125 Fun Facts About Horses You'll Want to Share
There is something special about the horse. To some, they are a way of life, part of their soul. Others find them intimidating or even terrifying. But all agree they have power and grace that demands attention.
Even if you are among those that find horses scary, you probably find yourself wishing you knew a bit more about this magical creature that humans domesticated more than 6,000 years ago. Here are 100 fun facts about horses you never knew.
Miniature Horses Can Pull Up to Three Times Their Weight
The Miniature Horse was developed in Europe sometime in the 1600s. Usually standing less than 34-inches tall, they were largely owned by nobility at that time. Today, people all over the world enjoy the Miniature Horse.
Not meant for riding, their backs cannot handle a lot of weight. However, these strong equines can pull up to three times their own weight. For this reason, many Miniature Horses were used in coal mines in Europe.
Horses Are Measured in Hands
In many parts of the English-speaking world, a horse’s height is measured using its own, unique system of measurement, called hands. A hand is equal to 4 inches.
A horse is measured from the ground to its wither, a small bump where the neck and shoulder intersect the spine. So, for example, a horse that is 10 hands is 40-inches tall.
Horses Can Reproduce With Zebras (and the Results Are Stunning)
While mules, the product of a horse and a donkey breeding, are rather common, many are not aware that horses can also breed with Zebras, who are members of the Equidae family.
The resulting offspring are called Zorses, and often sport Zebra striping with horse coloration, creating a very unique, often stunning, animal.
Norwegian Fjords Are Always Dun-Colored
A sturdy mount and capable driving horse that can handle just about anything, the Norwegian Fjord is a rare breed of horse that only comes in dun. Dun is a cream-based color with darker points on the ear tips, legs and down the horse’s back. The legs can be solid or have zebra-type stripes called “barring,” which can also appear on the wither or shoulder area.
The Norwegian Fjord can be five shades of dun: brown dun (the most common), gray dun, red dun, yellow dun and white dun. The white dun, or ulsblakk as it is known in Norway, is the rarest of the five colors.
The Morgan Horse Was Named for the Man Who Created the Breed
The Morgan horse is one of the few breeds that was developed in America. It’s also the only breed that bears the name of a person who is solely responsible for the creation of the breed.
Justin Morgan owned a horse named Figure, born in 1789. Figure (named after a figure of music), would go on to become famous in the area for his incredible athleticism. It was said he could beat any horse, at any gait under saddle and could out pull even the biggest drafts. After Morgan died, Figure became known as the Justin Morgan horse, and was the founding sire for the Morgan breed.
Horses Have Dichromatic Vision
You may think of horses as only being able to see in black and white. However, like dogs, horses have dichromatic vision, meaning they can see blues and greens on the color spectrum, but not reds.
Humans have trichromatic vision, which allows us to see more colors.
The Przewalski Horse Is the Only True Wild Horse
Throughout North America, there are herds of “wild” horses. At least, that is what we call them, as it sounds more romantic than herds of feral horses, but technically, they are just that. The only truly wild horse left in the world is the critically endangered Przewalski horse.
Located in Mongolia, they were reintroduced via zoo breeding programs in the 1990s. In captivity, there are 2,000 of them left. This is not enough for genetic diversity, so they are now creating clones using deceased Przewalski horse DNA to bring in new genetics to try and save the breed.
Drum Horses Were Developed to Carry Drums
The Drum Horse is a breed of horse developed for a very specific purpose: To carry the huge kettle drums of the Queen of England’s Band of the Life Guards. In addition to the huge drums, they had to carry the drummer in full uniform as well.
They were trained to carry more than 300 pounds upon their back. To create a horse large enough to carry such a load, but also have beautiful movement that was parade-worthy and a calm temperament to handle the noise of the drums, they mixed Shire and Clydesdales with Gypsy Horses.
Foals Gestate for 11 Months
If you think going through nine months of pregnancy is tough, try 11!
The average mare carries her foal anywhere between 320 and 362 days. Ponies will often have shorter gestation than full-sized horses, but every mare is unique.
Horse Teeth Continuously Grow
Unlike human teeth, horses have teeth that continuously grow throughout their life. While grazing and eating hay helps keep them worn down, most domestic horses need to have their teeth floated a couple times a year.
Teeth floating involves a veterinarian filing down uneven, overgrown and sharp places on teeth, so a horse can eat properly. A horse that needs their teeth floated may have trouble chewing and even sometimes drop food from their mouth while chewing.
Akhal-Tekes Are Known for Their Glittering Coat Colors
Chances are you have seen beautiful, delicate, long-legged horses online with a coat that looks like it was sprayed with metallic paint. You probably quickly dismissed the picture, figuring someone was having fun with Photoshop.
However, these horses are very real. You can see the metallic sheen on their coat reflecting across a field three football fields in length. This rare sheen is caused by the unique hair structure. The hair of the Akhal-Teke is more transparent than other horse breeds, reflecting light through the transparent part of the hair, causing it to appear metallic.
Horses Cannot Puke
If you eat something bad, chances are it’s going to come back up. For horses though, eating the wrong thing can cause a lot of complications with their digestive system because they have no way of puking it back up.
This is due to very strong muscles at the sphincter in the esophagus. Food can go down, but cannot go back up.
And They Can’t Burp Either
For the same reason that they cannot throw up, horses can also not burp.
However, they can choke, and many owners wet-down hard feeds, such as grain or alfalfa pellets, to help prevent this from happening.
American Quarter Horses Are Named After the Quarter Mile
The American Quarter Horse got its name from the quarter mile. While you may think of a cowboy herding cattle when you hear the name, Quarter Horses were originally used for racing, in particular, the quarter-mile sprint.
It was this favorite pastime that the colonists in early America began to breed horses for, and the end result was the American Quarter Horse. This versatile horse outran all others over short distances and could turn on a dime.
North American Wild Horses Are Not Indigenous
Although there were horses on the North American continent before the settlers came across from Europe, they had gone extinct by that time. The Spanish effectively re-introduced horses to North America when they arrived.
