Bruce Lowe

Bruce Lowe (1845 – 1894)

“The Gentle Giant from Clarencetown’

Charles Bruce Lowe was born in ‘Clarencetown’ NSW in 1845. This is not quite the Upper Hunter but we’ll claim him nonetheless. Bruce Lowe attained fame and to some extent notoriety from a scholarly treatise. The Family Numbers commonly used to designate the various Thoroughbred female families were popularized by Bruce Lowe. Lowe’s seminal work, Breeding Horses by the Figure System’ was published posthumously in 1895 by his friend and editor, William Allison. He had traced back the pedigrees of the complete list of winners of the oldest English classics, the St. Leger Stakes, Epsom Derby Stakes and Epsom Oaks, grouping them by direct lines of tail female descent, from dam to granddam and on back until the family was no longer traceable in the General Stud Book. There were 34 taproot mares listed in the first volume of Weatherby’s General Stud Book.  A further 9 non-winning families were also given numbers, making 43 in all.

He then tallied the number of classic winners produced by each family and listed them in declining order. The family with the most classic winners, the one descending from Tregonwell’s Natural Barb Mare, was designated Family #1, the Burton Barb Mare second, designated Family #2, and so on. The resulting forty-three numbered families became the core of his study, and while few actually adhere to Lowe’s resulting theory, many still use his family numbers as a convenient way to categorize Thoroughbred families. Herman Goos, who had first published a comprehensive collection of pedigree tables in 1885, expanded the number of Lowe families to fifty.

Lowe’s theory went far beyond identifying female strains. Of these families, he found that nine in particular appeared to be indispensable in the breeding of top racehorses, and he divided these into two classes, running(family #s 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5) and sire (family #s 3, 8, 11, 12, and 14) or as Lowe preceived them, feminine and masculine. His theory, too complex to relate here, was based on balancing the “feminine and masculine factors” by using these two classes of families as core to good matings.

“The Bruce Lowe Figure System”

Commentary by Mr R H Dangar of ‘Neotsfield’, Singleton on his friend Bruce Lowe as quoted in ‘Racehorses in Australia’ edited by Dr W H Lang, Ken Austin and Dr Stewart McKay. R H Dangar also knew Frank Reynolds; they were virtually neighbours.

“I do not know much of Bruce Lowe’s earlier history, but understand he commenced making out his figures in his spare time when inspector of Government lands out back in Queensland. Later, he and Frank Reynolds worked together, or perhaps it would be more correct to say compared notes, as I think they worked independently, and discussed the question together afterwards.

“On appearance he was very tall and thin, with brownish grey hair, a very gentle nature, with a quiet voice, and altogether, as I knew him, a most lovable man. He had indifferent health for some years latterly in his life, and eventually died in London, whither he had gone to finish his book and get it published. He had a small connection as a stud stock agent in Sydney, and we, among others used to send him our yearlings, and it was a treat to hear him reel off yards of stuff for T S Clibborn to repeat from the box. Lowe had no voice for selling, and he told me once he did not think he could get up and harangue the crowd – so he got Mr Clibborn to sell for him, and used to prompt him as if he were reading out of a book, with never a note to help him – and catalogues in those days were not the elaborate productions of today. As to his character – well, I cannot believe he knew how to do a dirty action, and I would simply not believe anyone who might say anything against him.”

Dr W H Lang, Ken Austin and Dr Stewart McKay:

‘So you have here an authentic sketch of this quiet, upright, gentle man, whom you may have misjudged somewhat from his writings, and from the acrimonious discussions which his antagonist, and his disciples have raised over his grave, from time to time’.

“If the shattered world falls, the wreck may crush him, but still undismayed.”

“The gentlest are always the bravest; the bravest are always the best.”

In 1931, The Tabulated Pedigrees of Thoroughbred Horses (the “Polish Tables”), published by the Society for Promoting Horse Breeding in Poland expanded the tabulation of successful racehorses on a global basis. These were expanded upon by Captain Kazimierz Bobinski and Count Stefan Zamoyski in the first volume of Family Tables of Racehorses (1953), which compiled the families and detailed their lines of descent. Supplementary volumes were published through 1963. Research revealed that that some of Bruce Lowe’s families went back to a common female ancestor, and so they were linked. Other groupings of mares were added to incorporate the global nature of the Thoroughbred.

See also:

Families 1 – 50 Bruce Lowe’s original numbered English families, with Goos additions, traceable to the earliest volumes of the General Stud book
Families 51 – 74 Can be additionally traced to General Stud Book mares
Families Ar 1 – Ar 2 Native to Argentina
Families P 1 – P 2 Native to Poland
Families A 1 – A 37 Native to America
Families C 1 – C 16 Native to Australia and known as “Colonial families”
Families B 1 – B 26 Designated as “Half-Bred” due to some impure crosses

In 1990 the Societe d’Encouragement pour l’Amelioration des Races de Chevaux en France published Volume III of the Family Tables of Racehorses, updating the information to encompass race results and the expanding female family line branches in the thirty years since 1963; it was compiled and edited by Toru Shirai.

