Origin of the Morgan Horse
Justin Morgan was a teacher, composer, businessman, and horseman who had moved to Randolph, Vermont from Springfield, Massachusetts in 1788. He acquired a bay colt, born in 1789, giving him the name Figure. This colt was the founding sire of the Morgan breed. While his true origins remain hidden in history, Figure is thought to have been sired by True Briton, a horse widely respected for his excellence and known as a sire of quality horses. Figure's dam, was "...of the Wild-air breed, of middling size, with a heavy chest, of a light bay color, with a bushy mane and tail - the hair on the legs rather long, and a smooth, handsome traveler." Her sire was Diamond; a son of Church's Wildair by Wildair (Delancey's) out of a mare owned by Samuel Burt named Wildair. As Figure grew, his compact muscular body and stylish way of moving impressed many of the pioneer farmers and settlers. Soon tales of his beauty, strength, speed, hardiness, endurance, and gentle disposition spread amidst the small New England towns. His ability to outwalk, outtrot, outrun, and outpull other horses were legendary. His stud services were offered throughout the Connecticut River Valley and various Vermont locations over his lifetime. His most valuable asset, however, was the ability to pass on his distinguishing characteristics, not only to his offspring but also through several generations.
After Justin Morgan's death, Figure moved on to other owners and spent a life working on farms, hauling freight, and as a parade mount at militia trainings. In the practice of the day, he became known by his former owner's name, the Justin Morgan horse. He spent his life working and died in 1821 from an untreated kick received from another horse. His three most famous sons - Sherman, Bulrush, and Woodbury - would carry on his legacy to future generations of Morgan horses.
If you want to learn more about the important role the Morgan played in history, or you have a historical question please contact the National Museum of the Morgan Horse.