The Galloway as Racehorse and Endurance breed

"The Sporting Magazine; or Monthly Calendar of the Transactions of the Turf," 1839, refers to the Oglethorpe Arabian (c. 1680) ...

This horse apparently covered but very few mares: we are only aware of three of his produce: one, a Scotch galloway, pedigree of dam unknown, who was brought to Newmarket and matched for a large sum, carrying a feather weight, against the Duke of Devonshire's Dimple, who at that time held "the Whip", or Championship - the latter carrying 7st 7lb only. The distance they ran is not related, but the Scotch galloway, to the great surprise of the Southrons, was the victor.

In "The history of Newmarket: and the annals of the turf", Volume 2 - Page 371, John Philip Hore, 1886 notes a race at Newmarket that included "Bellingham's Scotch Galloway, for 500 a horse 7. stone and a half a piece, the Beacon course the last of April : no more as yet till October next." - reported in "Smith's Currant Intelligence," April 10, 1680, No 18, this could well be the original report of the same event. NOTE: Although the winner was at least a half bred Arab it was still called a Scotch Galloway!

Racing Advertisements:

The Newcastle Courant

The "Courant" was the nearest thing to a Cumbrian local paper in the 18th C.

PENRITH RACES in Cumberland, 1736.

ON Wednesday the 16th Day of June next, will be run for on the usual Course on Maidenhill, a Purse of 15 Guineas, by any Horse, &c. not exceeding five Years old this Grass, to be certify'd for; three Heats, each Heat 3 Miles; five Year olds to carry 9 Stone, four year olds 8 Stone; One Guinea and a half Entrance.

On Thursday the 17th Day of June, will be run for a Purse of 8 Guineas by Galloways, 14 Hands to carry 9 Stone, all under to have the usual Abatement; three Heats, each Heat 4 Miles; Fifteen Shillings Entrance.

On Friday the 18th Day of June, will be run for a Purse of 12 Guineas by any Horse, &c. 14 Hands to carry 9 Stone, all above or under to carry more or less, as is usual in give and take; three Heats, each Heat 4 Miles; Twenty Five Shillings Entrance.

BRAMPTON RACES In the County of Cumberland, 1736.

ON Wednesday the 9th Day of June, will be run for by Galloways, a Plate Value 5 Guineas, given by the Right Honourable the Earl of Carlisle; 14 Hands carrying 10 Stone, and all under that Size to have Allowance of Weight for Inches, as is usual in Galloway Plates; three Heats, each Heat 4 Miles, carrying 10 Stone, and so in Proportion. Entrance one Guinea.

On Friday the 11th Day of June, a Plate Value 5 Guineas, will be run for by Hunters, that can be proved to be Hunters last Season; each Horse, &c. carrying 10 Stone, three Heats, each Heat 4 Miles; And that no Horse, &c. shall run for the said Plate that has won the Value of 10 at one Time; Entrance 7s 6d.

APPLEBY, 12 June, 1736

On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, being the First, Second, and Third Days of July, will be run for on Brampton Moor near Appleby in Westmoreland, three Purses of Gold of Ten, Five, and Twelve Guineas, raised by Subscription, and run in Manner following.

THE first Ten Guineas given by Walter Plummer and John Ramsden, Esqrs. Members for the said Borough, on Thursday the First of July, by Galloways, 14 Hands carrying 10 Stone, and Weight for Inches over and under, 4 miles to a Heat.

On Friday Five Guineas, by Ponies, 13 Hands carrying 9 Stone, Weight for Inches under, 4 Miles to a Heat.

On Saturday Twelve Guineas, give and take, 14 Hands carrying 10 Stone, weight for Inches over and under, 4 Miles to a Heat.

In 1740 an Act was passed to end "racing with poneys", which aimed to stamp out "a vile and paltry breed of horse, and remove temptation from the lower class of people who constantly attend these races - to the great loss of time and hindrance of labour". It also prohibited prizes or plates of less value than 50. (13 Geo. II. cap. 10), hence the increased prize money seen in the following advertisements. A new local newspaper, the Cumberland Chronicle, advertises races to be held in West Cumberland, in 1777:


"a Match of FIFTY POUNDS, and a Purse of FIVE POUNDS, by any Horse, Mare, or Gelding, that never won Fifty Pounds, Matches excepted". 4-year-olds to carry 7.5 Stone; 5-year-olds 8.5 Stone; older horses 9 Stone. Best of 3 heats (4 miles each)- "Three to run, or no Race."

