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13 Feb, 2009 12:04

The glory of Russian horse breeding under threat

The Russian Orlov race-horses are known for being the fastest trotters. The breed was royalty in the days of the Russian Empire, but today these horses are facing tough times.

The breed was developed in the late 18th century by Count Aleksey Orlov at his Khrenovskoy stud farm in Russia’s central Tambov region. The horses have always been valued for their elegance and beauty, combined with their remarkable stamina.

Novotomnikovsky is a stud farm where the horses were bred in Soviet times. After the collapse of the USSR it went bankrupt a year ago, literally leaving the horses to starve. Instead of ten kilos of food the horses need per day they were getting just two or three.

When the Tambov region authorities learnt about the poor conditions the horses found themselves in, they took the situation under control. The local governor Oleg Betin has ordered to organise the effective management of the enterprise and create new work places.

He says the bankrupt stud farm had not approached the authorities for assistance or financial support, thus aggravating the situation.

The authorities say they are ready to cooperate with the Horse-Breeding Union and in the future want to transfer the enterprise’s shares to an owner willing to contribute to the development of the industry.

The Orlov breed emerged as a result of cross-breeding various European mares (primarily of English, Dutch, Mecklenburg, and Danish breeding) with Arabian stallions.

During the 19th century, Orlov trotters were used for riding and harness racing by Russian nobility.

The revolution of 1917 brought the Orlovs on the brink of extinction because of disregard and then cross-breeding. In spite of surviving through the Soviet times, they still faced extinction when the state turned its back on them.