Thoroughbred breeding theories

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Thoroughbred breeding theories are used by horse breeders in an attempt to predict successful mating of racehorses to produce progeny successful in horse racing. They stem from the belief that careful analysis of bloodlines, can lend predictability to breeding outcomes. Though a prestigious pedigree does not necessarily translate into racing success, there are, nonetheless, various theories, many of them implemented from other animal breeding stock practices. The best-known classification system was developed in the late 1800s by an Australian named Bruce Lowe, who analyzed the statistics of major race winners and ranked the distaff or mare lines by their degree of success. This and similar ranking systems are still used by some breeders today.


The female line

Thoroughbred horses are generally traced through the distaff line, also called the mare line or tail-female line. This maternal line is known as a “family”. This practice dates to the beginning of the General Stud Book (GSB). This was done because the mares produce far fewer foals than stallions and many leading breeders maintained and built families all tracing to a single mare. However, modern genetic studies have revealed that there are some cases where the haplotype in the mtDNA of modern Thoroughbreds, which should not mutate or alter, differs from the records in the General Stud Book, indicating that some female families contain deep rooted pedigree errors.[1]

Many horses were inbred in the early years of Thoroughbred development, which increased the chances of early horses appearing in many pedigrees today.[2][3] One example was Old Bald Peg placed in family 6, one of the earliest tap-root dams, having been foaled around 1635. Most, if not all modern Thoroughbreds trace their ancestry to her through one or both sides of their pedigree.[4]


Around 1895 an Australian, Bruce Lowe, wrote: “Breeding Racehorses by the Figure System”. He formulated a system of family numbers from the mares listed in the General Stud Book. Lowe believed that the three foundation sires of the Thoroughbred were successful largely due to the mares they were bred to, and so predicting race horse quality required identification and assessment of the mare lines.[5]

Lowe stated,

The figures are derived from a statistical compilation of the winners of the three great English classic races, Derby, Oaks and St. Leger. The family with the largest number of wins is No. 1, the next No. 2 and so on up to No. 43, and include families whose descendants have not won a classic race.[5]

During the 1950s Kaziemierz Bobinski and Count Zamoyski produced Family Tables of Racehorses,[6] commonly known as the Bobinski Tables. This work expanded Bruce Lowe’s numbering system of 43 families and identified a total of 74 families tracing to mares in the GSB.[7] They identified mares in several countries whose pedigrees had been lost or whose descendants were unacceptable to the GSB at the time of Lowe’s work. Bobinski later updated his works and split Lowe’s families into sub categories.[8] The current female family tables were updated by Toru Shirai of the Japanese Bloodstock Agency with the latest update occurring in 2004.

Analysis and use

Old Bald Peg, dam of the Old Morocco Mare (c.1655)

Thoroughbred families include the following:

  • Families 1-43 are described by Bruce Lowe’s Breeding Racehorses by the Figure System
  • Families A1-A37 descend from Sanders Bruce’s American Stud Book, with mares who cannot be traced to Weatherbys General Stud Book (GSB)
  • Families Ar1-Ar2 are Argentine families
  • Families B1-B26 trace directly to F.M. Prior’s Half-Bred Studbook
  • Families C1-C16 are described in the Australian Stud Book as approved Colonial Families
  • Families C17-C33 descend from Australian and New Zealand mares who cannot be traced to the GSB
  • Families P1-P2 are Polish families

Today, these numbers often follow a horse’s name in sale catalogues and pedigrees, much like a numerical surname and are used for checking the accuracy of pedigrees and comparing the contributions made by various mares and families.[9] Horses that come from more highly respected families will usually command better prices than those from less respected bloodlines, although they may not prove to be better as racehorses or sires/broodmares.[10]


Specific affinities of stallions of one male line for mares from other sire lines — commonly called Nicks — have made a profound impact on the development of the Thoroughbred. Compatibility of stallions from one male line with mares from other sire lines has shaped the breed since the cross of Eclipse with mares by Herod in the late 18th century. These successful crosses–Hermit/Stockwell, Lexington/Glencoe, Bend Or/Macaroni, Phalaris/Chaucer–have made a profound impact on the development of the Thoroughbred.[11] While modern calculations of nick ratings use more complete databases there has been criticism of nicks and nick ratings within the Thoroughbred industry. [12][13]


