Jump to: navigation, search

Hackney (horse)

Hackney (horse)
A Hackney stallion
Country of origin: England
Horse (Equus ferus caballus)

The Hackney Horse is a recognized breed of horse that was developed in Great Britain. A stud book has been maintained for this breed since 1883 by the Hackney Horse Society, which has its headquarters in Norwich, England. In recent decades, the breeding of the Hackney has been directed toward producing horses that are ideal for carriage driving. They are known for their great stamina, trotting at high speed for extended periods of time. In addition to inherent soundness and endurance, the Hackney Horse has proven to be a breed with an easy, rhythmic canter, and a free, generous walk.


Breed History

The Hackney Horse breed's origins date to the 1300s, when the King of England required the breeding of powerful but attractive horses with an excellent trot, to be used for general purpose riding horses. Since roads were rudimentary in those times, Hackneys were a primary riding horse, riding being the common mode of equine transportation. The "Modern" Hackney Horse developed during the 18th and 19th centuries in Britain. The Hackney Horse of today is a first cousin to the Thoroughbred; the same three Oriental stallions who were used to develop the Thoroughbred were also bred to native mares with excellent trotting skills. From these sources developed two earlier breeds, now extinct, the Norfolk Trotter and the closely related Yorkshire Roadster, foundation stock for the general purpose horse that formally became the Hackney Horse. The Norfolk was also influential in the development of other breeds, including the Gelderland, the Furioso, the French Trotter, the Welsh Cob, the Maremmano, the Orlov Trotter, the American Saddlebred, and the Standardbred.

Both trotting breeds were exceptionally fast, with great speed and endurance, tracing back to the stallion Original Shales, born in East Anglia in 1755. He was by the stallion Blaze, the son of the well-known racehorse Flying Childers who was a grandson of the great Darley Arabian (one of the three foundation stallions of the Thoroughbred breed). Original Shales sired two stallions—Scot Shales and Driver—both of which had a great influence on the Norfolk Trotter.

Robert and Philip Ramsdale, father and son, took the Norfolk horses Wroot's Pretender and Phenomenon to Yorkshire, where they bred them with Yorkshire trotting mares. The offspring were the basis for the Hackney, and by 1833, the Hackney Horse Society was formed in Norwich and had opened its studbook.

In 1832, one of Phenomenon's daughters, the 14 hh Phenomena, trotted 17 miles in only 53 minutes.

When the railways were developed, the Norfolk and Yorkshire Trotter numbers declined, eventually being integrated into the Hackney Horse we know today. The showiness of the Hackney Horse, however, saved it from extinction, and began its use in the show ring. They are still extremely successful in harness, and can also produce very nice riding horses, many known for their ability in show jumping and dressage competition.

The Hackney Pony was developed in the late 1800s, when small Hackney Horses were bred to various pony breeds in order to create a very specific type of show pony.

Alexander Cassatt was responsible for the introduction of the Hackney Pony to the United States. In 1878 he acquired 239 Stella in Britain and brought her to Philadelphia. In 1891, Cassatt and other Hackney enthusiasts founded the American Hackney Horse Society. The organization and registry continues to this day with its headquarters now in Lexington, Kentucky.[1]

Hackneys come in both pony and horse size today, and is one of the few breeds that recognizes both pony and horse sizes.

Breed Characteristics

The Hackney Horse's height ranges from 14.2 hands to 16.2 hands tall. (a "hand" is equal to 4". Therefore, "15.2 hands" tall would be 60 inches + 2 inches = 62 inches at the midpoint of the withers.) They may be any solid color, including bay, brown, chestnut,and black. Hackneys often have white markings, often due to the influence of sabino genetics.

In motion, they are recognizable by their showiness and style, with distinctive high knee and hock action due to very good flexion of their joints. They have a distinct moment of suspension, and reach out their front legs from their shoulders with each stride. Their hind legs' flexibility allow those legs to rise up, bending the hock, and reach forward to carry the weight of the body during each stride. This distinctively spectacular movement makes the horse seem to float effortlessly over the ground.

The Hackney has a well-shaped head, sometimes with a slightly convex profile. Their eyes are expressive and generous in size. Their ears are cleanly formed, usually sized proportionately to their head. The neck is carried arched and upright, arising high from the top of the withers. The chest is broad and well-defined, the shoulder is powerful, long and gently sloping. The horses have compact backs, muscular, level croups, and powerful hindquarters. Their bs are well-sprung. The tail is set high and carried high naturally. The legs are strong with broad, clean joints, long forearms and gaskins, with hocks low, and pasterns medium in length, and are attached to round, tough hooves. The breed is known for its soundness and enjoyable gaits. Hackneys are good for shows.


  1. Hackney Society web site

The Encyclopedia of Horses & Ponies, by Tamsin Pickeral, Barnes & Noble Books, ISBN 0-7607-3457-7, p. 311.

External links


Premier Equine Classifieds


Subscribe to our newsletter and keep abreast of the latest news, articles and information delivered directly to your inbox.

Did You Know?

Modern horse breeds developed in response to a need for "form to function", the necessity to develop certain physical characteristics in order to perform a certain type of work... More...

The Gypsy Cob was originally bred to be a wagon horse and pulled wagons or caravans known as Vardos; a type of covered wagon that people lived in... More...

Archaeological evidence indicates that the Arabian horse bloodline dates back 4,500 years. Throughout history, Arabian horses spread around the world by both war and trade.... More...

That the term "Sporthorse" is a term used to describe a type of horse rather than any particular breed... More...