5 July, 1777

"a Match of Fifty Pounds, and a Purse of Five Pounds, by any Horse, Mare, or Gelding"; 14 Hands to carry 8 Stone; "higher or lower, Weight in Proportion". Best of 3 heats (4 miles each) - 3 to run or no race.

Both days - "a SADDLE will be Run for"; "A HAT, of Ten Shillings and Six-pence, for Footmen".

"All Horses, &c. to appear, and enter" before 4pm on 3 July "at JOHN DALE'S, of Lamplugh-Cross, or at JOHN ASKEW'S, of Millgill-Head, where proper Attendance will be given and Care taken of all Horses, &c. and be Subject to Articles then produced."

"No Person to have either Tent, or Booth, &c. without Consent of the Stewards of the Course." Horses to be on the ground, ready for starting, at 1pm on race days.

The race "for footmen" was for servants of the local gentry, run on foot.

Notice that the terms of the races vary - in 1777 the race on 4 July is weight-for-age, and on 5 July is weight-for-height, where 14 hands is the mean. The term "Galloway race" later became the term for a weight-for-height race - which is not the case in the 1736 races at Penrith, where the Thursday race was distinctly "for" Galloways, yet the races for Galloways and the races for horses were both weight-for-height.


The distances were quite usual for the time: three heats of 4 miles. The much shorter distances of today were introduced as tests or "futurities" to determine the ability of horses younger than four years and their suitability for longer races in adult life. Fast single races between 5 furlongs and 2 miles have now become the norm due to economic pressures (over shorter distances, horses can compete earlier in life). Hence the young age of the modern racing Thoroughbred and the high wastage of animals, when compared with mountain and moorland breeds of pony.

Horses vs. Galloways

The races listed above distinguish between horses (14 hands), Galloways (14 hands), ponies (13 hands) and hunters. Since horses and Galloways are of the same height and set to carry the same range of weight it is interesting to speculate as to the difference between them. Was it simply one of pedigree, or was it the gait at which they were raced? Were horses expected to gallop and Galloways to trot or pace?


"A galloway in point of size, whether of Scotch origin or not we are uncertain, performed about the year 1814 a greater feat than Dr Anderson's favourite. It started from London with the Exeter mail, and notwithstanding the numerous changes of horses and the rapid driving of that vehicle, it arrived at Exeter, one hundred and seventy two miles, a quarter of an hour before the mail. We saw him about a twelvemonth afterwards, wind galled, spavined, ring boned, and a lamentable picture of the ingratitude of some human brutes towards a willing and faithful servant.

"In 1754 Mr Corker's galloway went one hundred miles a day for three successive days over the Newmarket course, and without the slightest distress. A galloway belonging to Mr Sinclair of Kirby Lonsdale performed at Carlisle the extraordinary feat of one thousand miles in a thousand hours." Youatt, 1831

The same tale twice told

Jonty Wilson, the Kirkby Lonsdale blacksmith, wrote in 1978 of a feat of endurance performed in the 18th century by a Galloway based in Kirkby Lonsdale. Edward Linsay (a Scot who is said to have arrived in Cumbria with the Old Pretender's army in 1715) went into partnership with Thomas Singleton as a carrier using packhorses. They were based in Kirkby Lonsdale at the rear of the Queen's Head inn. (Wilson)

Singleton was evidently the more sporting-minded of the two, being interested in cockfighting and dogfighting. He took a wager of 100 guineas that he could ride 1000 miles in 1000 hours. He rode for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and Wilson says it took him nearly 7 weeks -- although 1000 hours is just under 6 weeks. He rode one of the partnership's pack horses, a 13-2hh Fell stallion named Black Sampson. When the pony died it was buried near Biggins, in Kirkby Lonsdale. Wilson wrote that he knew the exact spot.

Note: F W Garnett (1910) and C Richardson (1990) both quote Youatt's version (above). They cite this as happening in 1701, and give the rider's name from that source as Sinclair. Fawcett, however, says it was on the "old Carlisle racecourse" and differs in that he states the wager was for 500 guineas and the date 1704.