  1. Jump up ^ Erigero, Patricia. “Who’s Your Momma III: Some Lines Misplaced”. Genetic Markers. Thoroughbred Heritage. Retrieved 2008-02-17. which cites Hill, E. W.; et al. (2002). “History and Integrity of Thoroughbred Dam Lines Revealed in Equine mtDNA Variation” (PDF). Animal Genetics 33 (4): 287–294. doi:1046/j.1365-2052.2002.00870.x. PMID 12139508. Retrieved 2008-02-17.
  2. Jump up ^ Hardiman, James R. “Inbreeding”. Retrieved 2008-02-14.
  3. Jump up ^ “Equine Business Marketing”. Wild Horse Advertising. Retrieved 2008-02-14.
  4. Jump up ^ “Look here for racing’s roots”. The Press. Retrieved 2008-02-14.
  5. ^ Jump up to: a b Lowe, Bruce; William Allison (1977). Breeding Racehorses by the Figure System. London: The Field and Queen. p. 2. Facsimile. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name “Lowe” defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  6. Jump up ^ “Reference Books”. Bloodlines. Retrieved 2008-02-14.
  7. Jump up ^ Erigero, Patricia. “New Research Sheds Light on Old Pedigrees”. Genetic Markers. Thoroughbred Heritage. Retrieved 2008-02-17. which cites Hill, E. W.; et al. (2002). “History and Integrity of Thoroughbred Dam Lines Revealed in Equine mtDNA Variation” (PDF). Animal Genetics 33 (4): 287–294. doi:1046/j.1365-2052.2002.00870.x. PMID 12139508. Retrieved 2008-02-17.
  8. Jump up ^ “Family Tables”. Bloodlines. Retrieved 2008-02-17.
  9. Jump up ^ Wicks, B.M (1973). The Australian Racehorse: An Introduction to Breeding. Canberra: Libra Books. p. 16.
  10. Jump up ^ Napier, Miles (1977). Blood will tell: Orthodox breeding theories examined. London: J. A. Allen. pp. 17–18.
  11. Jump up ^ “About TrueNicks”. Retrieved 2016-03-26.
  12. Jump up ^ “Debunking Nicking”. Retrieved 2016-03-26.
  13. Jump up ^ “Debunking Nicking”. Retrieved 2016-03-26.

See also:






Family Numbers

 What They Are & How to Use Them


In the course of researching pedigrees, one of our greatest tools for finding inbreeding patterns is the family number. We use them so frequently that we seldom give them any thought, but for those new to the study of Thoroughbred pedigrees, they remain a mystery.

First, we need to recognize how we keep track of our horses. Certainly, anyone can get a sire printout. But horses by the same sire are just that – horses by the same sire. An individual stallion can sire hundreds of offspring. But mares can produce only a dozen or so. As a result, it is far easier to keep track of horses by their female lines than by their male lines.

So when we go to a yearling sale, or examine a pedigree page in the stallion register, the female family is prominently displayed. No sire is an afterthought, but the family is still the easiest way to trace ancestry.

Which brings us to the man who devised the family system we use today, C. Bruce Lowe, an Australian whose book Breeding Racehorses by the Figure System was first published in 1895, shortly after his death. Prior to his passing, Lowe had entrusted his research to William Allison of The Sporting Life, and it was Allison who was eventually responsible for the publication of Lowe’s findings.

Commonly referred to as “the figure system”, in its early years, Lowe’s work found immediate disciples, such as the highly respected Col. Hall Walker and August Belmont II, breeder of Man o’ War. Today, we still use the basic concept that Lowe set forth, though we seldom use the whole of his research.

This is due in large part to Lowe’s attempt to take his basic classification of female families and make them something more. The renowned pedigree researcher Abram Hewitt opined in a two-part 1985 Thoroughbred Record article that this is where Lowe went awry, as most of his conclusions were wrong and some of his data was erroneous. We will comment on that in a moment.

The Theory

Though Lowe did mention the three foundation sires in his research, most of his work was confined to mares. He began his research by taking each mare in the English General Stud Book, then classifying her according to her direct tail-female descent back to the earliest known registered mare (taproot mare).

Lowe then refined his work by taking each of these taproot dams and classifying them according to the total number of wins each family had recorded in the three classic races for English Thoroughbreds – the Derby, the Oaks and the St. Leger. His initial research led him to 43 separate families. The family with the most classic wins was Family No. 1, that with the second most classic wins was Family No. 2 and so forth.

Lowe then proceeded to get a little complicated, classifying families 1-5 “running families,” and his original conclusion was that these families had a female sex bias and did not produce good sires. Over time, this conclusion proved wrong, but in Lowe’s defense, he was doing this work 100 years ago without the aid of a computer.

He conversely felt that families 3, 8, 11, 12 and 14, or horses inbred to these families, were the best sire families. These conclusions have also proven faulty. Note that Family No. 3 is in both groups, and Lowe considered it “pliable”, or able to produce both good runners and good sires.

Lowe believed that these nine families – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 11, 12 and 14 were the “core” of the breed and essential for successful breeding. Yet we know that some families have evolved since his original research. Family No. 9 contains the powerful Lady Josephine clan, an extremely strong sire source group of mares; Family No. 16 gave us Plucky Liege; Family No. 13 Frizette; and Family 21 Hidden Talent and *Clonaslee, and so forth.

As time went on, and these families grew, certain mares within each family began to establish their own identities, and thus the families were sub-divided, i.e. family 1-A, 1-B, 1-C, etc. The system has been in existence for so long that some of the really huge families could probably use yet another sub-division, say 1AA, 1BB and so on, but there do not seem to be any volunteers for the job.

