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The Thoroughbred is a horse breed best known for its use in horse racing. Although the word "thoroughbred" is sometimes used to refer to any breed of purebred horse, it technically refers only to the Thoroughbred breed. Thoroughbreds are considered a "hot-blooded" horse, known for their agility, speed and spirit.
The Thoroughbred as it is known today was first developed in 17th and 18th century England, when native mares were crossbred with imported Arabian stallions. All modern Thoroughbreds can trace their pedigrees to three stallions originally imported into England in the 1600s and 1700s, and to 74 foundation mares of English and Oriental (Arabian or Barb) blood. During the 1700s and 1800s, the Thoroughbred breed spread throughout the world; they were imported into North America starting in 1730 and into Australia, Europe, Japan and South America during the 1800s. Millions of Thoroughbreds exist worldwide today, with over 118,000 foals registered each year worldwide.
Thoroughbreds are used mainly for racing, but are also bred for other riding disciplines, such as show jumping, combined training, dressage, polo, and fox hunting. They are also commonly cross-bred with other breeds to create new breeds or to improve existing ones, and have been influential in the creation of many important breeds, such as the Quarter Horse, the Standardbred, the Anglo-Arabian, and various Warmblood breeds.
Thoroughbred racehorses perform with maximum exertion, which has resulted in high rates of accidents and other health problems. Racing has been proven to have a higher fatality rate than all other legal human and animal sports. Also, Thoroughbreds are prone to other health complications, including bleeding from the lungs, low fertility, abnormally small hearts and a small hoof to body mass ratio. There are several theories for the reasons behind the prevalence of accidents and health problems in the Thoroughbred breed, and research continues into how to reduce the accident rate and treat those animals that are injured.