Why Don’t Humans Milk Horses?

Last Updated on March 8, 2022 by Allison Price

This refers to whether or not humans milk horses and, if so, why.

In other words, horses were not bred for milk production.

If you are interested in learning more about milking horses, you have come to the right place.

Let’s get started!

Are Humans able to milk horses?

Who said that humans didn’t milk mares. (Mare is a female horse. We do.

Did you know that humans have been milking horses for hundreds of years?

These are just a few examples.

  • Cleopatra, an ancient Egyptian queen, used to take baths in donkey water to keep her skin hydrated. Donkey and mare milk are still excellent for skin, and can be found in many beauty products. Horse milk is still used mainly for cosmetic purposes in Europe.
  • Horse milk can be consumed in Russia, Tibet, central Asia, and other parts of China. While mare milk is not a popular choice for Europeans, there are still some who do. A French version of mare’s dairy is available for purchase. Donkey milk was used in ancient times to provide food for orphans and treat liver and skin diseases. Nomadic Mongolians from central Asia make Kumis, a fermented mare milk product.
Milk Horses

Horse milk is healthy and delicious, but it is not economically feasible for people to eat because it is more expensive to make, less nutritious and isn’t easily available.

Horses were not bred for milk production.

Let’s start our discussion about mare’s milk consumption by discussing the composition of mare milk. This will allow us to answer the age old question, if mare milk is comparable to human breast milk.

What is Horse Milk?

You would think milk is milk. But not necessarily. Let’s find out what horse milk is made of.

Comparative Analysis of Human Breast Milk

Many literatures claim that mare’s milk has a similar composition to human milk. There are major differences in the amount of fat, lactose and proteins, particularly the protein casein.

Horse milk has a 10-11% total solid content. This means it is thinner than cow’s breast milk, goat’s milk, human breast milk, and sheep (ewe) milk. 

It does however contain more calcium and protein. Lactose is a lactose–

This means that milk sugar is almost in the same concentration as mare’s milk. Below are the normal values for different nutrients in mare’s milk and human milk.

Nutrient/MineralMare (female horse). MilkHuman Breast Milk
Fat (gram/kg).12.1 Gram36.4 grams
Protein (gram/kg)21.4 grams14.2 grams
Lactose (gram/kg).63 grams67 grams
Casein (gram/kg)10 grams3.7 grams
Calcium (mg/100ml).102 mg30 mg
Magnesium (mg/100ml)9 mg3 mg

Although it is not an exact copy, could it be a substitute for human breast milk?

Horse milk cannot be said to be identical to human breast milk, as the facts prove. It would replace human breast milk and be used to supplement breastfeeding if it were.

It is important to keep in mind that mammal milk is what causes the differences in the composition. Each species has different nutritional needs.

It is evident that horse milk is safe to be eaten by humans.

Why is it not more popular or easily available in the grocery store?

Is it bad tasting?

Of course not.

Mare’s milk has a lower fat content than cow’s or human milk, but it’s still drinkable. It tastes sweeter than cow’s milk, and has a hint of almond flavor. Its taste is not an issue. Even people who don’t love cow’s milk may not like it.

Secondly, why is mare’s milk not as popular as other mammalian milks?

Why Don’t We All Drink Mares Milk?

These are the factors that will help you find the answer:

Low Production

A breeding mare’s sole purpose is to feed a newborn horse (in this case, a baby mammal) in order to make them healthy. Today, horses are bred and kept for beauty shows, racing and other aesthetic purposes. All these situations make milk production secondary or tertiary.

Foals are more likely to eat solid foods than mare’s milk, even though they are nutritionally vital early on. To ensure optimal growth, some horse owners won’t milk their mares.

Here arises an important question:

“Why not improve the horse breeds to produce milk?”

We do. The industry is recovering and continuous efforts are made to increase equine milk production. However, the main purpose for breeding mares is to raise healthy foals that will make good horses.

Low nutritional value

Horse milk is not as good as human breast milk.

Mare’s milk contains more water than cow’s milk, which means it has less fat, protein, and other nutrients. Horse milk has a lower nutritional value than milk from cows or buffalos, camels and sheep, goats and humans.

A Mare’s Purpose Is to Produce Healthy Foals, not Milk

What about cooking food in your new Mercedes? No. It’s not their purpose. Horses were not intended to be used as solely milk producers for human consumption.

Artificial selection, intentional breeding and genetic modification have resulted in high-milking dairy goats and cows that produce milk. They were created by humans to produce milk and meat. Humans did not intend for mares to produce milk for human consumption.

Even though the horse milk industry has been growing, it is still a fact the main purpose of a mare breeding is to produce a strong, powerful and well-fed foal. The primary purpose of a breeding mare is to produce milk for human consumption.

The Horse Population is smaller than Cattle. There are fewer horses to milk.

A total of 60 million horses are in the world. This is an incredible number compared to the over 900 million dairy cows worldwide.

The horse population is insufficient to produce enough milk for humans and will never be sufficient.

There are many good alternatives available

It wouldn’t be financially feasible to make commercially-available cheeses and cream products using horse milk. This would be extremely expensive.

People can enjoy the milk of cows and sheep as well as goats and buffalos. So why choose a new, less nutritious, expensive-to-produce, and less available milk when cheap, more nutritious, and readily available milk is right on the grocery store shelf?

Why is Equine Milk so Expensive?

Let’s look at the reasons why horse milk is not an acceptable alternative to cow’s.

Economic Factors

A mare’s average body weight is higher than a cow’s, so their nutritional needs are greater than those of cows.

Horses consume more feed and produce less milk, which makes them more costly to keep and more productive overall. Mares are not the best choice for commercial milk production.

Very short lactation period

Lactation, which refers to the time that milk is available and secreted by cows, is shorter than for horses.

Average lactation time for mares is 180 days. This is far shorter than the average length of milk cows, who can last up to 305 days.

The milk yield of mares drops dramatically after two months. This makes it economically uneconomical to have a short lactation followed by a prolonged gestation period.

Mares need to be milked frequently

Horses have a lower milk yield than goats or cattle, but they can still produce milk at one milking. This is due to the fact that there are two mammary cells in the mare’s milk udder. It is an evolutionary adaptation to their smaller stomachs.

Their stomach is not able to store as much as other ruminants. A mare must be milked at least 4-5 times per day to achieve maximum production. This is a tedious task.

Religious and Cultural Considerations

Horse milk isn’t prohibited in most religions, but many believe it is.img alt=”Old Muslim male praying with the Koran in an old mosque.

Even though horse milk and meat are permissible in Islam, millions upon millions of Muslims in India consider equine milk to be prohibited. Equine milk is therefore more difficult to accept on a wider scale.

It’s not easy to milk a mare

This does not refer to the difficulties of restrainting a horse in order to milk it. The mare’s shorter teats are difficult to milk and are not for humans to handle.img alt=”Female vet examines horse outside at farm during daytime.

Two short mammary glands (teats) are found in a mare’s mammary. There are many manual and commercial milking machines, but few people actually buy them to milk horses.

Hand milking mares also produced less fat than machine milking.

Horses are not as docile as cattle

My personnel observation is based on the fact that horses were domesticated 2000-years later than sheep or cattle.

Horses don’t have the same level of comfort as cattle or other mammals, whose milk we humans consume. Horses were domesticated for transport and war purposes. To provide milk and meat, cows were domesticated.

We don’t milk our horses because horses weren’t bred for milk production. Through selective breeding, humans have modified horses for different purposes. Milk production is a secondary consideration.

Allison Price
Allison Price

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!