Horses are fascinating creatures that have captured the world’s imagination for centuries. Even the most seasoned life-long equestrian can always learn something new about these amazing animals. Here are 100 fun facts about horses!
You can dig deeper into some of these facts in other articles I wrote. I have linked to these articles in (parenthesis) for your convenience! Rest assured, all of these links stay on this site!
- The primitive Eohippus was the horse’s first ancestor, and it appeared on the North American continent over 60 million years ago. (The Origination of Horses)
- Przewalski’s horse in Mongolia is the only example of a truly wild horse – all other wild horses are just feral descendants of domesticated horses.
- Medieval horses were classified by type, rather than breeds – warhorses were called chargers or coursers, and palfreys were generally used as riding or packhorses.
- The Spanish jennet was a light medieval horse with a smooth ambling gait, and it is one of the foundation ancestors for the Andalusian and Lusitano breeds. (Origins of the Andalusian Horse)
- Between light riding horses, draft horses, ponies, and sanctioned cross-breeds, over 350 different kinds of horse breeds roam the earth today!
- Most modern horse breeds are the result of thousands of years of careful selective breeding. The most prominent foundation breeds are the Barb, the Arabian, and early Spanish horses.
- The Bedouin tribes on the Arabian peninsula are widely regarded with creating the elegant Arabian breed. They kept meticulous pedigree records and protected their finest horses in their tents from the harsh desert climate. (Origin of the Arabian Horse)
- A horse’s pedigree is tracked through its dam and sire (mother and father).
- Spanish conquistadors brought their refined Spanish horses with them to the Americas, and most American breeds can trace back their lineage to these early settlers’ horses.
- Indigenous people of the Americas adopted horses into their culture, and many tribes became skilled equestrians.
- In Europe and Asia, horses were used on family farms, for military purposes, and also for sport. Humans selectively bred different types of horses to suit different needs.
- Horses with unknown mixed-breed heritage are called grade horses. With DNA testing, we can often narrow it down to a few of the most common ancestors, but grade horses can still make wonderful companions! (Horse DNA Testing)
- Horses didn’t arrive in Australia until 1788.
- Horse breeds are still being developed and refined today. Humans no longer require equine workers in the way they once did, so the focus has shifted from utilitarian pack animals to fierce competitors in many different sports.
- Arabians are known for their excellent endurance and refined, delicate appearance – most notably their dished faces and high-flying tails.
- Thoroughbreds are long, lean, and fast. They speed around racetracks at upwards of 40 mph!
- Quarter horses are skilled ranch horses, perfect for working with cattle, and are the fastest breed over short distances.
- Appaloosas are unique spotted horses, but they’re more than just a pretty coat. The Appaloosa is a hardy breed developed by the indigenous tribes of America.
- Mustangs are “wild horses” in the Americas, mostly descended from loose Spanish horses brought by the conquistadors in the 16th century.
- Clydesdales are large draft horses, known for pulling the Budweiser beer wagon. (7 Things To Consider When Buying A Clydesdale)
- Andalusians and Lusitanos are elegant Spanish horses known for their beautiful way of moving and long flowing manes and tails.
- Shetland ponies are popular children’s mounts today, but they previously worked in coal mines, pulling heavy carts of coal through dark tunnels.
- Hot-blooded, cold-blooded, and warm-blooded are terms that describe a horse’s build and temperament.
- All horses are mammals (and are therefore warm-blooded), but hot-blooded horses are known for being fast and fiery, cold-blooded horses are usually heavy draft horses, and warm-blooded horses are somewhere in the middle.
- There are several specific “warmblood” breeds (such as Dutch warmblood, Trakhener, Holsteiner, etc.), but most warmblood horses are known for their athleticism and excellence in jumping, dressage, and eventing – they excel at Olympic events!
- Newborn horses should be able to stand within two hours after birth.
- Male baby foals are called colts, and females are called fillies.