Wilson, however, says the Linsay-Singleton carrier partnership was struck up after the 1715 Rising and that according to parish records Edward Linsay married in 1736 while Singleton's wife and newborn son died in the same year. There is something like a 35 year discrepancy and the names do not match! Were there two wagers of this sort, the later following the example set by the first? Was Wilson mistaken in his facts, wherever he got them from?

It is hard to judge, because Youatt was not contemporary, either, with the 1000 hour feat being performed in 1701. His first edition of "The Horse" is 120 years later. ("The Horse" was constantly in print from its first edition through to the 20th century; Garnett's copy was dated 1831, and the 4th edition is dated 1908.) He is nearer to the ride in time than is Wilson; Wilson gives more detail. If anyone has access to the sources either is quoting, or to records from Kirkby Lonsdale we would welcome information to clear this up.

A modern endurance pony

In 2008 a Fell mare, Southolme Blossom, achieved 100 miles in less than 18 hours in the Caledonia Challenge.

The real feature in all these tales is the remarkable endurance of ponies covering long distances without much rest. Partly this can be explained by the animals working long days in their normal job and being fit and conditioned to such stresses; but more than one writer has commented on the toughness of ponies, and the ease with which they enable people to travel, when compared with larger types of horse.

Galloways as racehorse ancestors

It is sometimes forgotten, when discussing the foundation sires of the TB, that the Darley Arabian, Byerley Turk and Godolphin Arabian could not reproduce themselves in a vacuum! They were crossed onto British mares, the "royal mares" being imported, but the "Galloways" surely, came originally from the same source as our present native breeds. Modern research seems to support this hypothesis. (NCBI Biology Letters, 2011: "The cosmopolitan maternal heritage of the Thoroughbred racehorse breed shows a significant contribution from British and Irish native mares.")

The Curwen family of West Cumbria (see below) were breeders of horses for similar races to those in the advertisements shown here; their animals were still known by the name of "Galloways" but are quite unlikely to have been of native type any longer, as the remarks on the race at Newmarket above show.


Some of the races in Cumberland were framed for "Galloways" of 14 hands, and others on the same day for "horses", also of 14 hands, so the distinction cannot have been solely one of height but must have been based on type, breeding or gait. Although Defoe mentioned that Galloways were "easy pacers" he may only have meant that they were a comfortable ride; we can't say for certain from this whether they trotted diagonally or "square", or moved laterally, as in the pace. The word "pace" is confusing because it may be used in several ways in old literature. It may not necessarily mean a lateral gait. "Pace" can mean what we would today call speed. It can mean the speed of travel ("at a foot's pace"), or the overall way of going of a horse ("easy paces"), as well as the different ways a horse can move, as in walk, trot, gallop, rack, amble.

We need to be conservative in our interpretation of the word "pace" in historical texts because it may not always mean what we think it means today. It is easier to distinguish the different gaits by the terms:

"trotting" or "hard" for square trotting (walk, trot, gallop);

"soft-paced" or "racking" for lateral gaits, ambling and pacing;

"thorough-paced" of a horse capable of lateral as well as diagonal gaits (combinations including walk, trot, rack/amble, pace, gallop; "five-gaited").

Peter Edwards in "Horse and Man in Early Modern England" has an interesting take on whether Galloways paced or not. He cites Camden who merely commented on the speed of Galloways though not their gait. A letter from Sir John Lyttelton, writing to his cousin Fitzwilliam Coningsby in ca. 1620:

"I am in extreme want of a pasing horse, since I kept horses I was never worse furnished then at this present being forsed to ride on trotters."

Edwards continues:

"Of the native breeds, Galloways were the most suited to this task. According to Defoe, they were the best light saddle horses in Europe...If the horses sold at Carlisle Fair were Galloways or a similar breed, most of them were natural trotters. This suggests that the gentry took the best, those that paced, or trained them to do so. About one in five of the horses sold at Carlisle in the middle of the seventeenth century paced. Where instructions are noted in estate accounts, owners mainly required the trainers to teach a horse to pace. On Nicholas Blundell's estate at Little Crosby, apparently this was all that they did. Moreover, in an admittedly small sample, there are fewer references to ambling, which seems to confirm the value that the gentry placed on natural amblers like hobbies or their crosses."

