These horses were bred to be war mounts that required little care, sparse feeding and they proved their toughness in a tireless fight against Napoleons 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.