Until someone comes forward to make the attempt, it is important to know that due to the massive number of horses in some families, that even within the various branches, say Family No. 21-A, that there are “sub-sub” branches – it being possible for two horses from this branch, like Pampered King II and Too Bald, to be so far removed in their actual relationship to each other as to be not really related at all, despite having the same family number.

A Seeming Contradiction

When Abram Hewitt discussed Lowe’s findings and found them contradictory, he based this criticism on what he considered an insoluable paradox: If Lowe believed the tail-female line to have worth in and of itself, then inbreeding to it was a very different thing indeed, particularly if the horse in question came from a different family than that to which he was inbred. But we are not at all certain that we think this is a contradictory finding.

What Lowe’s main problem was that he failed to fully explain his theory. In fact, what he seemed to be getting at in a round-about fashion is that “family rules”, or what Bull Hancock used to say about the family being stronger than the individual. This is the key that many researchers use when examining pedigrees today.

But where does family influence leave off and inbreeding take over? That is, of course, the question, since there seems to be some evidence that while the family itself controls how a horse runs, his overall pedigree composition – which includes inbreeding – has more to say about how he sires (or in the case of a mare, how she produces).

Certainly a horse’s own female family is of major import, but if he has five lines of *La Troienne, this, too, is going to matter. We do not find a contradiction in this because every pedigree (save full siblings) is different and must be examined as such. If the horse in question is not only inbred to *La Troienne, but also traces to her in tail-female, then it obviously is even more important because the horse is, in fact, receiving an added amount of strength from his own, good, female family.

But in addition to inbreeding and tail-female line, the horse’s own individuality must be examined. Take the case of Manila, who was from the No. 16 family, but was inbred to Fairway/Pharos (Fam. No. 13E) and to half siblings Bruleur x2/Terre Neuve (Fam. No. 4D). Manila’s pedigree had a distinctly French flavor, owing to the similarity between Barra II, second dam of his sire Lyphard, and *Le Fabuleux, his broodmare sire, who shared a Ksar/Rabelais/La Farina/Alcantara II contribution.

Not only did Manila look like his French blood, bearing a notable resemblance to his broodmare sire *Le Fabuleux, but he sired like it, getting late maturing horses who eventually earned him a ticket out of the country to the obscurity of Turkey. Yet his female family, that of Colosseum, was a considerably faster clan and gave him the ability to win in track-record times. Thus we have something of an answer within the Lowe system.

*Gallant Man is another such example. Here was a “cup horse” par excellence. He won the Belmont at 12 furlongs, the two-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup, the 1 5/8 mi. Sunset Handicap. But at stud, *Gallant Man generally sired very fast offspring and was eventually classified a brilliant/classic Chef-de-Race.

Yet he is no more a mystery than Manila. *Gallant Man was very closely inbred – 2 x 2 – to three-quarter siblings Mah Iran and *Mahmoud, both grandchildren of Mumtaz Mahal, the “flying filly” and a dominant for speed within the breed. Yet his own female family, that of Qurrat-Al-Ain, was far more classic. He quite simply ran like his family and bred like his pedigree composition.

So direct female descent may well play the largest part in how a horse races, but his overall pedigree contribution and inbreeding – not to mention which part of his pedigree he most closely resembles – determine how he will breed. This is not only important, but vital, when assessing young sire and broodmare prospects.

They cannot always pass on their racing ability; at stud, they have only their genetic composition to bequeath.

Lowe also attempted to differentiate between sire lines, calling Eclipse the “king of sires”, yet data as late as the 1980’s proves that most horses have more lines of Herod than Eclipse. Adding to the confusion is Hewitt’s commentary on the possible mistake made in the pedigree of Galopin, who is purported to be by Eclipse-line Vedette, but whose stud groom claimed was actually by Herod-line The Flying Dutchman. If this allegation were true, it would mean that all St. Simon relations are not, in fact, Eclipse relations but are relations instead of Herod, altering the composition of the stud book very much indeed.

The Families

Today, the families established by Lowe have been expanded to include families no. 44-74. There are also British Half-Bred Families B1-B26; American Families A1-A39; Colonial (Australian and New Zealand) Families C1-C36; Argentine Families Ar1-Ar2; Polish Families P1-P2; and new families A38, A39, C34, C35, and C36, which are “new families”, which appeared for the first time in Volume III of the Stud Book.