Appleby Minute Book 1614-1661

In the Appleby Minute Book 1614-1661 (Records of the Ancient Corporation Memoranda / Minute Book Vol 1 1614-1661) only a few sales record the paces of the animals sold:

April 1637: Sould the same daye by  William Wright of Ould Malton in the countye of Yorke now of Kelly Hinsh in the County of Down Patrick infra regum hibernia [Ireland] --- one trotinge mayre coullor Graye of the age of eight yeares to Launcelott Harrison of Kirkbythore for the some of XX vi viij (two pounds six shillings and eight pence)

27 May 1637: Sould the same daye by [Mr] Arnison of North Kington in the countye of Norfolke, one roaned mayre aged iiij (4),  ---ed the neare eare, iij vj viij (three pounds six shillings and eight pence) racks and trots, to Geo Brown of Baikwelle in countye Derbye...

20 June 1637: Sould the same daye by William Wright of Ould Malton in the Countye of Yorke & now of Kelly Hinsh in the County of Downe Patrick infra regum hibernia one maire couller blacke of the age of seaven yeares which trots and racks, & a bit cut out of the far eare ... to John Hobson of Kirkbythore in the Countye of Westmorland for the some & prise of ?L Vs Vjd (? pounds five shillings and sixpence)

24 October 1652: Sould the same daye by John Jobby of Friar Garth Kirkby Fleetham in the County of Yorke, one maire coullor dark graie, of the Age of 5 yeares, paces and trots, and marked with an Iron on the near shoulder with the letter H, to Richard Atkinson of ?? in the County of Northumberland for the some of 7 iiij x  (seven pounds four shillings and tenpence)

The sparseness of these "trots and racks" records among the many horses sold at the fair suggests that horses moving with both lateral and diagonal gaits were unusual and that most horses and "naggs" did one or the other but not both. And the fact that the "racking" or "pacing" horses are mentioned individually also suggests that they were unusual. Horses that had the usual trot-canter-gallop gaits were not marked out as special.

"Hard trotting Scotch Galloway"

An advertisement in the Caledonian Mercury, 19 April 1739, listed the following for auction:

Milch-house, Brew-house and Stable; also a fine new Chaise, with Harness for two Horses, a large black Chaise-horse, a Pac'd Galloway, two Milch Cows, a Calender, &c. Printed Catalogues to be had at the House of Carridden, and at the Laigh ...

The fact that the term "pac'd" was added not only implies that this particular Galloway did indeed pace, but that the attribute needed to be mentioned as otherwise buyers might assume it was a square trotter.

We do have a very precise reference to a Galloway's typical gait from a divorce case of 1787. Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore, was an 18thC heiress from County Durham. When she was pregnant in 1781 her abusive second husband forced her to go riding:

... on the most uncomfortable mount the Streatlam stables could provide, a "hard trotting Scotch Galloway" - a pony traditionally renowned for its stamina... After four miles over the potholed country roads, Mary was suffering such violent pains that she had to lie in a ditch while Ann Davis sent ahead to alert Bowes and request a carriage. (Moore, Wedlock, 2009; bibliography seems to show that this is from Ann Davis' evidence during divorce proceedings between Mary Bowes and her husband in 1787.)

Here we have evidence of the Galloway's square "hard" trot as opposed to the more comfortable "soft" amble.

Walter Scott's description of Dumple the Galloway (Galloways page 1) also says that he trotted. That evidence doesn't exclude them ambling or pacing, but these examples do correspond with Morgan's remark in 1609 that Scotland excelled in "trotting geldings."

For an interesting discussion of a variety of "gaits" see:

A mutation distinguishes gaited horses from trotters and gallopers

Researchers have now identified a mutation within one gene, which enables gaiting. It was reported in "Nature" in August 2012 -- doi:10.1038/nature.2012.11308. Tthe article is outlined in detail here: article on SciLogs, Is "Horse Sense" Overrated? Nonsense Mutation Allows Novel Gaits, 1 September 2012

"Researchers led by Leif Andersson, a geneticist at Uppsala University in Sweden, studied the genomes of 70 horses that could perform extra gaits" -- "The analysis revealed a single mutation common to all the horses that could pace, in a gene called DMRT3. Both copies of that gene in the pacing horses were mutated."

