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Came into existence as the Rohirrim with the foundation of Rohan in III 2510, though the association of this people with the breeding of horses dated back to the time of the Éothéod (settled after III 1856) and even earlier
Founded by Eorl the Young
Ruled by the House of Eorl
The chief city of the Horsebreeders was Edoras; other notable settlements and fortifications include the former capital Aldburg, Dunharrow, Grimslade, the Hornburg, Underharrow and Upbourn
Derived from this culture's long association with the breeding and riding of horses
Other names


About this entry:

  • Updated 20 June 2024
  • This entry is complete


Uglúk's name for the Rohirrim

"He'll raise the alarm. The cursed horsebreeders will hear of us by morning. Now we’ll have to leg it double quick."
Words of Uglúk, after being discovered by a Rider of Rohan
The Two Towers III 3
The Uruk-hai

A term for the Rohirrim, the Horse-lords of Rohan. Though recorded as a mocking insult by an Orc, the title was in fact well given, for the raising and breeding of horses was embedded in the culture of the Rohirrim. Going back at least to the time of their ancestors, the Northmen of Rhovanion, more than a thousand years before the War of the Ring, they were famed for the quality of their mounts and their extraordinary riding skill.

Ancient History

Before they settled in Rohan, the ancestors of the Rohirrim, the Men of the Éothéod, had dwelt in the far North around the sources of Anduin. In that wide land there were wild horses, and so, as well as breeding their stock, the Men of the Éothéod would also capture and tame these horses.

A lord of that people named Léod attempted to tame a magnificent white horse, but was thrown and died in the attempt. Léod's young son Eorl succeeded where his father had failed, subduing the great horse and naming it Felaróf. Felaróf proved to be an extraordinary steed, tireless and swift, and capable of understanding the speech of Men. Indeed, it was rumoured that he came from a strain of horses brought to Middle-earth by the Huntsman of the Valar.

The Men of the Éothéod were descended from a people who had been staunch allies of Gondor, and when that realm fell into desperate danger, Eorl led his people southward to the aid of their old allies. Riding Felaróf to the Battle of the Field of Celebrant, he routed the invaders and saved the South-kingdom of the Dúnedain. As a reward, Steward Cirion of Gondor gave over the land of Calenardhon to the Horsebreeders of the North, creating the realm of Rohan. Eorl's people now became known the Rohirrim or 'Horse-lords'.

The Horsebreeders in Rohan

With Eorl as their first King, the new Rohirrim settled in the wide green land that had formerly been the Gondorian province of Calenardhon. In this new land of Rohan, their fame as breeders of horses, and as skilled Riders, continued to grow. Those horses bred from Eorl's great steed Felaróf were particularly prized; these were the mearas, creatures of great speed and intelligence, who by tradition would only bear the heirs of Eorl on their backs.

As the time of the War of the Ring approached, some five centuries after the Rohirrim had settled in Rohan, the fame of the Horsebreeders caused rumours to arise. It was said that the Men of Rohan had agreed to pay tribute to the Dark Lord and send some of their horses into Mordor. This claim was untrue, but it was the case that Sauron sent his Orcs to steal steeds from among those bred in Rohan. It was said that these thieving Orcs would always choose black horses, and so it is conceivable that the horses ridden by the Black Riders may have had their ultimate origins among the horses stolen from the Horsebreeders.1

Meanwhile in Rohan, as the Third Age approached its close, a horse of the line of the mearas was raised in Edoras. This horse possessed surpassing speed and endurance, with a glistening coat that was as grey as a shadow by night, and so he was given the name of Shadowfax. A proud and wilful horse, Shadowfax would suffer none to mount him, not even those of the royal line. After the Wizard Gandalf escaped from Orthanc, he encountered Shadowfax on the fields of Rohan, and after following him for a day was able to tame and ride him. From this time on, Shadowfax and Gandalf were fast friends, and rode together into the great battles of the War of the Ring. When Gandalf returned into the West, it is said, the great horse Shadowfax accompanied him aboard the White Ship.2



The black horses of the Nazgûl were not, apparently, simply stolen from the Rohirrim. It is implied that an ordinary horse, even one raised by the Rohirrim, could not long endure the presence of a Ringwraith. Indeed, Gandalf said that the horses of the Black Riders were 'born and bred to the service of the Dark Lord in Mordor' (The Fellowship of the Ring II 1, Many Meetings). If the horses of the Nazgûl had any relationship to the black horses bred in Rohan, then, they must themselves have been bred in Mordor from the stolen stock of the Horsebreeders.


If the legends of the Rohirrim concerning the origins of the mearas were true - that they had come from the stock of the Vala Oromë - then they had come out of the West in the distant past. If so, then in crossing the Great Sea with Gandalf, Shadowfax was returning to the land of his ancient forebears.


About this entry:

  • Updated 20 June 2024
  • This entry is complete

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