The original taproot mares follow (Note – many do, in fact, have the same or similar names; for example there are several “Royal Mares”.): Family No. 1 – TREGONWELL’S NATURAL BARB MARE; Family No. 2 – BURTON BARB MARE; Family No. 3 – MR. BOWES’ BYERLY TURK MARE; Family No. 4 – LAYTON (VIOLET) BARB MARE; Family No. 5 – THE MASSEY MARE; Family No. 6 – OLD BALD PEG; Family No. 7 – BLACKLEGS ROYAL MARE; Family No. 8 – BUSTLER MARE; Family No. 9 – VINTER MARE; Family No. 10 – CHILDERS (GREY) MARE; Family No. 11 – SEDBURY ROYAL MARE; Family No. 12 – ROYAL MARE – Family No. 13 – ROYAL MARE; Family No. 14 – THE OLDFIELD MARE – Family No. 15 – yet another ROYAL MARE; Family No. 16 – SPOT (HUTTON’S) MARE – Family No. 17 – BYERLY TURK MARE; Family No. 18 – OLD WOODCOCK MARE; Family No. 19 – OLD WOODCOCK (DAVILL’S) MARE; Family No. 20 – DAFFODIL’S DAM; Family No. 21 – QUEEN ANNE’S MOONAH BARB MARE; Family No. 22 – BELGRADE TURK MARE; Family No. 23 – PIPING PEG’S DAM; Family No. 24 – HELMSLEY TURK MARE; Family No. 25 – BRIMMER MARE; Family No. 26 – OLD MERLIN MARE; Family No. 27 – SPANKER MARE – Family No. 28 – PLACE’S WHITE TURK MARE; Family No. 29 – NATURAL BARB MARE; Family No. 30 – DUC DE CHARTRES’ HAWKER MARE; Family No. 31 – DICK BURTON’S MARE; Family No. 32 – ROYAL MARE (NATURAL BARB MARE); Family No. 33 – HONEYCOMB PUNCH’S DAM; Family No. 34; CLUBFOOT; Family No. 35 – BUSTLER MARE; Family No. 36 – CURWEN BAY BARB MARE; Family No. 37 – MERLIN’S DAM; Family No. 38 – THWAIT’S DUN MARE; Family 39 – PERSIAN STALLION (LORD HOWE’S) MARE- Family No. 40 – ROYAL MARE; Family No. 41 – BYERLY TURK MARE; Family No. 42 – SPANKER MARE; Family No. 43 – LORD ARLINGTON’S NATURAL BARB MARE.

A Sampling of Well Known Matrons From Individual Families:

Family 1 – *La Troienne; Fairy Star; Chelandry; Brulette; Malva; Canterbury Pilgrim; Rouge Rose; Cradle Song; Vaucluse; Friar’s Carse; Marchetta….and many more.

Family 2- Aloe; Fly By Night II; *Cinq A Sept; Amie; Rosedrop; Rinovata; Cinderella; Seclusion….and many more.

Family 3 -Casiopea; Quiver; Brown Bess (1844); Rose of England; Uvira II; Pocahontas (1837); Black Duchess, etc.

Family 4 – Mahubah; Golden Way; Boudoir II; Anne de Bretagne; Dark Display; Bucolic; Maggie B. B.; St. Marguerite; Catnip, etc.

Family 5 – Bird Flower; Golden Harp; La Grisette/Grey Flight; Remembrance; Waldrun; Simon’s Shoes/Rough Shod II; Kaiserwurde; Ballantrae; etc.

Family 6 – Dona Cecilia; Democratie; Tofanella; Teresina; Myrobella/Selene; etc.

Family 7 – Lady Comfey; Jalouse; Quick Change; Hermione, etc.

Family 8 – Schiaparelli; Belle Rose; Cherokee Rose II (1910)/Erin; Torpenhow; Padua; Summit; Alcibiades; Santa Brigida; Beaming Beauty; Lady Be Good, etc.

Family 9 – Lady Josephine; Idle Dell (Hildene/Sunday Evening); Ruddy Light (Real Delight, etc.); Fairy Gold; The Apple; Nellie Flag; Affection/Bourtai; Minnewaska/The Squaw II; Antwort, etc.

Family 10 – Queen Mary; Court Dress; Iribelle; Beldame; Pearl Of The Loch, etc.

Family 11 – Alabama Gal; Grolle Nicht; Bonne Bouche; La Futelaye; May Queen; Bathing Girl; Bebop II, etc.

Family 12 – Smokey Lamp; La Grelee; Forteresse; Thistle, etc.

Family 13 – Miss Minnie; Frizette; Jean Gow; Anchora, etc.

Family 14 – Scotch Gift; Sky Glory; Black Maria; Cresta Run; Becti; Pretty Polly; Herodias; Duke’s Delght, etc.

Family 15 – Bourbon Belle; Gute Sitte, etc.

Family 16 – Concertina (Plucky Liege; Friar’s Daughter); Pearl Cap; Schwarzgold; *Agnes Sard; Spicebox; Pelerine; Colosseum; Banquet Belle; Sceptre, etc.

Family 17 – La Pompadour; Flambette, etc.

Family 18 – Conniver

Family 19 – Forest Song; Trustful; Bloodroot; Calluna, etc.

Family 20 – Rush Box; Macaroon; Princess Camelia; Rock Drill; Fancy Free, etc.

Family 21 – Cinderella (1885); Hidden Talent; Phase; Nearly; *Clonaslee, etc.

Family 22 – Straight Sequence; Aurore Boreale; Athasi; Queen’s Statute; Evening; Our Lassie; Eulogy, etc.

Family 23 – Erne; Bell Bird; Two Bob; Mannie Gray; Kildeer, etc.

