Morgan Horse Breed Profile

Chestnut Morgan mare with hay in her mouth and looking to the left with sudden interest, Commerce Township, Michigan
Joelle Sedlmeyer / Getty Images

The Morgan Horse can be a great family horse and would be a strong choice for someone's first horse. They are very versatile and are suitable for many different disciplines in harness and under saddle. 

Body Type

The breed standard of the Morgan horse is very specific and outlines the ideal qualities of the breed. The head should be refined and chiseled, ears short and well shaped. Their neck should be set on elegantly and be strong but supple.

The body is distinctively compact, suggesting strength and agility. The legs should be strong, but refined. Overall, the Morgan should give an impression of strength, elegance, sturdiness, and alertness.

Average Size

Morgan Horses average from 14.1 hands to 15.2 hands high. There is no strict standard, so horses may be shorter and taller.


The original Morgan horse was said to have been able to out-walk, trot, or pull any horse. They were the ultimate all-purpose horse, whether at home plowing the fields as pulling the family buggy to church in fine harness. They were used as trotting horses on the race track, cavalry mounts and Morgans were hitched or ridden on the way to open up the American West. They've also been used as cow horses and pack horses. Today, Morgans can be found competing in almost every sport from endurance riding to saddle seat show classes. Morgan horse shows often feature side saddle classes, trotting races under saddle, driving classes, dressage, jumping, and more, all showcasing the unique versatility of the breed.

Color and Markings

Morgans are usually dark, solid colors like bays and chestnuts, although there is no official breed standard for 'correct' colors. There are breeders who specialize in producing Morgans with color coats like palomino, pinto, gray, dun, roan, and other less usual colors.

History and Origins

The founding stallion of the breed was a horse named Figure, owned by a schoolteacher who lived in Vermont in the late 1700s, named Justin Morgan.

No one knows with certainty what Figure’s pedigree was, but it’s felt that he was the offspring of horses with Arabian, Thoroughbred, and perhaps Welsh Cob or Friesian bloodlines.

As people heard of the elegant little Figure’s ability to out-pull and out-distance any other horse, combined with his calm and intelligent disposition, he became a desirable stallion to breed to in the New England states. It was found that Figure passed these qualities on to his offspring, no matter what mare he was bred to. The Morgan became the ultimate all-purpose horse, equally at home in fine harness, on the race track, doing work in fields, or under saddle. Figure eventually became known by his owner’s name, Justin Morgan, also contributed his qualities to breeds such as the Canadian, Saddlebred, Tennessee Walking Horse, American Standardbred and American Quarter Horse.

Unique Characteristics

The strong compact body and refined and neat top line are distinctive. They have chiseled heads with a large expressive eye. They are tractable and courageous, although some people say they have a stubborn streak. Their demeanor is proud and alert, and they carry their heads and tails elegantly. They are known to be ' easy keepers', not requiring special care or pampering.

The one word that most succinctly describes the Morgan, however, is "versatile'.

Morgan Horse Champions and Celebrities

Figure had three sons, regarded as the foundations of the breed: Sherman Morgan, Bullrush, and Woodbury. When trotting races were popular in the 1800s, Ethan Allen and Black Hawk distinguished themselves on the track. Comanche, the only survivor of the Battle of Little Big Horn, was thought to be of Morgan breeding. In 1907, the U.S. Government established a breeding farm in Middlebury, Vermont. These horses were bred for use by the United States Cavalry. The Morgan Horse was made the official Vermont State Animal in 1961 and is the Vermont State Horse.