Morgan Horse Pictures
History, Breed Characteristics, and Standards

Morgan Horse Pictures

Morgan Horse Pictures


See also: Figure (horse) and Justin Morgan (owner)

All Morgans trace back to a single foundation sire, a stallion named Figure, who was born in West Springfield, Massachusetts in 1789. In 1792, he was given to a man named Justin Morgan as a debt payment. The horse later came to be identified by the name of this particular owner, and "the Justin Morgan horse" evolved into the name of the breed. Figure is thought to have stood about 14 hands (56 inches, 142 cm), and to have weighed about 1,000 pounds (450 kg). He was known for his prepotency, passing on his distinctive looks, conformation, temperament, and athleticism. His exact pedigree is unknown, although extensive efforts have been made to discover his parentage. One historian notes that the writings on the possibility of his sire being a Thoroughbred named Beautiful Bay would "fill 41 detective novels and a membership application for the Liars' Club." In 1821, Figure was kicked by another horse and later died of his injuries. He was buried in Tunbridge, Vermont.

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Morgan Horse

Although Figure was used extensively as a breeding stallion, records are known to exist for only six of his sons, three of whom became notable as foundation bloodstock for the Morgan Horses breed. Woodbury, a chestnut, stood 14.3 hands (59 inches, 150 cm) high and stood for many years at stud in New England. Bulrush, a dark bay the same size as Figure, was known for his endurance and speed in harness. Best known was Sherman, another chestnut stallion, slightly shorter than Figure, who in turn was the sire and grandsire of Black Hawk and Ethan Allen. Black Hawk, born in 1833, went on to become a foundation stallion for the Standardbred, American Saddlebred and Tennessee Walking Horse breeds, and was known for his unbeaten harness racing record. Ethan Allen, sired by Black Hawk in 1849, is another important sire in the history of the Morgan breed, and was known for his speed in trotting races.

Morgan Horse Pictures

breed standard for Morgan Horses

Breed Characteristics and Standard

There is officially one breed standard for Morgan type regardless of the discipline or bloodline of the individual horse. The Morgan is compact and refined in build, with strong legs, an expressive face, and large eyes, well-defined withers, laid back shoulders, an upright, well arched neck, and a clean cut head. The back is short, and hindquarters are strongly muscled, with a long and well-muscled croup. The tail is attached high and carried gracefully and straight. They appear to be a strong powerful horse, and the breed is well known as an easy keeper. The breed standard for height ranges from 14.1 to 15.2 hands (57 to 62 inches, 145 to 157 cm), with some individuals over and under.

The breed standard for height

Morgan Horse Pictures
Gaits, particularly the trot are "animated, elastic, square, and collected," with the front and rear legs balanced. A few Morgans are gaited, meaning they can perform an intermediate speed gait other than the trot such as the rack, fox trot, or pace. The United States Equestrian Federation states, "a Morgan is distinctive for its stamina and vigor, personality and eagerness and strong natural way of moving." The breed has a reputation for intelligence, curiosity and a good disposition. Registered Morgans come in a variety of colors although they are most commonly bay, black, and chestnut. Less common colors include gray, roan, dun, silver dapple, and cream dilutions such as palomino, buckskin, cremello and perlino. In addition, three pinto color patterns are also recognized: sabino, frame overo, and splashed white. The tobiano pattern has not been noted in Morgans.

The Morgan Horse is a compact, refined breed

Morgan Horse Pictures
The Morgan Horse is a compact, refined breed, generally bay, black or chestnut in color, although they come in many colors, including several variations of pinto. They are used in many English and Western disciplines, and are known for their versatility. The Morgan breed is the state animal of Vermont and the state horse of Massachusetts. Popular children's authors, including Marguerite Henry and Ellen Feld, have portrayed the Morgan breed in their books; Henry's Justin Morgan Had a Horse was later made into a Disney movie.

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Important LINKS from Morgan Horse Pictures

The American Morgan Horse Association