Family 24 – Kingston Rose

Family 25 – Ace Card

Family 26 – Imagery; Rosemain; *Papila

Family 27 – Viridiflora

Family 28 – Bereitschaft

Family 29 – Tracemond

Family 30 – Nothing recent

Family 31 – Macht

Family 32 – Nothing recent

Family 33 – Nothing recent

Family 34 – Nothing recent

Family 35 – Nothing recent

Family 36 – Nothing recent

Family 37 – Daring Bidder

Family 38 – Nothing recent

Family 39 – Nothing recent

Family 40 – Nothing recent

Family 41 – Nothing recent

Family 42 -Panaview

Family 43 – Nothing recent

Of those families added to Lowe’s original 43 (44-74), only Family No. 52 (SIR JOHN SEBRIGHT’S ARABIAN MARE) is really worth mentioning. This family has produced, in recent years, Canadian Oaks winner Par Excellence; Irish 1000 Guineas second Ballymaginathy; Washington Singer Stakes winner Khozaam and Curragh S. winner Jay Bird.

The American families are: A1 – Ella Crump; A2 – Butterfly; A3 – Hart’s Maria; A4 – Fanny Maria; A5 – The Kirtley Mare; A6 – Albert Mare; A7 – Countess; A8- Princess; A9- Spot; A10-Chanticleer Mare; A11-Minerva Anderson; A12- Knowsley Mare; A13-Lady Robin; A14-Shepherdess; A15 – Bedford Mare; A16 -Sally Kirby; A17- Potomac Mare; A18 – Piccadilla; A19 – Jenny Dismal; A20 – Nell; A21 – Jeannetteau; A22 – Black Sophia; A23- Lavina; A24 – Saltram Mare; A25 – The Sultana; A26 – Philadelphia; A27 – Ellen Swigert; A28 – Lucy Fowler; A29 – Old Pet; A30 – Araline; A31 – Marcella; A32 – George Martin Mare; A33 – Mary Jones; A34 – Yarico; A35 – Prunella’s Dam; A36 – Lucretia; A37 – Phoebe; A38 – Moses (Haxhall’s) Mare; A39 – Ledbetter Mare.

Of the America families, Ella Crump’s (A-1) and Fanny Maria (A-4) are by far the most superior; A13, Lady Robin, has some recent worth with the advent of the mare Delicacy (1929 by Chicle) and ancestress of Smart Angle, Greek Game, etc.

A Sampling of the Best American Families:

A1 – Frilette; Sweet Betty

A4 – Betty Derr (Iron Maiden, Judy-Rae, etc.)

A11 – Minerva

A13 – Delicacy


Lowe also stated that the best sires were outcrossed, the best broodmares inbred. Given another 100 years of Thoroughbred breeding with which to work, and the power of today’s computers, we know more about linebreeding. Whether one is using sire inbreeding – say to *Nasrullah – or inbreeding to a great mare – i.e. Plucky Liege, he or she is still inbreeding to a great family. And if one discounts in the *Nasrullah inbred’s pedigree lines of his close relations like *Royal Charger, *Mahmoud, Badruddin, etc., then he is not covering the whole of the matter, which is, in fact, linebreeding to their common relative Mumtaz Mahal.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with all of Lowe’s theories, his family numbers have given researchers the greatest tool possible to seek out similarities in pedigrees. If a horse has seven lines of the 9C family in his pedigree, all horses tracing to that family may not be closely related, but enough of them may be so that a pattern is formed.

So these family numbers, along with knowledge of the major breeders and their best sires and dams, give us the best possible information to seek out linebreeding patterns in today’s runner. This is Lowe’s gift – and it is a gift that goes on giving every time a researcher approaches a new pedigree.

Bruce Lowe numbers, Mitochondrial DNA and Performance

Common to all mammalian species, Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is inherited exclusively from the mother.  Mutations of this mtDNA occur, often in adaptation for environmental conditions. Sets of mutations shared by a large number of individuals may have an effect on athletic performance but are commonly used to define maternally-linked populations known as clades or haplogroups, and sub-populations known as haplotypes. This has made mtDNA a very useful tool for studying the evolution of, and classifying, various species including the horse.

Using mtDNA mutations as markers for familial segregation, Vila et al. 2001 first defined six haplogroups, A through F, in the equine mitochondrial genome. Following Vila’s nomenclature, Jansen et al. 2002 expanded on these findings and published further D-Loop sequence motifs/markers for those six haplogroups plus a seventh, and motifs /markers for sub-haplogroups in clades A,B,C, and D.

More recently and in a significantly larger study using the complete equine mitochondrial genome for 83 different breeds of horses, Achilli et al. 2012 closely defined mutational motifs/markers of haplogroups and haplotypes in the equine breed, creating their own nomenclature, A through R, as well as a mtDNA reference sequence (Genbank:JN398377) for comparative study. Thus we now have a reference population to base the mtDNA of all Thoroughbred racehorses against using the full ~16,000 base of the mitochondrial genome.