- Horses have 205 bones. Some breeds, such as the Arabian, have fewer ribs and vertebrae.
- A horse’s skeleton isn’t fully mature until around age 5.
- Horses are measured in “hands” from the ground to the top of the withers– one hand = 4 inches. (Measuring Horse Height in Hands – With Chart)
- The tallest horse on record was a Shire gelding named Sampson – he stood at 21.2 hands (or 86.5 inches) tall!
- Thumbelina holds the record for the world’s smallest horse, standing at only 17 inches tall. Miniature horses are measured in inches, rather than hands.
- Ponies are completely separate breeds – they aren’t young horses.
- Horses can sleep standing up!
- Male horses are called stallions.
- Castrated male horses are called geldings.
- Female horses are called mares. (What Is A Female Horse Called? Horse Genders Simplified)
- Horses have monocular vision. They can see everything within 285 degrees around them all at once. (9 Facts About Horse Vision)
- However, they can’t see directly behind them. This is why you should never approach a horse directly from the rear.
- Horses have large gaps between their front teeth and their molars. This area is called the bars, and it is where the bit rests when the horse is wearing a bridle.
- Horse hooves are made of keratin – the same tough stuff that makes human fingernails!
- Most horses have four distinct gaits: walk, trot, canter, and gallop.
- Some horses can perform more gaits such as an ambling walk, running walk, pace, or rack.
- Healthy horses have a life expectancy of around 25-30 years. (Average Lifespan of Horses and Ponies with Chart)
- The oldest horse who ever lived was Old Billy, an English draft horse who lived to be 62!
- How many pounds of food does a horse eat each year? Around seven times its weight!
- Some horses that are kept in stables have bad habits called vices – abnormal behaviors such as weaving, stall walking, chewing, or cribbing. (Cribbing: What it is and How to Stop It)
- You might see a horse with a deep curve in his spine. This is called a swayback (or lordosis) and can be caused by old age, improper early training, or pregnancy.
- Horses produce over ten gallons of saliva a day!
- A horse with a protruding round stomach may have a hay belly, which is often caused by gas or parasites, rather than fat.
- Horses come in many different colors. Bay, black, brown, chestnut, gray, and sorrel are the most common coat colors. Champagne, silver, tobiano and sabino pinto patterns are some of the least common. (Horse Coat Color Guide with Pictures)
- Most mammals have fur, but horses and humans have hair. Technically, it’s all the same – but animals with less dense coats (like pigs, horses, and humans) are said to have hair, rather than fur. Although, during the winter in a cold climate, a horse can get pretty furry!
- Horses communicate with their ears. If a horse’s ears are pricked forward, he is focused and alert. If they’re lazily flopping around, he’s relaxing and taking in all the sounds of his surroundings. If they’re pinned flat against his head, look out! He may be uncomfortable, scared, or in pain.
- Crossing a male horse with a female donkey results in a hinny. (Hinny vs Mule)
- Crossing a female horse with a male donkey results in a mule. (Donkey vs. Mule vs. Hinny)
- Horses may also be crossed with zebras or wild horses for all sorts of interesting combinations!
Disciplines and Uses
- “English” and “Western” describe the two main categories of modern equine riding competitions – English saddles are lighter and flatter, and Western saddles are larger and feature a horn on the front.
- The English events currently featured in the Summer Olympic Games are show jumping, eventing, and dressage.
- Previous Olympic events included the high jump, the long jump, polo, and vaulting.
- Men and women compete together equally in equestrian Olympic games.
- Olympic pentathletes must compete in fencing, swimming, running, pistol shooting, and equestrian show jumping! Horses and riders are paired up randomly, unlike any other equestrian event.
- Western events are often based on real techniques that cowboys employ on cattle ranches. (6 Best Ranch Horse Breeds)
- Reining, roping, and cutting are all disciplines that test a horse’s skills in working with cattle or other livestock.
- Vaulting looks like gymnastics on horseback!