Even the wild horses roaming throughout North America today came from those horses that were either set loose or escaped, banded together and started reproducing. Many of them still retain characteristics of the Spanish breeds from which they are descendants.
13 States in the U.S. Have Horses Named as State Animals
There are quite a few states that have horses as their state animals — most of them being horse breeds that were developed within that state or have a deep-rooted history there.
Those include the Racking Horse for Alabama; Florida Cracker Horse for Florida; Appaloosa for Idaho; Thoroughbred for Kentucky and Maryland; Morgan for Massachusetts and Vermont; Missouri Fox Trotter for Missouri; Nokota for North Dakota; Marsh Tacky for South Carolina; Tennessee Walker for Tennessee; and the American Quarter Horse for Texas. New Jersey is unique in that it simply chose “the horse” as is its state animal, naming no specific breed.
Gypsy Horses Come in Miniature Size
The Gypsy breed is admired for its long manes, tails and abundant feathering over the hooves. They are used for riding and driving and are usually between 13 and 16 hands tall.
However, there are breeders that specialize in Miniature Gypsy Cobs that are under 13 hands, with some being close to 10 hands. That’s just 40-inches tall at the wither!
Lipizzaners Almost Went Extinct During World War II
The beloved Lipizzaners of Austria are known for their incredible talent at high level dressage at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. But many people do not know that they almost went extinct during World War II.
The mares and foals had been taken by German High Command. U.S. General George Patton and the Spanish Riding School’s director at the time, Alois Podhajasky, are credited with saving the breed. Patton went 50 miles into enemy territory to bring back the Lipizzaners that had been taken. In 1963, Disney even made a movie about the rescue called the “Miracle of the White Stallions.”
The Oldest Recorded Horse Lived to be 62
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the oldest horse that has reliable proof, was Old Billy, who lived to be 62 years old. He was foaled in 1760 in the U.K. and passed away in 1822.
That’s more than double what the average horse lives, with most living between 25 and 30 years. Old Billy was a well-known barge horse of his time, with many photos of him appearing in newspapers. His skull is on display at the Manchester Museum.
White Horses Are Extremely Rare
Movies often depict the prince on a white horse, but in reality, a true white horse is extremely rare. Most white horses, including Lipizzaners, are actually grays. They have black skin under their coat, which appears whiter as they age.
True white horses, with pink skin underneath, are very uncommon and often are the result of a white gene expressing fully over a horse’s body. For example, there is a Gypsy stallion, Trade Secret, who is a chestnut (red) horse with a max sabino pattern that covers his entire body, making him white.
Some Horse Breeds Have Extra Gaits
While most horses have three gaits, or speeds, there are some breeds that have more than three gaits. Called gaited horses, these breeds have unique gaits that are incredibly smooth to ride and can be quite fast.
The Tennessee Walker has the running walk, the Icelandic has the tolt, and the Missouri Fox Trotter has the foxtrot. People with back issues often ride gaited breeds for their smoothness.
Norwegian Fjords Have a Three-Part Mane
“Has that mane been dyed?” is the common question people ask when they see a Norwegian Fjord mane for the first time. Split into almost-equal parts, the mane has two black sections with a white section in the middle, just like an Oreo cookie!
On lighter duns, the black parts are more of a red or even cream tone, but still distinct from the white middle section. The manes are often cut short in fashions that highlight the unique color scheme.
Arabians Have Fewer Bones Than Other Horses
Arabians are a breed of horse known for their fine structure, including a short back and a tail that they flag up. What’s fascinating is their skeleton reveals their distinct characteristics are the result of missing bones!
Arabians are born with one less lumbar vertebra, one less rib and one less tail vertebra, accounting for the short back and the ability to carry their tail up in the air.
Friesians Can Be Chestnut in Color
The No. 1, most-used horse in movies and television is the magnificent black Friesian. And it’s easy to see why: Their pitch-black coats, abundant manes and tails, and feathered feet make them the perfect fantasy horse.
While uncommon, Friesians can be chestnut (or red) as well. Sometimes called Fire Friesians, these horses are very rare because the breed registries do not allow stallions with copies of the red gene to be registered for breeding, nor do they normally allow any chestnut horse to be registered. Still, they are stunning sight to see if you happen upon one!
There Is a Breed of Horse With a Curly Coat
No, that horse didn’t get a perm! The Bashkir Curly, also called the American Bashkir Curly or North America Curly Horse, are so named for their incredibly curly coat, mane and tail. This rare breed has an unknown origin, though evidence of curly horses found in China show they are an ancient breed. A photo of a curly horse in Russia was printed in a 1938 magazine.
In North America, curly horses can be found in wild horse herds. Many believe these horses are descendants of Russian Curly Horses that were set free during western expansion. However they came to be, one thing is certain, they are very unique.
Horses Understand Human Facial Expressions
Studies have found that horses not only understand human facial expressions, but they also react differently to them. When shown a picture of an angry face, horses turn their head so their left eye is fixed on it, which makes sense as the right brain is the side that processes negative emotions. However, when shown a smiley face, they look at it with either eye. Moreover, horses reacted with increased heart rate at the angry faces.
They also found that horses remember your emotional state from the last time you were with them, so it’s a good idea to always leave your horse on a positive note!
Horses Can Sleep Standing Up
Due to tendons and ligaments that allow them to remain upright with minimal muscle involvement, called a stay apparatus, horses can snooze standing up. It’s important to note that this is not a deep, REM cycle sleep, but more of a dozing. They still need to lay down to get their required REM sleep each day.
Interestingly enough, horses need very little REM sleep. In a 24-hour period, an adult horse only needs 30 to 40 minutes.
Once an Icelandic Horse Leaves Iceland, It Cannot Return
Icelandic Horses are one of the purest breeds in the world. They have been carefully bred on Iceland for more than 1,000 years.
The remote island has almost no horse diseases, and they keep it that way with strict biosecurity measures. This means any horse that leaves the country can never return.
Horses Have an Incredible Range of Vision
Humans have a vision range of about 150 degrees, mostly looking forward. Horses, conversely, can see 350 degrees, with just a 10-degree blind spot, mostly directly behind them, a bit directly in front of their forehead and a bit directly below their nose.
