Tersk Horse Breed History and Characteristics

The Tersk is a rare but continually evolving breed that retains grace, athletic ability and a core of toughness that often can be found in Russian breeds.

The Tersk or Terskaya is a rare Russian light breed of riding horse derived from the Strelets Arabian, some Russian breeds and possibly Thoroughbreds. It is a continually evolving breed that retains grace, athletic ability and a core of toughness that often can be found in Russian breeds.

The studbook, maintained by the Russian Institute of Horse Breeding, recently allowed infusions of Trakehner blood to help keep the breed healthy and nimble without losing it's toughness and longevity.


Trying to unravel the genetic pieces that make up the modern Tersk is quite a puzzle, because conflicting information exists as to what Russian breeds were used. Some sources say it wasthe Orlov Trotter, while the British Tersk Society maintains that is was Dons and Karbardins (also called Karbardas). Perhaps all of these breeds were used at one time or another.

But one breed is clear and always mentioned in the making of the modern Tersk the Strelets Arabian, which was basically wiped out after the Russian Revolution. Stretlet Arabians are thought to have been derived from crosses of Arabian stallions with Orlov Trotter and Orlov-Rastopchin mares.

The founding sires were the last two Strelet Arabian stallions known to live in Russia (the half-brothersTsilindr and Tsenitel) and three Arabian purebred stallions (Koheilan IV, Marosh and Nasim). Tsilindr had more impact on stallion lines while Tsentinel improved mare lines.

The breed is thought to have come into existence around 1921 in the Russian Caucasus. The breed gets it name from the stud farm it originated in Tersk Stud, located in Stavropol.

General Appearance

Tersk horses grow to be an average of 15 16 hands high. They are slim in build and often have the slightly dished face of an Anglo-Arab. There are two types, the Eastern and the heavy (or massive), but the difference is in amount of muscle and not in size. The Eastern type is much leggier and often used in horse racing in Russia.

The British Horse Society reports that young Tersks raised outside of Russia are growing taller than their Russian counterparts, probably due to better nutrition and health care.

The predominant color is grey, often with a metallic silvery sheen reminiscent of Akhal-Tekes. It makes you wonder if a few Akhal-Teke mares and stallions somehow got into the mix. But they also come in black, chestnut and bay. They have a thin mane and tail.

Equine Athlete

Tesrks are stayers and not sprinters, in that they may win a race against an Arabian but loose to a Thoroughbred unless the race is a marathon. Tersks have inherited the endurance of their Arabian ancestors and do well on long trail competitions. They also do well in jumping competitions and in circuses.

Tersks also seem to be blessed with good health and the ability to pass on good traits to their offspring. When young horses are able to have access to a constant supply of food, they mature faster than some other breeds such as Arabians. However, most Tersks are bred in the traditional (and chepaer) taboon style, where herds are kept outside in all weathers and mostly live off what they can forage.

Tersks are often crossed with native horses in Russia to try and improve such breeds as the Lokai and the Deblioz. Word about them has spread through Europe and now they are exported to help improve warmblood breeds.