We have all seen horses since childhood. Do you know that there are more than 300 breeds of horses, each with a unique characteristic? Owing to their special qualities, these breeds are used for different purposes, for example, warfare, sports, therapy, and agriculture. When it comes to speed, however, there are six varieties of horses that outrun all others. Do you know these six?
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The Tough Thoroughbred Horse
Thoroughbred horses are derived from Turkoman, Arabian, and Barb bloodlines and more than a million such foals are bred annually across the globe. Thoroughbreds are known worldwide for their highly competitive nature. This quality make them ideal for speed events such as racing.
With their tall and slim body, and their immensely powerful limbs, they have a build that facilitates high speed. When it comes to racing, their competitive nature adds to their physical power and they tend to perform superbly. However, their competitiveness also makes them more prone to accidents and exertion during the event.
The Thoroughbred horse has been made famous through their participation in modern day racing events. Top horses easily sell for millions of dollars. To learn more about the tough Thoroughbred horse, check out this breed profile post: Equine Royalty: The Thoroughbred Horse.
The Quaint Quarter Horse
Named because if their outstanding speeds over quarter mile distances, these horses are able to run for more that 55 mph. Quarter Horses are extremely popular in western events and they are much more versatile and adaptive than the Thoroughbreds. This unique feature makes them suitable for ranch work and for events like show jumping.
When used for racing, these horses benefit from their relatively compact build that is rich in muscle. At some distances, they even compete and win against purebred Thoroughbreds. Their speed and agility lends them to be able to perform tricky and fast maneuvers better than any other horse breed.
Quarter Horses can also be crossed with Thoroughbred horses to produce an Appendix Quarter Horse. If you want to learn more about Appendix Quarter Horses, check out the post: 9 Facts About the Appendix Quarter Horse.
The Awe-inspiring Arabian Horse
Although these horses are definitely not built for speed racing, their endurance levels surpass all other breeds. Therefore, Arabian horses are best when it comes to long distance races.
These horses have the unique ability to conserve their energy while they run. As a result, while other horses are exhausted, the Arabian horses are able to outrun them easily because of their stamina. These horses are super-friendly and easy going, and are known for their high intelligence.
The modern day Arabian excels in two types of racing events: racing on the racetrack, similiar to Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, and Endurance Racing. In the case of Endurance Racing, they can sometimes cover 50 or more miles in a single day!
The Stupendous Standardbred Horse
Standardbred horses are the closest to humans in terms of emotional attachment. They can make great first horses for riders because of their friendly nature. When it comes to speed, these horses derive the force to run from their shoulders and hindlimbs. They are excellent for trotting and pacing events because they have an inherent interest to learn and perform.
Standardbred Racing is much different from the traditional racing you might think of. Standardbred race horses don’t carry a rider but, rather, pull a buggy. They can be ridden, however, and are used extensively in pleasure riding competitions and horse shows. They are also used in agriculture and for buggies.
The Amazing Appaloosa Horse
You might easily identify an Appaloosa horse because of its distinctive, colourful coat. However, this breed is also known for its intelligence and rapid learning. Historically, it was used by Native Americans.
Appaloosa is often used to describe any horse with spots, however, the Appaloosa Horse Club (ApHC) exists to keep track of the Appaloosa horse breed. The ApHC tracks pedigree and restricts breeding to only registered animals.
Over the years, this breed has been mixed with Arabian, Quarter Horse, and Thoroughbreds to improvise its traits and characteristics. Because there are many different breed influences, the Appaloosa horse can actually vary wildly in characteristics. Some will have a lighter, more Arabianesque build, and others will be stocky like Quarter Horses.
Appaloosa horses compete on some race tracks just like Quarter Horses, Paints and Thoroughbreds. While not as common, it sure makes for a colorful photo finish!
The Popular Paint Horse
We would be remiss if we didn’t include the Paint Horse in this list of fastest horse breeds. Paint horses often race alongside Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds and Appaloosas in shorter races.
Like the Quarter Horse, Paint horses excel in many different disciplines. After their career on the race track, APHA race horses can find homes where they compete in barrel racing, western pleasure, ranch work and even dressage and jumping. They are a truly versatile breed.
Which Breeds of Horses Are The Fastest?
Now that we have looked at the six fastest horse breeds, you may be wondering, how fast can they actually run and which is the fastest? Each horse is an individual but, luckily, there was a study done on this very thing that we can reference. (source)
- Fastest: Quarter Horse
- Second Fastest: Thoroughbred
- Third Fastest: Arabian
While Appaloosa’s and Paint horses weren’t evaluated in this study, I would expect both breeds to fall somewhere between the Quarter Horse and the Arabian.
As you see, different breeds of horses are endowed with different characteristics but they all share one: speed. The six horse breeds mentioned above are known for their speed, intelligence and quick learning skills.
Quarter Horse vs. Thoroughbred: Who is Faster? In a scientific study, researchers compared Arabians, Quarter Horses and Thoroughbred speeds. They found that Quarter Horses averaged faster speeds than Thoroughbreds.
Who is the fastest horse of all time? The answer to this depends on the distance. The current Guinness World Record holder is Winning Brew who set the highest recorded speed over two furlongs in 2008. She traveled 2 furlongs in 20.57 seconds (a speed of almost 44 MPH). (source)
Is the Arabian horse the fastest horse? In a scientific study completed in 2006, both Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds were faster than Arabian Horses.
- Appendix Quarter Horses: 9 Facts You May Not Realize Are True
- 19 Appaloosa Horse Facts You Didn’t Know
- Equine Royalty: The Thoroughbred Horse – History, Characteristics and Photos