This wide range of vision helps them keep an eye on predators while they graze.
Only One Draft Breed Developed in America Still Exists
The American Cream Draft is the only draft breed that was developed in the U.S. that still exists today. The breed was developed in the 1900s and is considered critically endangered.
The American Cream Draft is known for its cream-colored coat and pink skin. They are a light draft, ranging in height from 15 hands to 16.3 hands.
Horses Can Hear Exceptionally Well
If you have been around horses at all, you have probably noticed one suddenly put its head up, ears pricked, standing stock still. You hear nothing. But you can bet that horse is listening.
Horses can hear sounds up to 2.5 miles away. They can also hear at a wider frequency than us, from 55 up to 33,500 hertz. Humans average a 20 to 20,000-hertz range.
Foals Can Run Shortly After Birth
Foals may seem wobbly and hardly able to stand at birth, but within just a couple hours, they have their legs under them and can run flat out.
This helps them be able to escape predators.
The Marwari Horse Is Known for Its Ears
A breed of horse native to India, Marwari Horses are extremely hardy, able to withstand the desolate terrain and heat of the desert.
The Marwari Horse is distinguishable by its unusually curved ears, that curve in towards each other. Sometimes, the ears touch in the middle.
Chincoteague Ponies Are Descendants of Shipwreck Survivors
The island of Assateague is home to Chincoteague Ponies, a small breed of athletic ponies made famous by Marguerite Henry’s book “Misty of Chincoteague.”
There are two herds on the island, one managed by Maryland and one by Virginia. Both herds are believed to be descendants from horses that survived the many Spanish Galleon shipwrecks that dot the coast.
Misty of Chincoteague Was a Real Horse
Many children have read Henry's “Misty of Chincoteague.” Written in 1947, the story is timeless, but did you know that Misty, along with the BeeBee Family, the Phantom and the Pied Piper were all based off of real people and horses?
In fact, visit the Museum of Chincoteague Island and you can see the real Misty who passed away in her sleep at 26 years old in October 1972. A weeklong celebration of the book is held in Chincoteague, Virginia, each year and includes an annual pony swim.
Horses Cannot Be Albino
Genetic researchers have not been able to find a gene that would create an albino horse, they always have some amount of pigment in their skin, hair and eyes. Double dilute horses are very pale, with pale eyes, skin and hair, but they are not genetically a true albino. Researchers are also not sure why there are no albino horses.
Lethal White Syndrome is an issue with horses when a mare and stallion carrying the overo color gene are bred together. The foals are born with digestive tract defects and die within a few hours. It’s possible that if there ever was an albino horse, it would not live long either, due to defects. It may not even survive long enough to be born.
The Bottom of a Horse’s Hoof Is Called a Frog
A horse’s hoof has a triangular-shaped, fleshy area that extends out of the heel and comes to a point about the middle of the hoof, pointing toward the toe.
On a horse that is trimmed properly, the frog should touch the ground. The frog acts as a shock absorber for the horse’s action overground.
Horses Have Terrible Depth Perception
While horses may be able to see almost 360 degrees around, they have terrible depth perception everywhere but directly in front of them. They can only see in “3D” directly in front of them with both eyes.
If their head is pointed too far down (called being “behind the vertical”), it greatly inhibits their ability to see what’s directly in front of them due to their depth perception being cut off.
Horse Surfing Is a Thing
You are probably envisioning a person standing on the back of a horse while it crashes through waves, but that’s not quite how horse surfing works! Still cool, this intense sport involves a rider on a horse that is pulling the surfer on a surfboard, skimboard or wakeboard through shallow water.
Speeds can get up to 40 miles per hour in this sport that is quite thrilling to watch.
The Gypsy Horse Has Many Names Worldwide
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” This famous quote by Shakespeare sums up the Gypsy breed to a tee. A wonderful horse with an excellent temperament and capable of doing almost any sport, the breed is known by many names.
In America, you may hear them called Gypsy Cob, Gypsy Vanner, Gyspy Horse, or just Vanner or Gypsy. In other parts of the world, they are also called Tinker or Tinker Horse, Irish Cob or even just Cob (which can be confusing as “cobs” are a horse type, not a breed).
Horses Have Only Two Knees
While they have four legs, horses only have two front knees. On the back legs, they have hocks instead of knees.
The hock joint is “backwards” to a knee joint, which gives the legs more power to push from, as the horse gets its locomotion from the hind end.
Competition Horses Share a Birthday
Horses that compete all share the same birthday of Jan. 1. This makes it easy to have cut-offs for events broken into age groups, such as a three-year-old race or for events that have age minimums where a horse has to be a certain age before it can compete.
The term “long yearling” comes from this system and refers to a young horse that is actually closer in age to being two but is still considered a one-year-old (yearling) due to the Jan. 1 birthday rule.
Horse Herds Have A Changing Leadership Role
Movies always portray the stunning herd stallion, leading his galloping charges through beautiful landscapes. However, while a herd will always have a stallion that handles protection and breeding, new research has shown that oftentimes mares will take turns taking the lead of the herd, deciding where they go, when they graze and when they get water.
And, contrary to prior beliefs, it is not always the “alpha” or “most dominant” mare that leads the group. Researchers found that it could be a mare of high or low rank, and that who is leading the herd changes often.
All Paints Are Pintos, but Not All Pintos Are Paints
What?? A pinto is any horse (including pony and miniature size) with “color,” meaning a non-solid body color splashed with white. The horse can be from any breed of horse. Thus, it is a color registry, though they now allow solid-colored horses to be registered and even mules and donkeys.
The Paint horse, however, is an actual breed of horse, where most have color. So, all Paints can be registered as a pinto, but a pinto cannot be registered as a Paint unless it’s a verifiable purebred. Say that five times fast!
Horses Have Monocular Vision
Unlike humans, horse’s eyes are set wide apart and are separately controlled, meaning they can look at items out of each eye at the same time.
Called monocular vision, this means they can literally watch you in their left eye, while looking at a scary balloon passing by in the right eye.
