The Russian Don horse is also called Don or Donskaya horse. Its country of origin is Russia and the breed is known very long time ago and since 1549 when it was mentioned and officially recorded for the first time. It name comes from the Don River that runs through the steppes areas in Russia. The Don horse is developed from semi feral Russian horses crossed with Arabian, Akhal-Teke, Karabakh and Thoroughbred horses that were brought to Russia by the Cossacks. Initially the breed was known as the Old Don and it was a medium sized horse with great endurance and agility. These horses were bred to be war mounts that required little care, sparse feeding and they proved their toughness in a tireless fight against Napoleonís army during the 19th century, carrying Russian warriors from Moscow to the battlefields and all the way back.
A selective breeding started around 1830s and the Old Don horse was influenced by adding Orlov Trotter, Arabian, Karabakh and Thoroughbred bloodlines, thus created the new Russian Don horse. On the other hand it also had a great influence and improved many breeds as: Orlov, Orlov-Rostopchin and Thoroughbred horse. As the demand for cavalry horses rose, breeders focused on the Dons giving an ascent to their confirmation, stamina, height and the color, which was very distinctive chestnut with a golden shine.
Beside their native country, in which were widely adopted, they also gained a great popularity and were exported in other countries. The population number has declined during the World War I, but lately their number has increased thanks to the efforts of private breeders that were dedicated to the promoting and preserving the breed.
The Russian Don is extremely robust and the breed is divided into three types by their size and usage, as: heavy, eastern and saddle type. The head is clean and medium sized with a straight or a slightly dished profile. Itís set on a medium in length neck with a prominent crest. The withers are high; back is straight and flat; chest is well developed, deep and wide. Shoulders are straight and well formed and the croup is long and sloping. The Russian Dons have long, well muscled and clean legs with broad joints, strong tendons and hard hooves.
The average height of the Russian Don ranges from 15.2 -16.2 hands. Most solid colors are accepted in the breedís coat coloring, with chestnut, bay, black and gray being the most common.
As we mentioned, the breed was utilized in the past as a cavalry horse, but today they are used for under-saddle work and driving. They are also used as tourist mounts for transporting tourists from one to another location; for pleasure and endurance riding; and as harness horse, in a traditional Russian horse drawn platform, called tachanka, where four horses are pulling it, hitched side by side. The Don horse has a great role in the improvement and the development of many other breeds, including the Budyoonny horse.
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