Previous studies of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in the Thoroughbred racehorse, mostly limited to the smaller d-loop section, not the complete genome, have identified mismatches between the pedigree records of the General Stud Book, the American Stud Book and maternally inherited mtDNA. Studies by Hill, et al 2002, Harrison and Turrion-Gomez in 2006, and Bower, et al (Bower et al. 2011, Bower et al. 2012a, Bower et al. 2012b) has shown that the mismatches are quite extensive.

You can see from the above that there are a lot of mismatches between the Lowe numbers and actual mtDNA haplogroups, including a couple of studies that have found that various members of sub-branches (such as 23b) appear in two different mtDNA haplogroups indicating a relatively modern error in stud book records. For those that continue to use Lowe numbers as a method of selection, there are more accurate and precise methods of classification to use.

There are two other unpublished papers, one by Allan Davie and his group out of Southern Cross University in Australia (co-authored with a Chinese group) and one by us that have further information than what is commonly known about Thoroughbred mtDNA. The paper by Davie, et al looked at the full sequences of mtDNA to see if there was a particular haplotype/group that outperformed relative to its presence in the population. Our paper qualified the #1 family and actually found that it was significantly more accurate than previously thought, the errors that Bower, et al found that split the #1 family between halpogroup L and N weren’t as common as proposed (the 1-U branch is the only one with real errors) and the proposed link between the #1 family and the A1, A4 and 25 families isn’t warranted.

A commonly held belief is that certain Lowe numbers are more profitable in terms of performance than others. The most likely reality is that if one mitochondrial haplotype had any true benefit over another, after 300 years we would have selected for it by now so it was homogeneous through the breed

So what do the numbers say?

We created a list of the last 200 G1 winners around the world from part 1 countries and then we took all the yearlings offered at the Keeneland September, Tatts October, Inglis Easter and Magic Millions yearling sales, sorted their dams alphabetically and took the first 800 of them (a random but commercial population). Here is the result.

From the numbers above you can see that there are only a couple of haplotypes that might be considered to outperform their population representation. The best of these is the D haplogroup which is the 5b, 5h and 11b Lowe numbers – horses like Wise Dan, Fiorente, Obviously and Hana’s Goal. Even then, we are talking about small numbers as far as their representation in the population is concerned.

One thing that is apparent when we consider other species (including humans) is that while the mitochondrial DNA itself may not have any value in determining athletic performance the relationship between the mitochondrial haplotype and the nuclear genes that are responsible for the process of mitochondrial biogenesis are. Thus, fixing for a particular mtDNA haplotype may prove a profitable process for the yearling buyer.

Bruce Lowe numbers, Mitochondrial DNA and Performance by Byron Rogers


The conscientious and persistent end aim in the breeding of any thoroughbred is for a better racehorse – a champion that will soar as on the wings of a Pegasus, highlighting the Turf and providing memories for the dreamtimes.

The determining factors in the equation of the high-class racehorse are pedigree, conformation, performance and temperament (not necessarily in that order) and the selection process is guided by each individual breeder’s choice of how best to keep alive in the breeding blueprint these characteristics.

A century and more ago, it was an ad hoc approach, a painstaking and individual task which meant for the breeder long hours of scouring books and written record to ascertain the breeding of each horse; and the keeping of copious, but necessary, notes on those constants (conformation and performance and temperament).  There was little or no access to the research of others, despite duplication through privately kept records being rife.

But also, there were dedicated, possessed individuals, not professional breeders per se, who sought to rationalise the breeding process, simultaneously linking the past with the present, and composing a structured picture of the links in the breeding process through the female line

The first to publish some shape and order was a JOHN HENRY WALSH, who under the pseudonym “Stonehenge”, issued in 1885, a collection of Thoroughbred pedigrees.  Later in that same year, the more profound deliberations of the German HERMAN GOOS, published his work in which he sought to establish a classification of female lines, his work a series of genealogical tables of the English Thoroughbred, issued under the title: “STAMM – MUTTER DES ENGLISCHEN VOLLBLUDPFERDES.”  In this Goos classed and numbered “Families” according to victories in a number of races which he considered significant, his qualifying races identifying 61 “Families.”

Four years later, in 1889, a third publication of genealogical tables appeared, under the title “FAMILIEN TAFELN DES ENGLISCHEN VOLLBLUTS,” compiled by another German, FRENTZEL, whose research paralleled the work of Goos.

Goos, not to be outdone, in that same year issued a second, enlarged and revised edition, of his Goos Tables. Meanwhile, C BRUCE LOWE, English-born and Australian domiciled, beavered away unearthing the links and data meant to prove breeding theories he sought to promote.

To achieve his end, Lowe took those races he considered pre-eminent of world racing, the Epsom’s Derby and Oaks Stakes and the Doncaster’s St Leger Stakes, linking each winner to an ancestress at the very birth of the Thoroughbred, in fact, to those mares, not thoroughbred themselves, but which together with the Arab and Barb stallions founded the breed.

Armed with his findings, Lowe number-named each source mare in numerical sequence according to the success of their descendants in those Classic races, naming Tregonwell’s Natural Barb Mare first of them all, through to Family No. 43.

