Last Updated on February 18, 2022 by Allison Price
Anybody who has ever seen a horse knows that they are special, beautiful creatures. These animals are more than meets the eyes.
For thousands of years, horses have been our trusted companions. They were our dear companions in the past. They carried us long distances, pulled our cargo, worked on our lands and fought with us in battles. They help us to break records, keep fit, rehab us, and provide an addictive kind of pleasure.
This article will tell you everything there is to know about horses. Although our list of horse facts may not be exhaustive, it will allow you to discover everything that is special about horses.
40 fascinating facts about horses.
1. Horses can’t vomit or burp
Horses are not able to vomit like most vertebrate animals. The cardiac sphincter, which is a strong muscle ring at the stomach’s entrance, is what horses have. This structure ensures that food cannot be returned to the stomach.
Horses are also unable to throw up because their vomiting reflex is weak. Horses are also unable to push food up their esophagus with their abdominal muscles. Horses cannot eat if their stomachs burst, which can often be fatal.
Horses cannot eliminate toxins so we need to be careful what we feed them. You should be familiar with the foods that horses will eat.
2. There are more than 600 horse breeds
Over 600 horse breeds are currently in existence today, thanks to selective breeding. A 2017 genetic analysis shows that all modern horses are descendants of two ancient horse breeds, the Turkoman and Arabian horses. The Arabian horse is still available today, but the Turkoman horse is no longer in existence. It is very similar to the AkhalTeke.Akhal-Teke.
These five categories include hot-blood (warmblood), cold-blood/draft (cold-blood/draft), pony, and miniature. The Arabian, Thoroughbred and Barb breeds are hot-blooded horses. They all have Middle Eastern origins. Contrary to this, ponies and horses that are cold-blooded (heavy), were developed in northern Europe.
Warmbloods are any horse breed that is a cross between hot-blooded and cold blooded/pony breeds. Finally, miniature horses are smaller versions of their larger cousins. They have a maximum height.
3. 21.25 hands (2.20m), was the tallest horse ever measured.
Sampson, a Shire horse, was born in 1846 Bedfordshire (England) and stood at 21.25 hands. He was listed in our list of largest horses and measured seven feet at the withers. This feat has not been broken since. His weight was also jaw-dropping at 3,360 pounds (1.524 kg).
The tallest living horse, Big Jake, a Belgian Draft gelding, was 20.2 hh (210.19cm) until recently. He was a member of Jerry Gilbert’s family and lived at Smokey Hollow Farm, Wisconsin, USA. At 20 years old, the big chestnut died in June 2021.
4. The oldest horse was 62 years of age
Old Billy (1760-1822), holds the record for the oldest horse in history. He was an 18th century barge horse from Woolston in Lancashire, England. Although his exact breed is unknown, it is likely that he was a Shire-type horse with brown hair and white blaze.Old Billy
Old Billy was approximately 165years old when he died. Surprisingly, he was very active and worked until his last years.
W. Taylor created the portrait of the horse above. His head was also preserved and is on display at both the Bedford Museums and Cecil Higgins Art Gallery.
5. Horses live between 25 and 30 years on average
Domestic horses live longer, healthier lives due to better equine medicine and veterinary medicine. Even though horses can live to a maximum age due to genetics, nutrition, and other environmental factors, they are still able to reach that limit.
Ponies live longer than horses, and many will live past 40. A few horse breeds have a longer life expectancy than others, including the Appaloosa and Haflinger as well as Quarter Horse, Quarter Horse, Arabian, Icelandic Horse, Quarter Horse, Quarter Horse, and Appaloosa.
It is interesting that there isn’t one multiplier that can tell us how old a horse in human years. Horses develop at a faster rate after 3 years, and then slow down as they age. A 3-year-old horse, on the other hand, is 18 in human year, while a 20 year-old is 60.5, and a 40 year-old horse, is 110.5 in human year.
6. Horses have only one bone more than humans.
Horses have 205 bones in their skull, which is one less than us (206). This is not true for all horse breeds. Arabian horses only have 201 bones, so they have one less pair each of tail vertebrae and lumbar vertebrae.
7. Horses can see almost 360 degrees.
Horses can see approximately 350 degrees around them due to the way their eyes are placed. This is almost four times the visual range of ours!
Horses see the world differently than us. Horses can only see 55-65 degrees with one eye, while the rest of their vision (1900-230 degrees) can be seen through one eye. Their depth perception and ability see details is very poor.