The Missouri Fox Trotter Isn't What You're Thinking
You may be confused if you hear someone mention a “Missouri Fox Trotter” out of context. Are they talking about someone from Missouri who likes to dance the foxtrot?
More likely, they are talking about a breed of horse with a special gait, the fox trot (spelled two words). It resembles the dance in that the fox trot gait is super smooth, with long, syncopated strides, similar to the dance.
Watch closely, and you will see the back hooves track where the front hooves (which are actually moving at a slower speed than the hind!) were, meaning the horse only leaves two tracks instead of four, just like a live fox. So, maybe it was named after the fox. Either way, it’s an incredibly smooth gait that people with back issues find a pleasure to ride.
Horses Have an Amazing Sense of Smell
Horses smell through their nasal cavities like humans do, but they have a heightened sense, closer to that of a dog’s than ours. Many owners find their horses do not like strong smells, like that of a pig or even llamas, and sometimes donkeys bug some horses.
Like dogs, they can also smell hormones. And not just other horse hormones, they can smell other animals’ hormones, including ours.
Horses Are Often Referred to as Cold, Hot or Warm Blooded
Did you immediately picture a cold-blooded horse sunning itself on a rock like a snake? When horse people use these terms, they are not talking about the animal’s ability to warm itself. Instead, it speaks to temperament traits.
A cold-blooded horse is usually a draft-type breed (think Clydesdale, Gypsy, Shire, etc.) that is known for a heavy build and a calm temperament. Conversely, a hot-blooded horse is more refined (think Arabian, Thoroughbred, etc.) and are high-energy, high-spirited horses.
A warm-blooded horse is a horse that is the result of breeding a cold-blooded breed with a hot-blooded breed. They even have separate registries for certain popular types including the Hanoverian, Dutch Warmblood, American Warmblood and the Irish Draught.
A ‘Unicorn’ Is a Term Used to Describe a Type of Horse and Also a Type of Driving Hitch
We all are familiar with the mythical creature the unicorn. But you will see this term crop up among equestrians when they are talking about real live animals, so what’s the deal? The term has come to be a way of describing a horse that is “above and beyond” when it comes to temperament, training, safety and/or accomplishments. Often people looking for a safe and reliable kid’s pony or trail mount will say they are searching for a “unicorn.”
In the driving world, the term is also used for a type of hitch where you have two horses in tandem (side-by-side) and one horse out in front leading (the horn of the unicorn).
A Grade Horse Is a Horse Without Proof of Parentage
You may sometimes hear someone calling their horse “grade.” All this means is that the horse is not registered with a breed registry. They may still be purebred, whose papers were just lost, or maybe their breed is completely unknown.
This does not mean they're not a great horse! It just means he is not eligible to show at breed shows. It can also make it harder to know how old the horse is if there are no birth records (which are commonly done through a registry).
You Can Estimate a Horse’s Age by Their Teeth
If you do happen to have a grade horse with no birth records, a veterinarian can usually give you a pretty good idea of age based on your horse’s teeth.
Since horse teeth continuously grow over time, vets can estimate age based on how they look.
Some Horses Have Feather
No, they are not part bird! But many draft breeds have feather (not plural), which are long hairs growing from their knee down over their hooves. For many “hair breeds” like the Gypsy, abundant feather is a desired trait that is carefully bred for.
These horses usually also have very long manes that may reach the ground and tails that drag if not trimmed regularly. As a recessive gene, both parents need substantial feather for the offspring to have it, so most draft crosses end up with very little feather.
Horses Have an Acute Sense of Touch
Think about how sensitive your fingertips are. Imagine having that type of sensitivity all over your body. A horse’s tactical sensation is so acute, they can feel a fly land on a single hair.
They feel every movement a person makes on their back, which is how accomplished, well-balanced riders appear to be moving their horse without any visually noticeable movement. You can literally ask your horse to move with a minuscule shift in your body.
A Halflinger Mare Was the First Cloned Horse
In 2003, a Halflinger mare gave birth to her genetic clone. The foal, a filly, was named Prometea after Prometheus from Greek mythology.
Just a few weeks prior, the first cloned equine, a mule, was born.
Horse Hooves Need to Be Trimmed Regularly
Made of the same basic composition as our own hair and nails (keratin), horse hooves grow constantly and need to be trimmed by a farrier every four to eight weeks, depending on how quickly that individual horse’s hooves grow and whether they get worn down naturally.
Hooves that are allowed to grow too long can cause all kinds of problems, including lameness.
There Are Green Horses (and Riders!)
OK, we are not actually green in color, but they are “green” in terms of experience! A green horse is a horse that has had minimum training. In the show ring, “green horse classes” are usually for horses that are in the first year or two of competing.
The same term is also used for riders and means the same thing. A green rider is someone who is new to riding and may only have basic skills. Again, for horse shows, a green rider class is usually for a rider who has not shown before or is in their first year or two of competing in that discipline.
Secretariat Still Holds the Record for the Fastest Kentucky Derby
In 1973, Big Red, as he was affectionately called, blew racing fans out of the water with a run of under 2 minutes for the 1.25-mile race.
Since then, no one has broken Secretariat’s record time of 1:59.40.
Arabian Horse Lines Were Originally Traced Through the Mare
The Bedouin people of Arabia revered their Arabian horse as being a gift from Allah and a key piece of their survival in the cruel desert.
The mares in particular were held in high esteem, so much so that lines were traced via the mare’s lines, which were often named after the tribe or Sheik that bred them.
Fox Trotters Are the Preferred Breed of the U.S. Forest Services
Since the 1960s, the Fox Trotter has been the preferred breed of the United States Forest Services after Jack Booth, a Forest Service employee, kept recommending them for their smooth, ground-covering gait and sure-footedness, not to mention a calm temperament.
Since then, the Missouri Fox Trotter has helped Forest Services workers traverse all over the national parks, in places no motorized vehicle can go.
Mustangs Are Actually Feral Horses
Although we call them wild horses and even have organizations such as the Wild Horse and Burro Program, mustangs are actually feral horses, not wild.
