Last Updated on February 22, 2022 by Allison Price
As the natural breeding season begins soon, I began to wonder why only one foal is running alongside its dam. Because cats, dogs, and other animals can give birth to multiple offspring after every breeding, why shouldn’t horses? This thought in mind, my laptop was pulled out and I began to research whether horses can have twins or triplets. It was difficult to find any conclusive information online, so I did my own research and was amazed at what I discovered.
Are horses capable of having twins? Horses can have twins, just like other mammals.
It is possible for horses to have twins, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are likely. There are between 250,000 to 300,000. Horses are born every year in the US. This might seem like a lot, especially considering that a mare could have twins at 1 in 10,000. However, this does not mean that a mare will give birth. The majority of mares will abort twins within two months. However, only 20% of mares that have twins give birth. Unfortunately, most twins born to mares with twins die within two weeks.
Even rarer is the possibility of a horse having identical twins. This is because a fertilized egg splits, and both embryos have exactly the same genes. In this case, the probability of a mare having identical twins is about 1 in a million. Even though the odds of a horse having identical twins are slim, it is possible. Tania Mackee, a horse owner at Gassons Farm Stud, Exeter, UK, gave birth in 2018 to identical twins. This was an amazing feat in and of itself. But Destiny, the horse that gave birth to Destiny, had more healthy twins in less than two years. Read more about the identical and subsequent twins here.
How can a horse have twins?
Although it is possible for horses to have identical twins, the vast majority of horse twins are fraternal (or non-identical) twins. Fraternal twins are not identical twins, which result from a single egg being split and producing identical embryos (hence they are identical). Instead, fraternal twins are created when two eggs are released to fertilize. Double ovulation is also known as fertilization. Fertilization can occur simultaneously or up to 24 hours apart.
When the eggs are fertilized within days of each other, the strongest foal will most likely be the largest and most likely to survive.
How do you know if a horse has twins?
It might seem that horses carrying twins are larger than those with one foal. However, this is not the case. Even if it were, it would be difficult to determine in the early stages. A rectal ultrasound was used by veterinarians around ten years ago. However, they are still in use today. A portable ultrasound can detect two embryos with 99.999% certainty.
If twins are not detected in prenatal examinations, the first sign to watch for is early udder growth. Normal pregnancy will take between three to six months. However, horses with twins will see their udder expand in the first three months.
It can be difficult for horses to identify twins once they reach the last stages of pregnancy. The foals will be aligned in their uterus so only one heartbeat and thorax can be seen.
What is the risk of a horse having two children?
Twin pregnancies are not common and those that do make it to full-term are less likely to succeed. No matter how many foals a mare has, her body will produce equal amounts of nutrition and nourishment (as well oxygen). This means that they will compete with each other for the same nutrients and energy. In turn, this can lead to both foals being smaller, weaker or underdeveloped.
Horses are only meant to have one foal at any given time. This means that horses will experience more stress than if they carry two. The uterus is more susceptible to complications and more likely to give birth to premature foals. Even if everything goes according to plan, both foals will be born alive. They could still be weak and have weak lungs or kidneys. The cuboidal bones, which are small bones in the joint that convert cartilage to bones last, could also be missing. This can cause the joints to collapse and eventually lead to degenerative joint disease.
There have been many successful stories about horses giving birth to healthy twins. Unfortunately, this is not the norm. Most horses will either abort the pregnancy naturally or reduce one foal. Your veterinarian may be able to help reduce the foal that is smaller than the mare’s. This must be done within the first 17 days of pregnancy. The best thing is to reduce the embryo that is smaller. This gives the embryo more chance to develop fully, and it increases the chances of having a healthy foal and birth.
The process of reducing (sometimes known as pinching) an embryo involves entering the horse’s stomach, finding the uterus and then pinching until the fluid (a small sac of fluid) is broken. Although it sounds cruel, the mare does not feel any pain and the reduced embryo will naturally be absorbed back into her body. The stronger embryo will have a greater chance of survival.Treliver D’Aquitaines Saratoga twins two weeks old
A horse can have three children
One in 300,000 equine babies will have a triplet. However, like twins, there is a very slim chance that those foals will survive and be healthy. In the late 1980s, American Buckskin, an 11-year-old American Buckskin, gave birth to three foals. This was after a 300-day gestation. The foals, two fillies and one colt, were born by Buckskin herself. They needed intensive care immediately after birth. The foals all weighed less than 35 lbs and one of them died within 4 days. Another was euthanized 24 days later due to persistent metatarsal fractures.