Horses, on the other hand, are extremely adept at detecting movement. This is why they have survived for millions of year. Horses were able instantly to run when a predator entered their vision range. Horses will be scared by any sudden movement because they cannot see moving objects clearly in their peripheral vision.
8. Around 6,000 years ago, horses were domesticated for the first time.
Horses were domesticated much later than other animals, such as the dog (15,000 years before present). A 2012 genetic analysis shows that the event occurred around 6,000 years ago in various places across the western Eurasian Steppes. These territories are now known as the southwest Russia, Ukraine, and west Kazakhstan.
A study of the mitochondrial DNA found in horses revealed that they had been domesticated at multiple locations. Further, Dr. Vera Warmuth of the Department of Zoology at Cambridge stated to the BBC that wild horses were used to increase the number of domesticated horses.
9. Horses can lie down or stand up while they sleep.
Horses have a unique survival mechanism called the stay apparatus. This allows them to relax completely and then sleep standing up. It is made up of a number of ligaments and tendons that attach the stifle and hock to each other and keep them in place. Horses can’t move their knees independently from their hocks.
This special ability allows horses to run at any sign of danger. They still need to be able to rest for a short time in order to reach deep (RAM) sleep. Horses can’t lay down too long, as this would cause undue strain to their bones (Source: Science Kids).
For more information, please see our How horses sleep guide.
10. 55 MPH is the fastest recorded horse sprint speed (88.5 KPH).
A Quarter Horse racing Quarter Horse named A Long Goodbye achieved this incredible speed on a quarter-mile (0.40 km) distance in 2005. The horse finished the race in just 20.686 seconds.
On a short distance, however, an average Thoroughbred racehorse is capable of maintaining speeds between 40 and 44 mph (64-70 km/h). While cantering with a rider, horses can reach speeds of 20-30 mph (32-48 km/h).
11. Today, there are approximately 60 million horses worldwide
There are horses on every continent, except Antarctica. The United States is home to the largest number of horses worldwide, out of all the countries. According to The Food and Drug Administration’s 2020 report, there is an estimated 3.8 million horse population in America. This is a drastic decrease from the 8.2 million figures in 2008.
Mexico and China follow the USA as the countries with the highest number of horses per capita. We couldn’t find any updated figures for Mexico but we did discover that China owned 3.47 million horses as of 2018.
12. The world has no wild horses
The Przewalski’s horse used to be considered the only true wild horse breed. Many horses today that are considered wild, such as the American Mustangs and the Australian Brumbies (or even the Australian Brumbies), are actually descendants domestic horses. These horses should be called “feral” because true wild horses were never domesticated.
A 2018 study found that Przewalski’s horses were also mere descendents of the first horses domesticated in Botai culture about 6,000 years ago. One of these horses may have escaped, and became the Przewalski’s wild horse.Yerbolat Shadrakhov / Shutterstock.com
Sandra Olsen, a University of Kansas zooarchaeologist, summarized the study’s findings reuters.com “The planet lost truly wild horses possibly hundreds, if perhaps thousands of years ago. But we are just now learning this truth, with the result of this research.”
Did you know that Przewalski’s horses can all be traced back to 15 wild horses from a century ago? The breed was named after the Russian explorer who found them in the 19th Century. They were saved from extinction and have been reintroduced to Mongolia recently.
13. Female horses have more teeth that male horses
Stallions and mares are more likely than geldings to have wolf-teeth. This is because male horses often have 40 teeth and females only 36. Thehorse.com estimates that around 70% of horses will have wolf teeth by the time they turn 5 months to one year old.
Why do some horses only have wolf teeth? Glennon Mays, a veterinarian, explained that horses’ ancestors were tiny browsers who lived in forests. They ate mainly leaves and twigs, and their diet was aided by wolf teeth.
Since horses were bred to graze, their need for wolf teeth has slowly decreased. Horse owners will often have to remove wolf teeth if they are present. They can cause discomfort and interfere with the bit. This is a common procedure for performance horses.
14. Keratin is the main ingredient in horses’ hooves
Horse hooves, like hair and nails are made of keratin, also contain keratin. Horses’ hooves are constantly changing so it is important to trim them regularly. Young horses especially need to be trimmed as neglected hooves can lead to crooked legs or poor welfare.