They are the descendants of domesticated Spanish horses brought over by colonizers.
Horses Should Eat Almost 14 Hours a Day
If you like to eat, you may wish you were a horse! A horse’s digestive system is meant to have small meals — and lots of them!
A horse in a natural habitat (like a large pasture or acres of fields) will graze 12 to 14 hours a day. Not eating for long periods of time can cause health problems, as their system is not meant to be empty.
A Horse Can Have Pink or Dark Skin
If you’ve ever seen a Paint horse wet, you may have noticed something unusual — their skin is multicolored, too! Any coat color that is not white will have a corresponding darker skin underneath. White patches on horses, including legs, spots, face marking, etc., will have pink skin.
Incidentally, this is how you can tell if you are looking at a true white horse versus a gray that has “whited out.” The gray will have dark skin under his “white” hair. Double dilute horses, like cremellos, can also have pink skin.
Horses Can Sunburn
Horses with pink skin can definitely sunburn! While the dark skin does not seem to burn, pink noses are often burned in places where they are exposed to hot summer sun.
For horses with pink skin all over, many owners use UV protective fly sheets or even equine sunscreen sprays to keep their horses from being burned. Some turn their horses out to graze at night, instead of during the daytime, to avoid the harsh rays.
Horses Can Reproduce With Donkeys
While donkeys are a separate species from horses, they are from the same family and therefore can reproduce with them. Mules are the result of a pairing between a donkey and a horse and are well-loved by many riders.
Aside from full-sized mules, people create mini mules by breeding miniature horses or ponies with miniature donkeys.
Mules Are Sterile
Mules are very popular with people looking for a sturdy, surefooted mount like a donkey, but with the size of a horse. Many are used for packing and riding on trails. People also compete on them in many different disciplines, from pleasure classes to driving.
They are sterile, however, and cannot reproduce themselves, so the only way to get a mule is to breed a horse with a donkey.
Elizabeth Taylor Was a Skilled Equestrian
No stunt double was needed in “National Velvet,” as the star, Elizabeth Taylor, was a skilled equestrian.
She fell in love with King Charles, the horse who played The Pie in the film. He was gifted to her after filming, and she owned him until his death.
Gypsy Horses Are Known as a ‘Hair Breed’
What does this mean? It means, like Cousin It, they are known for their hair. They have ample feather that starts at the knee and grows over the hooves. Their tails and manes are thick and long, too — so much so that many gypsies have manes that reach the ground!
Because their hair is a recessive trait, breeders are careful to select breeding stock that have a lot of hair to continue to produce offspring that will have the same.
Horses Can Have Blue Eyes
Like humans and dogs, horses can also have blue eyes. Most common, blue eyes are usually surrounded by white hair, like a piebald face. However, a blue eye with a contrasting dark coat around it does happen.
Horses can have one or two blue eyes, or even eyes that are part blue and part brown. Some dilutes, such as perlino or cremello, can have green eyes.
Ponies Are Just Small Horses
If you are around horse people long enough, you hear both of these terms a lot and may start to think ponies are a separate species. However, ponies are just small horses, and depending on who you ask, how small is small enough to be a pony will vary.
There are “pony breeds” that have their own standards for height (usually under 14-hands tall), but there are also pony classifications for competitions that often say a pony is anything under 14.2 hands. (And then there are those equestrians who call all horses “ponies” as a term of endearment, just to confuse you more!).
Horses Can Have Zebra-Like Stripes on Their Legs
Called primitive markings or dun points, horses can have zebra-like stripes on their legs. Seen on dun horses of any color, the stripes can also appear on their shoulder area (called barring).
On some horses, the stripes are faint, and other have lots of rows of vivid stripes that make for a striking look.
Alexander the Great’s Horse Is Almost as Famous as He Is
Bucephalus was the name of Alexander the Great’s incredible stallion. Alexander rode him into battle more than any other horse, making Bucephalus one of very few horses from history that is still talked about more than 2,000 years later.
According to the Greek historian Plutarch, he was deemed untamable until 15-year-old Alexander stepped up and offered to tame him. Alexander the Great was the only person ever able to ride him. Breyer Model Horses honored him with his own model in 2002.
Gray Horses Are Born Dark, Then Whiten with Age
A deep dapple gray is a gorgeous thing to behold, especially knowing it doesn’t last long. In fact, gray is a color modifier gene, not a color itself. It whitens out the color of the horse, which could be black, bay, buckskin, etc.
So, they are born dark and then whiten as they age. For some, full whitening can happen in just a few years, while others retain dappling or some color into their teens.
Man O’ War Was the First Horse Made Into a Breyer Model
Man O’ War, the famous Thoroughbred racehorse, was the first real horse made into a model by Breyer Model Horses in 1967. According to Jocelyn Cate, a spokesperson for Breyer, there have been so many portrait models as they call them, that she isn’t sure even Breyer knows how many there are now!
She knows there are at least a few hundred and that they didn’t become common until the late 1980s, early 1990s.
There Are Around 400 Horse Breeds
It’s mind-boggling to think about, but there are close to 400 horse breeds in the world. Some are so rare they are almost extinct, while others are so popular there are millions of them.
Each breed is unique with its own characteristics, so if you are in the market for a horse, it’s a good idea to research the breeds and find one that fits your lifestyle.
Horses Have the Biggest Eyes of All Living Land Mammals
This might not seem surprising at first, but consider the other large mammals around. Elephants, hippos and rhinos all have smaller eyes than horses.
The only mammals that have larger eyes than horses are seals, whales and ostriches. Their giant peepers are part of what makes them so cute.
Horses 'Smile' to Smell Better
Pictures of horses "laughing" are entertaining, but horses smile for very different reasons than people do. They raise their upper lips and flare their nostrils in a pose called "flehmen."
They strike this position to better assess smells, detecting potential danger. Or snacks.
Horses Were Once Thought To Be Colorblind, but They're Not
Horses actually can see color. They just see it differently than people do. They see yellows and greens better than shades of purple or blue.
It's similar to red-green colorblindness in humans, causing red colors to look more greenish.
