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What is a Morgan Horse?

By Matt Brady
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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The Morgan horse is an American breed respected for its athleticism and work stamina. The breed's lineage is remarkably well-documented, dating back to the line’s founding horse, Figure, in 1789. Almost as old as the formation of the United States (U.S.), this horse has been called the first American breed. From its beginnings in the farm communities of Randolph, Vermont, the Morgan can now be found in all 50 U.S. states. It has also made its mark as an internationally respected breed, and can be found in numerous countries throughout the world. These horses are striking in appearance, easily identified by their broad-chested, compact frames, and small, perky ears set atop long, sloping foreheads.

Justin Morgan, the namesake of the Morgan horse, acquired the breed’s founding sire, Figure, in 1789. Figure was just a bay colt when Morgan purchased him. It's thought that Figure may have been sired, or fathered, by True Briton, a well-known horse at the time. As Figure grew, his physical prowess achieved widespread reputation. He became something of a legend for his ability to best other horses, whether at racing, hauling workloads, or pulling passengers. Although physically intimidating and hard working, Figure was just as well known for his gentle nature.

Figure's legend as the ideal blend of a work and performance horse naturally lent itself toward the idea of establishing a breed of Morgan horses. Figure successfully sired other horses with the same physical and personality traits as he had. Morgans have also been used to create other valued American horse breeds. The American Saddle horse, the Standardbred, the Tennessee Walking Horse and the Quarter Horse all owe their origins to the Morgan.

Over time, Morgan horses became one of the most respected and adopted breeds in the U.S., used extensively as a service horse as well as an athletic horse. Morgans saw widespread use as Cavalry and Artillery horses in the Civil War, where they suffered numerous casualties.

To the trained eye, Morgan horses can be identified by their unique body structure. They have a long, broad forehead mounted by small ears. Their frame is muscular and compact, with a short back and a prominent, broad chest. They can be found in a range of colors, including black, brown, bay, palomino and chestnut.

This horse's line and pedigree has been well documented by the American Morgan Horse Association (AMHA). The AMHA and its previous incarnations have served as a record for the Morgan breed since 1894, when the Morgan Horse & Register published its first volume of breeding history. Prior to that, Vermont native Daniel C. Linsley had established a breeding record when he published "Morgan Horses: A Premium Essay" in 1857.

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Discussion Comments
By Authordor — On Dec 19, 2013
@StarBanobo: You are confusing the Morgan with the Clydesdale. While both are of a gentle or even temperament, the larger Clydesdale is a draught horse. Known as "the Horse the Built Australia" the Clydesdale is more used for hauling work and general riding. The Morgan, being smaller, is a more versatile breed.
By StarBanobo — On Dec 18, 2013

Are these the same horses that are used in the Budweiser beer commercials?

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