The Hackney Horse and the Min Pin’s Hackey Gait: Apples and Oranges

The Hackney horse been described as “The [equine] Ballerina of the Show ring. One look at the video below and few of us would disagree:

The crisp action of the trot, knees raised high at each step, and its hind quarters powerfully propelling the animal forward usually mesmerizes the person seeing a Hackney horse for the first time.  Sadly, a horse breed known since the 14th century when it was developed in Norfolk by the King of England is at risk. Breed numbers are in serious decline in its home country where it appears on the endangered species list for horse breeds.

The hope is that with a renewed interest in carriage driving, Hackney horses are being sought out, and at least in America, their numbers are increasing, and American broodmare bands are once again in production.

Now take a look at the video below of the Best of Breed ring for Miniature Pinschers at Crufts back in 2014:

For obvious reasons, most people looking at these dogs are reminded of Hackney horses, but a serious comparison between the two animals is tantamount to comparing apples and oranges. In the Hackney horse gait, the forefoot is raised far too high to be an efficient working gait, the hoof kept pointed down and inward. The hocks should be brought under the body and raised high, and all joints should exhibit extreme flexion.

Technically, a dog can’t imitate a horse, their leg bones aren’t the same. In a Min Pin’s hackney gait, the paw isn’t bend under like a horse’s hoof, but is held in a more horizontal position. While the name of the gait may be the same, the action between the two animals isn’t identical.  The Miniature Pinscher Club of America points out that the hackney action in a Min Pin should be seen in the front movement only.  The high “hock action” of the rear legs is limited to the horses, and in the Min Pin, an exaggerated ’’lift” of rear legs would be ultimately too inefficient, especially since the breed standard calls for a smooth action.  Dog show judges should realize that the Min Pin standard does not call for “true” hackney action, and having read this, the rest of us know it now, too.

Image: “Guinness” and “Bailey” by Nadi Spencer, winner of National Purebred Dog Day’s First Annual Fine Art/Poster competition

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