Horse's Teeth Are Bigger Than Their Brains
When people say horses are dumb, there's a grain of truth to it. The teeth of a horse collectively take up more space in its head than its brain does.
Horses spend much of their time grazing, and their teeth grow throughout their lives, so it's not all that surprising.
You Can Determine a Horse's Gender by How Many Teeth It Has
Unless a horse has lost teeth for some reason, males usually have 40 teeth while females have only 36.
Counting a horse's teeth is arguably a tougher way to tell a horse's gender than *ahem* looking elsewhere.
The Horse Trailer Was Invented in 1836
In 1836, a British man named Lord George Bentinck decided it was too difficult and time-consuming to walk his horses all the way to the race track.
To solve the problem, he invented a horse trailer, then known as a horsebox. The invention made it possible to travel much greater distances for races, changing the horse racing world altogether.
Horses Are More Secure Facing Backward During Travel
Loading a horse trailer is more of an art than an exact science, but horses appear to be calmer and safer when facing the rear of a trailer.
The reason comes down to a combination of biology and physics. Horses have to balance inside the trailer, shifting their weight throughout the drive. Facing backward makes it less taxing for them to stabilize themselves while the vehicle is coming to a stop.
A Man Bet That Horses Gallop With All Four Legs off the Ground
In 1872, Leland Stanford wagered that horses galloping at full speed must, at some point during their stride, have all four hooves off the ground.
Eadweard Muybridge used 24 different cameras to photograph a racehorse called Sallie Gardner galloping, proving Stanford's theory.
In the Late 1800s, There Was a Horse Baby Boom
Between 1867 and 1920, the number of horses rose from 7.8 million to 25 million.
Some believe this was due to the invention of the car, causing people to set their horses free where they went about doing what horses do.
Horses Can Run as Fast as a Car
No, a horse can't match a car's top speed, but they can run fast enough to hit the speed limit on a highway.
Their average galloping speed is around 27 miles per hour
, and the fastest recorded sprinting speed of any horse was 55 mph.
Horses Have Facial Expressions of Their Own
Horses have very different facial structures than humans do, but they use their face to convey many of the same emotions as we do.
In addition to communicating with their eyes, nostrils and lips, the position of a horse's ears can communicate a great deal of information to other horses. As it turns out, horses read each other's facial cues in a similar way as people do.
A Horse's Brain Weighs Just Half That of a Human Brain
An adult horse’s brain weighs 22 ounces.
An adult human brain weighs about 3 pounds, or 48 ounces.
When Resting, One Horse Stands Guard
Despite their comparatively small brains, horses have a system in place to keep the herd safe. When they lie down to rest, at least one horse will remain standing to keep an eye out for predators.
This is one of many reasons why horses feel more secure when kept in a group than when kept alone. They have each other's backs.
Horses Have Their Own Language
There are actually four different types of equine vocal communications: the nicker, whinny, snort and squeal. You may not understand what different horse sounds mean, but other horses do.
Horses use vocalizations to greet each other, as well as to initiate mating and warn companions of oncoming danger.
The Horse Industry Employs About 4.6 Million Americans
That's a lot of horse people. Those figures include anyone who works with horses, including handlers, trainers, stable managers, farmers, vets and more.
In total, the horse industry generates about $39 billion each year in the U.S. The study responsible for this data was done all the way back in 2004, so the figures are likely even greater today.
Horses Have Better Night Vision Than People
With their massive, partially colorblind, monocular eyes, horses perceive the world very differently than people do.
At night, they can actually see more clearly than people do, but it takes them longer to adjust to different light conditions.
Horses Have a Sweet Tooth
Sweet treats aren't just for kids. Horses prefer sweet and salty flavors to sour or bitter ones. They can be surprisingly picky eaters, but they evolved this way for a reason.
They likely survived as a species because they gravitated toward higher calorie, sweet foods that helped them survive the harsh winter months.
Toxic plants are often bitter, so their aversion to the flavor began as a crafty adaptation.
Wild Horses Form Groups Led by a Stallion
Well, sort of. Wild horses typically form groups of up to 20. Young males are driven away from the group when they reach maturity, at which point they wander off to form new groups.
A stallion (a mature male) is in charge of protecting the herd and directing them away from danger, but a single mare often leads the group the rest of the time.
In Three Days, Horses Produce Enough Saliva To Fill a Bathtub
Horses spend much of their time munching on grass and hay, and digesting all that greenery requires a lot of saliva.
They produce about 10 gallons of spit every day, enough to fill a 30 gallon bathtub in a matter of days. Occasionally, horses have issues with hypersalivation, in which they produce so much saliva that they can't swallow it all.
This is often caused by injuries to the mouth or foreign objects caught in their teeth or throat.
You Can Tell Which Direction a Horse Is Looking By Its Ears
Because horses' eyes can look in different directions at the same time, it can be hard to tell what they're looking at. When a horse is relaxed, their ear position is a good indicator of what they're focusing on.
Usually, a horse angles its ears toward whatever it's watching. If a horse is agitated, however, it may pin its ears back against its head.
A Horse Heart Can Weigh More Than a Newborn Human Baby
Big animals have big hearts. An average adult man's heart weighs about 10 ounces, while an average horse's heart weighs as much as seven to nine pounds.
Think that's big? A horse heart is teeny in comparison to a blue whale heart. Those weigh around 400 pounds.
The Greatest Distance Jumped By a Horse Is Over 27 Feet
Something jumped nearly 30 feet over water. We're not being vague. The horse's name was really "Something."
The horse was ridden by Andre Ferreira in Johannesburg, South Africa, on April 25, 1975. The pair jumped 27 feet, 6 inches over a water obstacle. That's nearly as far as from one end of a school bus to the other.
The highest horse jump recorded happened on Feb. 5, 1949, when a horse named Huaso jumped 8 feet, 1 and 1/4 inches off the ground.
The First 'Horse' Lived Around 55 Million Years Ago
Not a horse as we know the species today, of course. A prehistoric horse called an Eohippus is believed to be the first ancestor of the modern horse.
