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The Morgan


Morgans are characteristically between 14:1 and 15:1 hands, although they range from 13 to 17 hands. They appear more compact than other breeds. Their heads are wide at the eyes and jaw, then tapering to a fine muzzle; their eyes are prominent, large and round; ears are small, pointed and set far apart; and, the neck is full and crested with a prominent throttle.

The body consists of a long, sloping shoulder; short, broad back with upright head carriage; luxuriant, long mane and tail; wide chest; and, well-sprung ribs. short, The legs have flat cannons with distinct tendons, and neat hooves with a large frog. This horse appears longer than he is tall, despite the shortness of his back.

This breed has elastic gaits with a balanced, square and airy trot. The Morgan gives the impression of tremendous power and energy.

The Morgan is courageous, docile, playful, affectionate. He is long-lived; hardy; and, an easy keeper. Morgans are noted for their great stamina and soundness.


The Morgan was the first breed developed in the United States. Justin Morgan was the foundation sire for the breed, and all Morgans can be traced back to him. He was born in Vermont around 1790. His sire is thought to be True Briton, a Thoroughbred, and his dam was probably a granddaughter of the Godolphin Arabian. There is much speculation about Justin Morgan's beginnings, but it seems likely that his ancestors include the Royal Mares (Arabian), the Byerly Turk, the Godolphin Arabian and the Darley Arabian. Peggy Jett Pittenger, in her book "Morgan Horses", says, "It is the homozygous blood of the Arab, bred for centuries for purity, which accounts for the prepotency of the original Morgan horse and his descendants." He was a small horse, just over 14 hands, and weighed about 950 lbs; a very muscular dark bay who was stylish in appearance. He is the only horse to have a breed named for him.

According to legend, Justin Morgan, the man, was a tavern owner and singing teacher in Massachusetts. He supplemented his income by acting as a stallioneer. In 1788 he moved his family to the frontier of Vermont where he continued to teach, operate a tavern, and offer stallions for stud. He lived and died a poor man, and would have faded into obscurity had it not been for his stallion, known when he was alive as Figure, later known as Justin Morgan.

Justin Morgan (the horse) was first leased to a poor farmer named Robert Evans, and it was while he was with Evans that his remarkable capabilities were first realized. Evans used Justin Morgan to clear land and haul logs, then in the evenings entered him in pulling matches and match races. Justin Morgan would easily defeat any horse of any size, training or breeding. He was much in demand for parades but was so gentle that children could ride him. He was also in demand as a sire and produced a large number of sons and daughters who carried his good looks, hardiness, willingness, and gentle demeanor.

After passing through several owners, he was sold to Jacob Langsmade in 1811, when he was twenty two. He was used in a six-horse hitch hauling freight until he was too worn down to work. He was sold for the last time to Levi Bean, where he was left to run loose in an unsheltered lot with other horses. He died from an untreated injury in 1821 at the age of 32.

Morgans have played a significant role in the development of other American breeds. Morgan foundation sires include: Black Hawk (Standardbred, American Saddlebred Horse, Tennessee Walking Horse); Fearnaught (Standardbred); Allan F-1 (Tennessee Walking Horse); and Lucky (Quarter Horse). The Morgan Horse Register was formed in 1894.

For more information, contact the American Morgan Horse Association.

This article was kindly provided by Michelle Staples, Staples Stables

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Updated: October 2005.