15. The $70 million price tag was paid for the most expensive horse in history
Coolmore Stud in Ireland purchased a Thoroughbred racehorse named Fusaichi Pgasus for an astonishing $70 million in 2000. The horse was a disappointment considering his high price. He did however sire three Grade 1 winners and was the grandire of Belmont Stakes winner Ruler on Ice.
Fusaichi Pegasus was a successful racer before becoming a sire. His total earnings were $2 million. Six of his nine starts were won, including the 2000 Kentucky Derby. He currently resides in Kentucky.
16. American Quarter Horse is the most beloved horse breed.
The American Quarter Horse Association, which has over 2.8 million registered horses in 2020, is the largest breed society. There are currently 2.4 million Quarter Horses in America, with hundreds of thousands scattered around the globe.
Quarter Horses are muscular and stocky. They were originally bred as sprinters who excel in quarter-mile races. They are mostly used today as Western horses but they can excel in any discipline. The Arabian and Thoroughbred are two other popular breeds.
17. Donkeys, rhinos, and zebras are horses’ closest relatives.
These animals all share one thing in common: they have an odd number or toes. Only three types of odd-toed unimogulates exist in the world: the rhino, the equines (horses and zebras), and the Brazilian Tapir. Contrary to this, even-toed unguls are much more common and include cows and goats as well as sheep and deer.
Horses, donkeys and zebras all have the same number of chromosomes but they can all reproduce together. The offspring that result will almost always be sterile. Mules are a cross between a mare and a donkey stallion. They were popular for pulling wagons or logging on the American frontier.
18. Horses are able to understand and interpret human emotions
The Universities of Sussex, Portsmouth and London found that horses are able to read facial expressions of humans and recall their previous emotions. This allows them to adapt their behavior accordingly. Horses have complex facial expressions and this ability is natural.
Smith (2016) and his colleagues also found an increase in heart beat when horses looked at happy faces instead of angry ones. Study concluded that horses could accurately distinguish positive and negative facial expressions from human faces and were more stressed when they saw angry faces.
19. A sentry is always available for horses living in a herd.
Although horses have a higher chance of survival if they are part of a group, they must still be alert for predators. One horse in a group will be alert for potential dangers, while others rest, graze, or sleep.
Wild herds are usually composed of one stallion, eight to ten mares, and their foals. Although it is not common, some herds can have more than one stallion. The stallion’s role is to breed and protect the mares. A lead mare will help the herd find new grazing areas and water sources.
20. Horses can run and walk within two hours of birth
A newborn foal’s survival is dependent on his ability to keep up with its herd. Horses were born with long legs and fully formed hooves.
Most foals can stand within 30 minutes to an hour of being born. Compare that with a human baby’s ability to stand up within 30 minutes to an hour.
21. The Sorraia horse breed is rarer than any other, with less than 200 left
These feral ponies were nearly extinct when they first appeared in Portugal in the early 20th Century. They are now the center of conservation efforts to save and recover this endangered horse breed.
Sorraias are believed to be descendants of primitive horses from southern Iberia. These primitive markings include a dorsal and zebra stripes on their legs. They come in a variety of shades of dun, and they have a convex profile.
The Food and Agriculture Organization considers these small, but strong horses “at-risk”. In 2007, there were less than 200 horses left, with only 80 broodmares. The majority of Sorraias in existence are located in Portugal. There are a few horses in Germany.
All members of the breed are descendants from one paternal line. Sorraias are skilled in the herding of bulls and can also be used as dressage or light harness horses.
22. Horses can have a mustache
A horse’s mustache can be seen common on the lovely Gypsy Vanner horse breed. It is believed to help horses distinguish between grass types and feel objects in front of them. This is the function of long sensory hairs, also known as whiskers.
These hairs were cut by riders before competitions in order to give their muzzle a cleaner look. Research has shown that these hairs can cause a horse to lose their ability to see objects in the area right in front of his nose.
It is now illegal to trim a horse’s whiskers during FEI (International Equestrian Federation competitions) competitions. The new rule states that any horse whose sensory hairs are removed will be disqualified.Alfie owned by Joanne Priestley
23. Successfully cloning horses has been possible
Prometea, a Haflinger filly named Prometea, was born to an Italian mother. After the birth of a mule-clone in 2003, she was the first horse successfully cloned.
Cloning horses and other animals is still controversial. Some equine experts believe the technology can be used to clone successful mares and then use them as breeding horses.