It lived about 55 million to 58 million years ago and had four padded toes in the front and three on the back in place of hooves.
It looked a little like a cross between a donkey and a deer.
There's a Trick To Telling If a Horse Is Cold
Horses get cold during chilly winter months just like we do. Sometimes, signs of a cold horse are obvious. Horses shiver when they're very cold, and sometimes tuck their tails under to conserve heat.
Another way to tell if a horse needs a warm rug is by feeling behind its ears. If they're cold, the rest of the horse probably is, too.
It Takes Up to a Year to Regrow a Horse Hoof
Hooves grow at different speeds depending on the horse, just like people's fingernails grow at different rates. Foals' hooves can grow as fast as 0.6 inches per month, but 0.24-0.4 inches is a more common rate for adults.
It takes 9-12 months to regrow an entire horse hoof from the coronet (similar to the nail bed in humans) to the ground surface.
2 Million People in the U.S. Own Horses
People in the United States are way more into horses than one might expect. While the amount is nothing compared to the more than 76 million pet dogs owned, two million horse owners in the country is still impressive.
There are also many people involved in the horse industry who don't own any themselves, adding up to a total of 7.1 million Americans participating in the horse industry.
More Women Own Horses Than Men
The days when horseback riding was considered a masculine sport are far behind us. More women than men own horses today. The average horse owner is female, between 38 and 45 years old, married, employed and living in a rural area.
Obviously, these are only averages. There are plenty of horseback riders of both genders, and all ages, and anyone who loves horses should give it a go.
Most Horse Owners Make Around $60,000 a Year
While gender and age aren't limiting factors in learning to ride a horse, income often is. The median income of horse owners is $60,000, with 64 percent of owners making $75,000 or more per year. Only 14 percent of riders make $25,000 or less annually.
Because the expenses of horse ownership are so substantial, some stables have started offering programs to help kids from lower-income families participate in the sport.
Competitive Riding May Get the Most Attention, but Most Horse Owners Only Ride Recreationally
Becoming a professional horseback rider is no easy task. Breeding and training aren't easy jobs either, requiring years of experience and costly training.
That's why 85 percent of horse owners only ride horses for fun. Only 2 percent own race horses, and only 7 percent become professional horse trainers.
Quarter Horses Are by Far the Most Popular Breed
There are more quarter horses in the United States than any other horse breed, largely because they are so affordable. In fact, there are 263,523 quarter horses, more than five times the number of any other breed.
Paint horses number around 50,000. Paints are followed by Arabians at 22,500, standardbreds at 17,500, Appaloosas at 12,000, pintos at 7,000, saddlebreds at 6,500 and Tennessee walkings at 6,000.
Miniature horses are also popular.
There Are More Horses in Texas Than in Any Other State
Unsurprising to anyone who's ever seen an old Western, Texas is home to the most horses in the United States. Around 1,000,000 horses live in Texas, with California coming in second at 700,000, and Florida taking third with 500,000 horses.
Oklahoma, Kentucky and Ohio all have more than 300,000 horses, and Missouri, North Carolina, Colorado and Pennsylvania all have over 250,000.
That's more horses than the populations of some countries in Europe.
Horse Weight Varies Widely by Breed, but Adults Average Between 900-2,000 Pounds
If your horse gets sick, carrying him to the car and stopping by the local vet clinic isn't an option. An average-sized horse weighs over 1,000 pounds, and large breeds can weigh more than double that figure.
Draft horses like Belgians and Percherons can easily tip 2,000, which is why horse riders are so cautious about not getting their toes stepped on. Getting stepped on by a Belgian is similar to your foot being run over by a Jeep.
The Smallest Horse Recorded Was Only 17.5 Inches Tall
While most horses are very large, there's always an exception to the rule. Thumbelina, the world’s smallest horse, was born at a farm in St. Louis, Missouri, with dwarfism. According to her handler Michael Goessling, she was only six inches tall at birth.
When she was measured by Guinness World Records in 2002, the brown sorrel mare was a minuscule 17.5 inches tall.
The Tallest Horse in the World Is Nearly Seven Feet Tall
Or, rather, he was the tallest horse in the world. Big Jake became known worldwide for his astounding height in 2012. The Belgian horse was measured in 2012 by the Guinness World Records with a recorded height of 20 hands, or 80 inches. That equates to nearly seven feet tall, not including his head and neck.
For comparison, the average Belgian is around 16 or 17 hands (a hand, an ancient unit of measurement, is 4 inches). Even at birth, he was huge. If you think giving birth to a 7-pound baby is tough, imagine having a 240-pound newborn.
Sadly, Big Jake passed away in June 2021 at the age of 20.
The World’s Longest Horse Mane Measured Nine Feet, 10 Inches
The longest recorded horse mane belonged to a horse named Prince Imperial. He had a seven-foot-long forelock and a mane measuring nine feet, 10 inches, although some sources claim it eventually reached lengths of over 14 feet.
Prince Imperial, who passed away in 1888, was one of the first Percheron horses imported into the U.S., and his long, flowing locks had to be braided and looped to prevent him from stepping on them.
No one has tried to beat the record for the world's longest mane since the 1800s, and we can't say we blame them. Having such a long mane requires a rigorous grooming schedule, and it's not practical for either the horse or the rider.
The Akhal-Teke Is Considered One of the Most Beautiful Horses in the World
At first glance, the Akhal-Teke doesn't look real. The coat of the rare breed shimmers in the sunlight thanks to the unique structure of its coat, which reflects light rays unlike the coat of any other horse. They're so beautiful that in China they're known as "horses from paradise."
Some experts believe the Akhal-Teke evolved their stunning golden coat to blend in with the desert sand that made up the majority of the terrain in their homeland of Achal, Turkmenistan.
The Average Annual Cost of Owning a Horse Is Around $4,000
Owning a horse isn't an inexpensive hobby. The average horse costs several thousand dollars per year, but the price varies depending on several factors.
Different boarding options alter the annual expenses substantially, with full-care boarding costing the most. Boarding them in your own stable is the least expensive, but it still costs up to $200 a month and is extremely time-intensive.