Lowe’s work, unlike the works of Goos et al, was published in English, then as now a universal medium of communication, and brought his work to a general audience, subsuming the earlier reference works of Walsh, Goos and Frentzl, which had never received the blanket response of Lowe’s interposition.

Together with the works of Walsh, Goos and Frentzel, his unifying work brought an overdue recognition to the female side of pedigrees, giving focus to the mares within the breeding equation; the christening number-names of Lowe remain the identifying symbol of each descendant, colts and fillies, in direct female line and family relationship to this day.

Lowe completed his work around the turn of the century, set down his theories in manuscript form – and died.  His work was published posthumously under the title “BREEDING RACEHORSES BY THE FIGURE SYSTEM.”  His theories, intended to revolutionise and to make more scientific the breeding process, immediately captured the imagination of all, both professional and non-professional breeders of the Thoroughbred, and the spotlight was taken, albeit only of a moment, from the stallion as the sole to bestow pedigree, conformation and performance.

But fame was not to be the lot of Lowe.  His carefully researched work and argued views, although initially embraced enthusiastically, were as quickly and brutally rejected as arrant twaddle, and left a reputation bereft of credibility – astonishingly, although a century separates him from life, his name remains today a “red-rag” to some breeding-cum-racing commentators.  But all was not lost.  Over the years Lowe’s work (for which he receives little praise or credit), embraced that of Goos to shape the Family Tables.

Most in breeding today are familiar with “The Family Tables of Racehorses” by Kazimierz Bobinski and Stefan Zamoyski, popularly referred to as “Bobinski’s Tables,” published in 1954 by J A Allan & Co. It is an indispensable bridge between the past and the present.

What is not generally known is that there was a forerunner to Bobinski’s work in both format and layout, a work issued in 1933 by “The Society for Promoting Horse Breeding in Poland.”  This publication embraced the Families and Numbers of Lowe (43), and an additional seven Families appearing in Goos, establishing a 50 Family Tables format. For convenience, they divided the taproot mares by figure though to modern taproots, which were given alphabetical symbol as for instance Family No. 1a, 1b, 1c, 2a, 2b, 2c, etc, defining the various modern branches stemming from each taproot mare.

Bobinski followed this format, but increased the number of taproot mares from 50 to 74. Bobinski also embraced countries not included in the Polish book, and American and Colonial Families. As a matter of interest, in Bobinski’s Tables,” Families No. 32 to 74 are embraced in just 6 of the 135 pages.

As indicated above, the taproot mares, over the centuries, have splintered into many and separate branches.  These modern taproot mares were largely self-selecting, a point at which natural separation developed.  They were adopted as convenient points of tangent by the Polish Tables and Bobinski as those branches significant to their time.

In “Peerage of Racehorses” the breakdown of the Family No. 1 is 23 stems, many of which can now be said to have reached the point where they divide again.  The modern taproot mare, the aptly named matriarchal queen Paradigm, through her daughter, Paraffin, her granddaughters Footlight and Illuminata, and her great-granddaughters, Chelandry and Gas, together have forged a dynasty.  Now, descendant mares, each a step on the stairway, are with descendants thick enough on the ground to entitle them to recognition as modern taproot mares.  Modern taproot mares are not written in stone, and in the flux of change Paradigm and Paraffin will take a backseat.  As with Footlight et al, the likes of La Troienne and Picture Play are also ready to assume the mantle of modern taproot mares taking an identity of their own from the Casuistry (Fam No.1) branch from which they spring, bringing these branches of the Family No.1 into the 20th/21st centuries.  (In “Family Trees of Racehorses,” current efforts are towards selecting from the self-selecting mares, those points of reference as of the above instances).

The service Lowe and others did for racing in defining the Family cannot be overstated.  Had this been Lowe’s sole purpose, then in an industry that readily honours its heroes and servants (races carrying the name of Admiral Rous are raced at Newmarket, Doncaster, Ascot and Goodwood), then Lowe’s name would enjoy honour and like status.  But his name is associated only with his theories, and he remains without celebrity.  Ergo… when next your eyes fix on a Family No., spare a thought for the unfortunate Lowe, and silently mouth an appreciation that his work readily parts the curtain of time, and order, not chaos, meets the mind.

Once, the Family No. was de rigueur, the signal element identifying the Family to which a particular thoroughbred belonged.  In older yearling sales catalogues, it was a constant, a bracketed number that immediately identified the Family of each individual. Then, on a whim, the Family No. was withdrawn.  English, and I believe American catalogues continue to studiously ignore identifying entries by their Family Nos, but Australian and New Zealand catalogues have accepted that it was in error to reject this knowledge, and have replaced the identifying “figure” to yearlings and others coming in to the market place.  Some countries, as England, flirt with “of the same Family as…” followed by the name of a famous horse as “Hyperion” – but who knows off he top of the head from which Family Hyperion* was a descendant.

The Bruce Lowe, American and Colonial Family Nos. are (in my view), essential to a ready identification of any horse, wherever in the world.  It may be seen as too loose a homogeneity, but beyond all questions, it encompasses in broad context, every thoroughbred.

(c) Richard Ulbrich