Featured image is a John Whootton (1686-1785) painting of the Byerley Turk with a saluki dog. The man in the painting seems to be of Middle Eastern descent, with a turban, and loose fitting clothes. There is an amulet hanging from the horse’s neck, just behind his ears.
Nearly extinct as a Thoroughbred sireline all over the world, The Byerley Turk bloodline didn’t just disappear into the annals of history. His early sons and daughters produced horses that were indispensable in forming and building bloodstock for the nascent English Thoroughbred.
Today, Byerley Turk’s direct sireline has been overshadowed – but not extinguished – by the Darley Arabian and even the Godolphin horse, however, some of his daughters provided the very essence of the breed. Two of them have been identified as taproot mares(1), while others produced or directly contributed their genetic goldmine to their descendants. The Byerley Turk’s incredible influence will live on through his daughters, long into the worldwide future of Thoroughbreds.
Fortunately for breeds other than the British Thoroughbred, some direct sireline descendants of the Byerley Turk found themselves owned by people who had objectives other than horse racing. In England, this included the Cleveland Bay, a wonderful breed of horse that is typically used for carriage driving and fox hunting. They are big, muscular horses who preserve and enjoy the Byerley Turk’s masculine heritage.
In America, this sireline had a profound effect; contributing to the formation of new breed of horse, in a brand new nation.
Eighty-six years after the Byerley Turk (b.1678 – d.1703) died in ‘old’ England, a little horse named Figure was born. The year was 1789, and the place was southern ‘New’ England, in America. He frolicked happily in his paddock, exhibiting the wonderfully distilled characteristics of his forebears. His sire was a beautiful bay Thoroughbred named True Briton, and it should come as no surprise that Figure, renamed Justin Morgan, was a direct sireline descendant of the Byerley Turk. No surprise at all.
True Briton’s sire, Lloyd’s Traveller, obviously one generation closer to the esteemed Turk in direct lineage, was a son of Jenny Cameron, who stemmed from a highly distinguished line here in the USA. She combined a double dose of Royal mare number 1 with a Brimmer mare, and added to that the fastest line in Thoroughbreds, established by a Byerley Turk daughter.
True Briton’s dam, Betty Leeds, was by the tall and elegant Babraham, a son of the Godolphin horse, and out of a mare named Sachrissa, a great granddaughter of Grey Whynot of the Royal mare number 2 line. Betty Leeds was also a direct descendant of a Godolphin daughter, giving her a double dose of those genes.
In essence, True Briton was a combination of male and female representations of the Byerley Turk on his sire’s side, and male and female representations of the Godolphin horse on his dam’s side. It was an explosion waiting to happen.
It might well stand to reason that True Briton, sire of Justin Morgan was a strong co-factor for Justin’s Thoroughbred/Arabian dam side. The official pedigree from the Museum of the Morgan Horse lists Justin Morgan’s dam as being the ‘Daughter of Diamond’, (Diamond having been a Thoroughbred), and out of an Arabian mare by an Arabian stallion named Sportsman. The distaff side, or dam of the Arabian mare is
Justin Morgan, stood at 14.1 hands, and accomplished so many astonishing things, that his memory is the stuff of American legend. He out pulled, out raced, and out trotted every horse that came up against him. He could work all day, and trot happily into town later on. He was known for his stamina, his intellect, his power, and his remarkable speed at the quarter mile. Justin Morgan displayed his talents willingly and in harmony with his human counterparts.
During the years in which he lived in Vermont with his owner (late 1700’s and early 1800’s), Vermont was still a ‘frontier’. Any horse that would survive the terrain must be sure-footed, clever, strong and possess the ability to subsist on meager rations. Winters were hard in those hills, but the little bay was a Master. He cleared land for new settlers, moving logs several feet in diameter, and pulled a plow. He had a ground covering gait under saddle, or when put to a carriage.
Much to the delight of those who had heard of his abilities, Justin Morgan’s horse was an extremely prepotent stallion, passing his qualities to the next generation with ease. Word spread, and the Morgan became an established stage coach horse, cavalry horse, work horse, pleasure horse, and just about anything you could think of horse. The Morgan was industrious and easy to work alongside. He was instrumental in the growth of a new Nation.
Their foundation sire, Justin Morgan, was a super horse; not the first, and not the last; but carry the torch, he did…just like the incomparable Byerley Turk.
Below: Graphite depiction of Justin Morgan statue, available in limited quantities as Justin Morgan note cards