These figures also factor in the cost of grain and hay, supplements, vet care, grooming and tack. Club memberships and lessons add even more cost, so people who are new to the sport often take lessons and lease a horse before committing to one of their own.
Horses Don’t Get Frostbite
The long, thin legs of horses might appear delicate, but they can withstand frigid temperatures far better than ours can. They have no muscle mass below the knee, and bone is much more resilient to cold than muscle. Because of this, they can walk through snow with no worries about developing frostbite.
Their coats also contain oils that repel water and trap pockets of warm air near their skin. In very wet weather, however, a waterproof blanket or an open shed with a roof can help them stay warm even in negative digit temperatures.
Horses Can, However, Get Heatstroke
As far as environmental conditions are concerned, hot weather is much more risky for horses than cold weather. Horses can get heatstroke just like humans can. When their bodies can no longer maintain their normal temperature, horses begin to sweat in excess, breath heavily and quickly, and behave erratically.
If heatstroke isn't treated, it can be fatal. Preventative measures include giving horses time to acclimate to conditions that are hotter than they're used to and making sure they stay hydrated. Electrolyte supplements can help as well.
The Most Expensive Horse Sold for Around $70 Million
Would you believe the most expensive horse cost more than a brand-new Ferrari? Thoroughbred horses can be astronomically expensive, and many racehorses in their prime sell for millions of dollars.
In 2000, a racehorse named Fusaichi Pegasus broke the previous record set in 1983 for the most expensive horse ever sold, with the winning bid reaching around $70 million.
Horse Therapy Has Been Used for Thousands of Years
Hippotherapy is nothing new, but it has developed substantially in the last half a century. Modern equine therapy was developed in the 1960s, and therapy horses are used in numerous applications today.
Some assist with physical therapy while others help to heal emotional trauma. It may seem unconventional, but those who have experienced horse therapy believe the connection between a therapy horse and a human can work wonders.
Only About One in 12 Horses Have the Temperament to Become a Therapy Horse
Not just any horse can become a therapy horse. According to Debbi Rosengarth Fisher, a director at Hope for Heroes Equine Therapy in Washington state, the horse's temperament can make or break a horse's potential to participate in therapy programs.
Each therapy horse must be patient, calm and hard to spook, even with fast movements and loud noises. Only one in 12 horses she works with go on to become therapy horses.
The Majority of Horse Owners Spend an Average of Two Hours on Daily Horse Care
The amount of time horse owners spend with their beloved equines varies depending on whether they're boarded in fully managed stables or cared for at home.
Of 1,192 owners polled, 30 percent said they spend an average of two hours on horse-related activities. Another 27 percent spent three hours per day with their horse, while 16 percent spent five or more hours daily with their long-legged pals.
Just 12 percent said they spent less than an hour riding and caring for their horses, so if you're looking for a low-maintenance pet, a tortoise or a cat might be a better pick.
Julia Roberts Is a Talented Equestrian
Did you know the lovely Julia Roberts who ran off with the suave Richard Gere on horseback in "Runaway Bride" can actually ride horses in real life?
She picked up barrel racing as a child and later continued her love of riding with a trip to Mongolia. There, she filmed a documentary studying the connection between the nomadic people and the wild horses who live there.
Other celebs whose horseback riding skills aren’t just for the camera include Viggo Mortensen, Mary Kate Olsen, Johnny Depp, Shania Twain and even Madonna.
The Most Common Horseback Riding Injuries Are Broken Limbs and Head Injuries
Many horseback riders, particularly those who ride just for fun, never experience an injury. Ride for enough years, however, and a few mishaps are all but guaranteed. The two most common horse riding-related injuries are long bone fractures and head injuries.
Most injuries occur during riding, but about 15 percent of injuries happen while caring for the horse, like getting kicked during handling or shoeing.
A Kick From a Horse Can Shatter Bone
As thin as a horse's legs appear, above the knee they're almost pure muscle. With few weapons against predators, a horse's powerful kick was their only means of self-defense in the wild if fleeing didn't do the trick.
A horse kick can be as painful and damaging as being hit by a small car, shattering bones and causing devastating bruises. A horse kick to the chest could theoretically cause cardiac arrest.
Fortunately, this rarely happens.
Horses Should Be Approached From the Left and the Front
Horses are gentle creatures, but they remain dangerous animals due to their size. To avoid a painful kick and a trip to the ER, approach a horse from the left and from the front whenever possible. An angled approach is always best so that you stay within the horse's view, not in their blind spot.
When you approach a horse from behind or directly in front of them, they can't see you coming and may kick or rear in fear. Once you learn how to approach horses without frightening them, however, kicks are uncommon.
A Horse Can Run at Top Speed for up to Three Miles
Horses are built for speed. The lower half of their legs have no muscle, so they're extremely light for their size. A young horse in good shape can run at a full gallop for two or three miles in a row before reaching the point of exhaustion.
While running so fast for so long isn't extremely hard on a horse, their speed and endurance are not only for winning races. In the wild, bursts of speed helped them to outrun and outlast predators.
Some Horses in Peak Condition Can Run as Much as 100 Miles in a Day
While horses can run at their top speed for a couple of miles, they can run at a more leisurely pace for many miles on end. Some breeds have more endurance and running ability than others, with Arabians being among the best distance runners.
Like humans, young, healthy horses can run the farthest, and access to food, water and rest make a huge difference. Wild horses can migrate for dozens of miles per day, and a horse could likely run for over 24 hours straight without dying of exhaustion.
To Be A Professional Jockey, Size Matters
We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but tall kids with dreams of becoming professional horse racers might want to consider another career path. Horseback racers, known as jockeys, have to be very light to race professionally. The weight limit of a rider and his or her gear in the Kentucky Derby is a mere 126 pounds.
The average jockey is between 4-foot-10 and 5-foot-7 in height, and between 108 and 118 pounds. Jockeys also have to be remarkably strong for their small size to be able to control such a massive animal moving at roughly the speed of a car on a highway.
Not all jockeys are created equal, though. The best win thousands of horse races and make hundreds of millions of dollars in career earnings.