I am in pursuit of, as the title says, a multi-purpose horse, a single breed that can do all the things that the others were only specialized for: travel, labor, companionship, war, speed, strength.

If dog-breeding is any indication, it's that finding the right mix takes some steps. So we start this journey with two fairly similar breeds of horse adapted to the same basic climate:

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The Icelandic horse

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The Yakutian horse of Siberia

Why am I breeding two similar breeds living in similar conditions? Because each breed has its own characteristics. The Yakutians have to deal with life in Siberia, which can range from 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer to 90 below in the winter.

  1. A dense coat, obviously
  2. Antifreezing compounds in the blood
  3. Their metabolism adjusts to seasonal needs. In fall they accumulate large fat reserves, in winter the metabolic rate is lowered, and in spring they show an increased carbohydrate metabolism, making use of the freshly sprouting grass.
  4. They may further avoid frostbite by reducing the volume of circulating blood during times of extreme cold

The Icelandic horse has its own characteristic--an extra gait more energy-saving and comfortable than the other four (gallop, canter, walk, trot). This ambling gait made the Icelandic horse a popular breed for use by Middle Age travelers.

So by breeding Icelandics and Yakutians together, I have made a small but strong horse able to both withstand every environmental extreme and amble comfortably over long distances. True or false?

  • $\begingroup$ A reminder to downvoters, nothing can be fixed without saying what's wrong with the question $\endgroup$ Commented May 21, 2018 at 16:55
  • $\begingroup$ vgcats.com/comics/?strip_id=72 $\endgroup$ Commented May 21, 2018 at 20:01
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ FYI, there are already some "all purpose" horse breeds. The Morgan, for one (disclaimer: I own a Morgan)--the foundation sire, Figure, was primarily known for being an all purpose horse, used for long rides, wining both races and pulling contests, and his descendants were used as cavalry horses during the American Civil War. They've become more specialized in modern times, but you can still get foundation-type Morgans. Even if you don't want to just say "Morgans", you probably should end up with something roughly like Figure. $\endgroup$ Commented May 21, 2018 at 22:14

2 Answers 2


I don't have a professional history in horse-breeding, but I do know a thing or two about genetics. I believe that if you specifically selected horses of both breeds that had those traits in the highest abundance, then you could end up with a horse good at both of those things.

I read up a bit on both breeds, and it appears that some Icelandic horses prefer to trot rather than amble. Obviously, you wouldn't breed these horses with the Yakutians if you wanted your new horse to amble.

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Icelandic horse gaits. Left to right: walk, trot, canter, amble, gallop

Similarly, you would want to breed your ambling Icelandics with only specific types of Yakutians. I assume that the Northern subtype (Shown below) is best at blood coagulation and other cold-climate adaptations since they live in harsher conditions, so those would be the ones you want.

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After dozens of breedings, I believe that your new horse would have the abilities to withstand extreme climates like a Yakutian and amble like an Icelandic.

  • $\begingroup$ I thought all Icelandics amble. $\endgroup$ Commented May 21, 2018 at 22:48
  • $\begingroup$ Apparently some are better than others. $\endgroup$
    – SealBoi
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 7:25

Short answer: genetics is a crap-shoot but you are starting from a good place.

Considering the mind-boggling number of genes and gene-complexes that may go into making up the traits you're looking for you can't use a single breeding event, and you wouldn't get a new strain event if you got one foal that was perfect anyway. You may indeed be able to use these two breeds to create a new horse strain that has the desired characteristics but you're going to need large number of both primary breeds and you're going to have to breed, cross-breed, and back-breed them until you get the mix right in enough cases to create a stable herd that "breeds true" AKA all pairings within the herd consistently produce the desired traits and continue to do so for several generations without unacceptable levels of mortality or "throwbacks" creeping in. Don't ask me what an acceptable, or unacceptable, level is I'm not a pedigree breeder of any stripe.


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