Our readers support us. This post may contain affiliate links. We earn from qualifying purchases. Learn More
For thousands of years, people have been keeping track of their horse’s bloodlines. Humans bred the fastest, strongest and most beautiful horses to meet their needs. Often, people kept better track of their horse’s lineages than their own.
Today, many people know their horse’s pedigree. When people buy a horse, they often receive the horse’s registration papers with the purchase. These papers provide an insight to the horse’s family tree.
There are many terms used when referring to a horse’s breeding and pedigree. Understanding these terms will allow you to get a better understanding of how family dynamics work in the world of horses.
What is a Sire and Dam?
Sire and dam are the two most common terms people use when discussing a horse’s pedigree. A sire and dam refer to a horse’s parents. Just as you refer to your parents as mom and dad, a horse’s parents are referred to as a dam and sire.
A sire is a term used to describe the father of a horse. A sire can also be referred to as a stud. A stud is an uncastrated male horse, also known as a stallion, that is being used for breeding.
You will often hear that a sire has a stud fee, which is how much it costs to breed your mare to him, or will be standing as a stud, meaning that he is currently available for breeding.
A dam is the mother of a horse. A term you will also hear dams called is broodmares. A broodmare is a female horse, also known as a mare, that is used in breeding.
You can say that a horse is ‘by’ a sire. For a dam, you can say that a horse is ‘out of’ or ‘from’. These terms are not used interchangeably between sire and dam and are used when talking about a horse’s breeding.
Horse’s pedigrees are often written in the form of a chart. When looking at a horse’s pedigree, the sire’s line will be on top and the dam’s line will be on the bottom. Many horse’s pedigrees will go back for several generations, with some even going back hundreds of years.
Grandsire and Granddam
A sire’s father is a grandsire and a dam’s mother is a granddam. A grandsire can also be used to refer to the dam’s sire and a granddam can be used to refer to the sire’s dam. It is just like how you would refer to your own grandparents.
Broodmare sire or damsire are used specifically to describe the dam’s sire. The line for a dam’s side is called the distaff, which refers to all the family of the dam.
Often people will spend more time and research on the sires in bloodlines, than the dams. This is because most people will breed their own mares to other people’s stallions, who have the desired traits they want in their horse.
Get and Progeny
Progeny refers to all the offspring of a horse. A successful sire can have hundreds of progeny in his lifetime.
A mare, however, can only have at most one foal a year and around 16 foals in her lifetime if she is bred regularly while fertile. In certain cases, a mare may have twins but that is a very rare occurrence.
Get is another term to refer to a sire’s offspring. Many people will research a stud’s get in order to find out what qualities of his confirmation passed on to them and how successful they are.
A horse may have several half-siblings from its sire’s side but likely won’t have many, if any, full siblings.
With today’s technology and science, a sire is able to have progeny all over the world. Lots of research goes into horse breeding, especially in racehorses, in order to produce the desired progeny. In many cases, the dam and sire of a horse never actually meet.
Dynamics of a Pedigree
Pedigrees play a big role in understanding a horse’s history. When reading a horse’s pedigree, it is important to know what things like sire, dam, grandsire and granddam mean. Understanding these key terms will help you get a better understanding of horse’s breeding.
Pedigrees are especially important in purebred horses, as many horse breed registries only include horses that are purebred. Knowing your horse’s family tree will allow you to know what breed they are and can even let you know what traits your horse may carry. Not only is knowing your horse’s dam and sire interesting but it also can help you get a better understanding of who your horse is.