The American Standardbred horse breed, of Thoroughbred type but sturdier, with a longer back and shorter legs and averaging 15.2 hands, is the outstanding harness racer in the world today.
It is very fast and has great endurance, and can be either a trotter, which has a diagonal action, or a pacer (which moves its legs laterally like a camel).
Although the American Standardbred possess a lot of Thoroughbred blood, they also trace back to Harddravers, the Dutch trotting breed, and to a famous Norfolk Trotter imported in 1822.
In many Continental countries, Germany, Italy, Finland and Scandinavia, and particularly in Holland where the sport began, trotters and pacers are held in as much, sometimes more esteemed as flat racing and steeple chasing horses.
In France this form of racing started in 1836, and of the many thousands of trotting horses now registered in that country the majority are Noram Trotters, or Demi-Sangs which are raced under saddle as well as in harness.
The old sport of harness racing was once very popular in the North of England, but although it is being revived to some extent, the British racing trotter has little prestige compared with its European counterpart.
Russia's well-known breed, the Orlov-Trotter, was crossed with the American Standardbred to produce the comparatively new and very fast Metis Trotter.
With the North Swedish Trotter, Sweden has the distinction of possessing the only 'cold blood' horse breed of this category in the world.
harness racing is a hot favorite in New Zealand and Australia, and both countries have produced trotting and pacing speed records to vie with, and in many cases surpass, those of America.
Meetings are often held at night on flood-lit tracks, and it was this innovation that really popularized the sport, just as it did in Canada and America.