24. The record for the smallest horse was 17.5 inches.
Thumbelina, 2001-2018), was a miniature dwarf horse that became an international sensation because of her small stature. Thumbelina was just 17.5 inches (44.5cm) tall and weighed 57lbs (26kg). She became the world’s smallest horse.Thumbelina
The tiny, chestnut mare was born in St. Louis on a small horse farm. Thumbelina was able to make it into Guinness World Records and even traveled the United States to meet her admirers.
Thumbelina died, and Einstein, at 2 feet 6 inches, became the world’s smallest horse. He is a miniature pinto horse stallion from New Hampshire. Einstein was also the smallest foal ever recorded, measuring in at just 14 inches (35.6cm), and weighing 6 pounds (2.7kg) when he was born.
Also read: The 5 Smallest Horse Breeds In the World
25. Horses can only inhale through their noses
Horses cannot breathe through their noses because they are required to be nasal-breathing animals. This is due to the position of the epiglottis in horses’ mouths, which creates an airtight seal with their soft palate. Although food can pass easily from horse’s mouth into the esophagus and vice versa, the passage of the tract to the mouth is blocked permanently.
Under certain circumstances, such as dorsal displacements of the soft palates, the airtight seal can be broken and air can pass from the horse’s mouth to the trachea. This can lead to audible respiratory sounds and poor performance in athletic events.
26. Horses don’t like to eat empty stomachs.
Horses spend 16-18 hours grazing each day for a reason. To function properly, horses must have food in their stomachs.
Horses can feel discomfort if they fast for more than 2 hours. Horses that are starved for prolonged periods of time will most likely develop painful stomach ulcers. Because stomach acid that is used to digest food particles can build up, it can cause stomach lining damage.
Gastric ulceration is a serious problem for racing horses and performance horses. This condition can be prevented by giving your horse ample turnout and forage in the stable.
27. Horses produce approximately 10 gallons of saliva per day
Horses can produce as much as 10 gallons (40 Liters) of saliva per day from their three salivary glands. This is 40 times more than what humans produce. Horses consume between 5-10 gallons (22.7-8 liters) of water per day depending on the weather.
Saliva is not only helpful in swallowing but also buffers against stomach acids. Horses can easily get ulcers even after only a brief fast.
28. Horses do not have collarbones
Collared bones are used to attach the collarbones to the skeleton of mammals and stabilize the shoulders. This function is carried out by the thoracic strap in horses. The thoracic strap is a combination of muscles, ligaments, and tendons that connect the forelimbs to other parts of the body.
Horses and other four-legged horses don’t need collarbones because they can run faster. A collarbone would limit the horse’s reach, stride length and speed, making them slower runners.
To test your knowledge, you can also take our horse anatomy quiz.
29. An average horse is approximately 1,000 pounds in weight
It’s half a ton, that’s correct! Many horses are heavier or lighter than this. Draft horses can, on average, weigh around 2,200 pounds.
The record for the world’s largest horse was also held by the tallest horse ever. Sampson, a Shire horse bred in England, was this one-of-a kind horse. He weighed in at no less than 3,360 lbs (1,524 kg).
Horses are approximately 10% heavier than their mothers at birth. Horses will gain 1 to 3 pounds per day in their early years.
30. Horses can see separately from each other
Horses can focus on two things simultaneously with their eyes set on opposite sides. This is a survival strategy to help horses spot predators.
The horse’s ears will point in the direction that the eye on the opposite side of the horse is looking. Take the time to observe your horse when you go out together, and then see what happens!
31. Horse’s frog can be a shock-absorber by itself
The bottom of the horse’s feet is home to the frog, a triangular-shaped structure. Its main function is to absorb shock and distribute it to the inner digital cushion. This is a soft structure that lies under the horses’ heels. The horse’s bones and joints are protected from concussive forces by the natural ability of the frog, to absorb and disperse shock.anjajuli / Shutterstock.com
The frog also pumps blood from the veins back up to the horse’s legs. It is often called the horse’s second heart.
32. Our hearts are more than 10 times larger than the horses’s.
An average horse’s heart weighs 9-10 pounds (4-4.5kg), while a human heart averages between 10-12 ounces (0.28-3.44 kg). The heart size of racehorses is even larger, which was the secret to many racing legends’ success. Secretariat’s incredible heart weighed in at 21 to 22 pounds (99.5-10kg), while Phar Lap was 14 pounds (6.35kg).