- Saddleseat is a special type of English riding that uses a flat saddle, and the rider sits very upright. This technique is used to show off the animated movements and high knee action of certain breeds such as Tennessee Walking Horses, Saddlebreds, Morgans, Friesians, and Arabians.
- Polo is a team sport in which riders aim to hit a small ball through a goal with a wooden mallet.
- Horse diving was a popular attraction in the late 19th century – horses would walk up a long ramp and dive 60 feet into the water.
- Polocrosse is an Australian equestrian sport that combines polo and lacrosse.
- Aside from riding, horses may also be driven – pulling a vehicle alone or in teams.
- Throughout history, horses have been used to pull chariots, sleighs, plows, wagons, carts, carriages, coaches, and anything else with wheels!
- Miniature horses are the only other animals that are legally allowed to be considered service animals. Move over, seeing-eye dogs, how about a seeing-eye mini?
- Horses have always been popular performance animals. Circuses feature trick riders performing dazzling stunts aboard patient equine partners.
- The Grand National is a horse race over fences that began in 1839 and is still a national pastime today.
- The Triple Crown refers to three of the most important American Thoroughbred racing events that occur each year – the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont Stakes, and the Preakness.
- Riding horses wear a saddle that is attached around the horse’s belly with a strap called a girth or cinch.
- Riders have control over their horse’s heads using long leather straps called reins.
- Reins are attached to bits, which are pieces of metal that rest in a horse’s mouth in a space between their teeth.
- Riders usually use a small rug underneath the saddle called a saddle pad. This cushions the horse’s back and protects it from rubbing.
- Depending on the discipline and horse, many other different types of tack may be used in conjunction with a saddle and a bridle (including martingales, breastplates, double reins, jumping boots, saddlebags, cruppers, and many, many more!)
- Carriage horses and racehorses sometimes wear covers over their eyes called blinders or blinkers.
- Blinders help narrow the field of view to keep the horse focused on what’s in front of him. (Types of Horse Eye and Face Covers)
- Some carriage horses also have little tassels attached to the top of their bridles. These were used to keep flies out of the horse’s face, and also for decoration.
- Riders should wear helmets and boots with a well-defined heel. Safety first! (What to Wear Horseback Riding)
Basic Horse Care
- Horses must be fed every day, and have access to proper roughage (hay, grass).
- Horses are herbivores – they’re vegetarians! (What Horses Eat)
- A horse needs exercise every day to stay healthy.
- A horse’s feet are constantly growing, just like human fingernails.
- They need to be trimmed regularly, or properly shoed by a farrier. (7 Fun Facts About Horseshoes)
- You must keep your horse clean and dry by providing shelter, stabling, or using a blanket as your climate necessitates.
- Important grooming tools include a curry comb, stiff brush, soft brush, mane and tail comb, and hoof pick. It’s important to remove excess dirt to check for any injuries and prevent rain rot.
- Horses need access to clean water at all times! (Top 3 Options for Horse Waterers)
- Because horses are constantly grazing and chewing on rough food, their teeth need to be checked frequently.
- An equine dentist or veterinarian will “float” teeth (file them down with a rasp) to make sure they’re healthy, smooth, and being used properly. (13 FAQ’s About Horse Teeth Floating)
Want more famous horse names? Check out my article with 60+ Famous Horse Names.
- Mr. Ed, played by Bamboo Harvester, Saddlebred/Arabian.
- Trigger and Trigger Jr. (Allen’s Gold Zephyr) Thoroughbred/Grade horse and Tennessee Walking Horse
- Secretariat, one of the most famous racing Thoroughbreds, won the Triple Crown in 1978
- Bucephalus, the horse belonging to Alexander the Great, ancient Greek king of Macedon
- Pegasus, Greek mythological winged horse
- Black Beauty, the narrator of Anna Sewell’s 1877 classic tale that highlighted the struggles of Victorian carriage horses.
- Shadowfax, Gandalf’s steed in the Lord of the Rings trilogy
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