Horse racing is a fascinating sport with roots that go back thousands of years. Here are some interesting highlights from the long history of horse racing.
Early Days of Horse Racing
Horse racing dates back to around 4,500 BC. Almost as soon as humans domesticate horses for riding, the question of “which horse is faster?” was being asked. Nomadic tribesmen in Central Asia were the first to train horses and start racing them. From there, the sport spread around the world. Ancient Greek Olympics included horse racing as an event, and Egyptian pharaohs were also known to race their horses and horse-drawn chariots. As early as the Ancient Romans, crowds would gather to watch races and bet on the outcome.
The Thoroughbred Racehorse Is Born
Thoroughbreds have been the most famous breed of racing horses for centuries due to their unique blend of stamina and speed. This breed was founded in late Medieval England when knights returning from the Crusades bred Arabian stallions to sturdy English plow horses. By the late 1600s, racehorse breeding had become a science. Horses like the Godolphin Arabain were foaled, and they went on to become the ancestors of Man O’War, Seabiscuit, and just about every other notable racehorse.
The Jockey Club Is Founded
Horse racing went from an informal pastime to a rigorous sport when the Jockey Club was founded in 1750. This standardized rules for racehorse breeding, track design, and races. From the beginning, betting was a part of the sport. While racehorse owners competed for the grand prize, bystanders could join the excitement by betting with each other. The Jockey Club’s rules were then copied by other organizations around the world, resulting in a formal racing system.
The Heydey of Horse Racing
Over the next few centuries, horse racing gradually grew in popularity. By 1890, the sport had exploded, with hundreds of tracks operating all over the world. Racing suffered a brief decline in the early 1900s when the U.S. cut back on gambling, but the popularity of racing endured. When states agreed to allow parimutuel betting, racing took off. Between the 1920s to the 1970s, many famous racehorses were born, resulting in all sorts of inspiring and exciting races.