If you know your horse’s body weight, it is easy to calculate the horse’s heart mass. Research shows that horses’ hearts weigh around 1% of their body weight.
33. It takes between 10-12 months for a new hoof to grow.
Horses’ hooves usually grow 1/4 to 1/2 inch per month. This can change throughout the year. Summer months are when horses’ hooves grow at a faster rate.
34. Horses can walk in four natural gaits
There are four gaits that horses naturally use: trot, trot and canter. People often mistakenly use “gallop” and “canter” interchangeably. Gallop is four beats faster than canter which is three beats.
Some horse breeds also have more than the four basic gaits. For example, the Icelandic horse is known for its tolt gaits and comfortable pace.
Another example is the Missouri Fox Trotter, which performs a unique trot instead of a normal trot. The Tennessee Walking Horse is also known for its running walk. Over thirty breeds of gaited horses have at least one fourbeat ambling gait.
35. Horses have the biggest eyes of any land mammal
Horses have eyes that are eight times larger than any other terrestrial mammals. Horses’ eyes are eight-times larger than ours! Arabian horses are larger than other breeds, and have large eyes.
36. There are no albino horses
Albinism is not a condition that horses can have. Albinism is not a condition found in horses. Some colors of the horse’s coat may appear albino at first. Research has proven that these colors are not caused by an albino gene.Olga_1 / Shutterstock.com
Horses can sometimes be born with pure white skin, but this is very rare. This is known as dominant white and is fundamentally different to an albino. Albino animals have more pigment cells than dominant white horses, but dominant white horses don’t have any.
White foals may inherit a genetic condition known as lethal white syndrome. These foals will look just like a normal dominant white horse and have blue eyes. However, they will die within 72 hours of birth.
Also read: 15 Horse Coat Colors (With Photos)
37. The Americas do not have horses.
Although the Americas are not where the modern horse was born, it did exist for millions of years in America. However, the horses’ ancestors were there for many years before suddenly disappearing around 8,000-12,000 BC. Scientists still search for an explanation. Some possible causes include climate change or overhunting of humans.
Horses escaped to Eurasia in the 2nd and 3rd million years, which is where they have survived. Horses were not able to return to America after they disappeared from the landscape.
Numerous fossil remains that have been discovered prove the existence and age of horses on the American continent. The United States has been home to both the Eohippus (the oldest horse ancestor) and the Equus species, which were first discovered in the United States.
If you are interested in learning more, check out our article Are horses native to North America?
38. 8 feet 1.25 inches is the highest horse jump.
Captain Alberto Larraguibel Morales, a Chilean captain, jumped 8.25 inches (2.47m) on Huaso ex Faithful in Vina del Mar. According to the FEI, anyone who wishes to break the Thoroughbred record must jump 2.49 m.
Unofficial records are held by Fred Wettach Jr. and King’s Own, which is quite interesting. The pair jumped 8 feet 3.5 inches (2.53m) in front 25 people. This didn’t count as an official attempt.
Andre Ferreira with his horse Something over a Water Obstacle performed the longest ever jump (28 feet or 8.4m). This record was established at the National Event “Rend Show”, Johannesburg, South Africa on April 25, 1975.
39. 1000 km is the longest distance a horse race can go.
The Mongol Derby, the longest and most difficult horse race in the world, covers 1,000 km (621 miles) of Mongolian steppe. Each year, 45+ competitors race on semi-feral native horses.
Each section is 40km (24.85 miles) long. At the end, competitors must change horses. You must ride all sections on horseback. If you get off your horse at the 39th km you will have to walk back to the starting point.
Equestrianists estimates that around 1,500 Mongolian horses will be prepared each year for the race. Before the race, all horses are subject to a vet inspection and must complete a section. Only horses that are fit and healthy can race.
Mongol Derby is the ultimate survival race, where horse and rider are reliant on each other. This once-in-a lifetime adventure is not for everyone.
40. Rare are twin horses
Horses are not designed to have more than one foetus, unlike most mammals. A vet will typically remove the smaller embryo from a twin pregnancy if it is confirmed by ultrasound. This is to save the mare’s health and that of the foal.Twin Arabian foals
If a mare is not able to detect a pregnancy early enough, they might decide to keep both foals, even though it may be a risk. Most people cannot afford to have one foal removed at a later stage.
Numerous cases have seen twin foals being born successfully. One example of this is Majus ZF, an Arabian twin colt, and Majician ZF, which were born from one placenta.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!