Why did the ambling horse go out of fashion?

Given the knowledge that the gaiting research has produced, the answer may well have been partly that galloping races became fashionable. The mutated gene that enables the ambling/pacing gaits is detrimental to galloping and to trotting. "It was noted that although being a DMRT3 mutant allows for novel gaits, it actually decreases performance value for galloping or trotting, indicating that it has probably been selected against in horse breeds that compete in dressage, jumping, traditional races, and other more well-known equine sports."

This strongly suggests that the "racing" Galloways, ie those involved with the TB stud book, would for the most part NOT have been gaited. They were being selected for galloping. As the study mentioned shows, the mutated gene for gaiting reduces galloping performance. The same aristocracy and gentry who previously paid high sums for pacing horses were now seeking the horses who were fast gallopers and trotters because they didn't carry that gene. No-one who wanted to produce racehorses would have tried to breed them from amblers. Racing itself would have demonstrated that they didn't run fast enough.

Trotting, too, was desirable for carriage work on the new and better surfaced roads. The research results suggest that the modern breeds whose best gait is the trot, such as the Dales, Fell and Welsh, would have had any tendency to gait bred out of them - if they ever had it in the first place.

Youatt on "The Horse"

William Youatt wrote in 1831:

"A horse between thirteen and fourteen hands in height is called a GALLOWAY, from a beautiful breed of little horses once found in the south of Scotland, on the shore of the Solway Firth, but now sadly degenerated, and almost lost, through the attempts of the farmer to obtain a larger kind, and better adapted for the purposes of agriculture."

"There is a tradition in that country, that the breed is of Spanish extraction, some horses having escaped from one of the vessels of the Grand Armada, that was wrecked on the neighbouring coast. This district, however, so early as the time of Edward I, supplied that monarch with a great number of horses."

He does not call the Galloways "ponies" although in other places he talks later of Exmoor and Dartmoor ponies, both of which fit the "under 13 hands" criterion (and which, he says, are ugly!).

"The pure Galloway was said to be nearly 14 hands high and sometimes more; of a bright bay or brown with black legs, small head and neck, and peculiarly deep [body?] and clean legs. Its qualities are speed, stoutness and sure-footedness over a very rugged and mountainous country."

Again, the term "clean" legs is used - which probably implied the flat, flinty quality of bone we see in a good Fell or Dales pony today, rather than that the legs carried no feather. (The preference for large amounts of feather is a modern one, and a small amount of feather was probably an old characteristic of all the British natives; see the discussion on horses in Chaucer's time.)

Although Youatt and Sinclair both said that "the pure stock" was nearly impossible to find by the 1820s, the term "galloway" was still in use in Cumbria in very recent times (I heard it in spontaneous use by farmers in 1985) for any stout general purpose pony, but particularly the Fell, often under the combined expression "fell-galloway". Some of the older breeders had seldom used the term "Fell pony" but almost always "Galloway."

Youatt adds that "many of the galloways now in use are procured from Wales or the New Forest; but they have materially diminished in number." Here he is using the term "Galloway" in its generic sense - based mainly on height - rather as the term "hoover" has been adopted for "vacuum-cleaner".

Youatt also quotes Dr Anderson:

"There was once a breed of small elegant horses in Scotland, similar to those of Iceland and Sweden, and which were known by the name of galloways; the best of which sometimes reached the height of fourteen hands and a half. One of this description I possessed, it having been bought for my use when a boy. In point of elegance of shape it was a perfect picture, and in disposition was gentle and compliant. It moved almost with a wish, and never tired. I rode this little creature for twenty-five years, and twice in that time I rode a hundred and fifty miles at a stretch, without stopping, except to bait [feed/water] and that not for above an hour at a time. It came in at the last stage with as much ease and alacrity as it travelled the first. I could have undertaken to have performed on this beast, when it was in its prime, sixty miles a day for a twelvemonth running, without any extra-ordinary exertion."

