensure their horse maintains a healthy lifestyle with regular veterinary checkups.
The Orlov Trotter is capable of performing various tasks very well. The most common ones are endurance riding, general riding, jumping, racing, and work. With a diverse set of abilities, this breed can accommodate the various needs of horse owners. Other tasks this breed is good at include farming.