On the domesticated animals of the British islands (1846 approx)

"A variety of horses, differing from the ordinary pack-horses in their greater lightness and elegance of figure, were termed Galloways. They exceeded the pony size, and were greatly valued for their activity and bottom. They were derived from the countries near the Sol way Firth ; and an opinion frequently expressed is, that they had been early improved by horses saved from the wreck of the Armada. There is nothing beyond tradition to support this opinion, and it is known that the Horses of Galloway were distinguished long before the age of the Armada. The nature of the country, mountainous, but not heathy and barren, may account for the production of a larger race of ponies, without our resorting to the supposition of foreign descent, just as the same country at the present time produces a peculiar breed of cattle, larger than those of the higher mountains, but smaller than those of the richer plains. Besides, this part of Scotland was a country of forays during the rude border wars of the times, when a more agile race than the ordinary pack-horse was naturally sought for ; and all along the borders of the two kingdoms, a class of similar properties existed. Many of the true Galloways of the western counties were handsome, and their general characteristic was activity, and the power of enduring fatigue. In former times this breed was in great demand in England, and the people of the country where they were produced, up to a period not very distant, were noted as horse-dealers. In England the term Galloway came at length to be applied to horses of a particular size, without reference to their origin, and this application of the word is still in use. The term Pony is applied to Horses of twelve hands or less, the term Galloway, to those of about fourteen hands. The finer kinds of Galloways have long disappeared in the district which formerly produced them, the farmers having cultivated a race of larger size for the purposes of labour."


Although Youatt, Low and others asserted that the Galloway was nearing extinction in the 1830s, Samuel Lewis's detailed Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1851) stated: "WIGTOWNSHIRE: The horses, being of the true Galloway breed, are much esteemed."

Also, Pigot and Slater's Topography stated in the 1850s:

"WIGTONSHIRE or WIGTOWNSHIRE forms the western part of the ancient district of Galloway, ... The district has long been celebrated for its breed of horses, distinguished by the appellation of 'Galloways'; they are of the Spanish or rather Moorish race, and, when the breed is pure, of a dun colour with a black line along the back: these animals are small, but active, sinewy and spirited."

The Scotch Pony

"The Scotch Pony" drawn for Goodrich's 1859 Illustrated Natural History of the Animal Kingdom. Notice how the story is perpetuated, with fewer or altered details; the Galloways are now "dun" rather than bay, though they are still compared, anecdotally, to Spanish stock.

"The Welsh Horse is small but is noted for its energy and perseverance upon the road. The Galloway is a Scotch breed somewhat larger than the preceding but of similar qualities; it is said to resemble the Spanish horse." (Goodrich, 1859.)

Galloway descendants...

Treatises on livestock improvement in the late 18th and early 19th centuries mention the tradition of the Scotch Galloway cattle being traded across the Scottish border and as far south as Norfolk: "the great connection that has long subsisted between the Scotch Galloway drovers of cattle and the Suffolk and Norfolk feeders or graziers." (Culley.)

In Volume VIII of the Polo Pony Stud Book (1901), an introductory section "The Taproot of Polo Pony Breeding" quotes Mr S Burke who approves several ponies in history that were "not over pony size": the grey Bald Galloway (by St Victor's Barb), who was not only a sire of several top racehorses of his time, but a noted sire of mares in the Thoroughbred stud book; his daughter the Warlock Galloway; the Shield Galloway; and the Mixbury Galloway (Polo Pony Stud Book). The Mixbury Galloway was said to be a pony of 13-2 by the Curwen Barb (from a German magazine of 1825, "Zeitung fur Pferdeliebhaber" 1825 Heft 18) owned by the Curwen family from West Cumbria.

The Curwen Family and racing Galloways

The Curwen family of Workington Hall bred racehorses from animals such as the Curwen Galloway. As he was an ancestor of the great stallion Eclipse from whom many great racing sires descended, such as Shergar and Mill Reef, this is a forgotten debt owed to the Galloway stock -

Although the ancestors of our modern Fell ponies did include Galloways, the well-bred racing "Galloways" were dervied from the native "Scotch" pony by several generations of maternal descent; making our Fells distant cousins-many-times-removed of today's racing Thoroughbreds.

References for these readings are on the Thanks page.