16 Interesting Facts About Horses

October 12, 2020

16 Interesting Facts About Horses

From Arabians to Clydesdales, Lipizzans to Percherons, horses are one of the most diverse and intriguing animals in the world. Whether you're an amateur horse lover or a seasoned equestrian, here are 16 horse facts to endear you to these fascinating creatures. With this guide, you can expand your knowledge of these gorgeous creatures and possibly improve your horse care, too.

1. There Are at Least 150 Breeds of Horses Around the World

The horse is a remarkably diverse species.  Unclear distinctions between different breeds make it a challenge to quantify just how many breeds there are.  Sources disagree on the exact number, with some listing as many as 217 breeds of horse.  

However, some people dispute what qualifies as a breed, while others include both extinct and living breeds in their data. Therefore, it is a safer bet to go with the lower estimate of 150.

2. Horses in North America Went Extinct 10,000 Years Ago

The first horses originated in North America and later spread to Europe and Asia.  However, 10,000 years ago, the horses in North America went extinct. European colonizers later reintroduced the animal to the continent.  

The horses in North America today are the descendants of European predecessors.  Horses now live in every region on Earth except for Antarctica and the Arctic.

3. There Are Almost No Truly Wild Horses Left On Earth

Most of the world's 58,832,221 horses are domesticated animals.  A "wild horse" is a species that has managed to elude domestication. However, seeing this animal in the wild doesn't necessarily mean it is wild in the sense of being untouched by humans. 

Most so-called 'wild' horses today are feral horses or the descendants of domesticated horses that are no longer living in captivity. For a long time, people thought the Przewalski horse was the last breed of wild horses on Earth. However, recent DNA studies determined that it had domesticated ancestors.

4. Most Breeds Are Between 8 and 17 Hands Tall

The measurements of a horse's height is in units of 10.16 centimeters called "hands," originally a reference to the width of an average palm.  The smallest breed is the Falabella miniature horse, whose average height is 8 hands, and the largest breed is the Shire horse, with an average height of 17 hands.  A pony is less than 14.2 hands tall.

Horse Shoe

5. A Horse's Shoes Requires Changing Every Six Weeks

Maintaining proper upkeep of a horse's shoes is an essential part of horse care.  The purpose of a horseshoe is to protect the soft inner part of the hoof, called the frog, which can easily sustain an injury.  

The horseshoe keeps the outer part of the hoof from wearing down and prevents the frog from excessive contact with the ground.  Though it might seem rather gruesome, the shoeing process is not at all painful for the animal.

As you take your animal out on the trails or even let it roam the fields or its pen, all the movement wears down on the shoes. You want to change the shoes every six weeks to protect your animal's hoofs.

Horse eating hay

6. One Horse on Average Consumes up to 20 Pounds of Hay in a Single Day

One of the most crucial horse tips is to pay attention to the animal's diet.  Horses eat mostly hay and grain, and they should eat approximately 1 or 2 percent of their body weight every day.  Horses should ideally eat many small portions throughout the day rather than a couple of large portions.

7. The Most Common Health Problem Faced by Horses Is Lameness

Having a good understanding of horse care means being familiar with the most common ailments that can affect your horse.  Lameness, or "an abnormal stance or gait", could result from inflammation, injury, arthritis, or an obstruction in the hoof.  

A simple remedy is to cool the animal's leg and enhance circulation with special boots. While there are DIY treatments, it is advisable to consult a vet for this issue.

8. Horses Can Sleep While Standing Upright

They also sometimes sleep lying down, but most of a horse's sleeping will be while it is standing up.  However, these animals only sleep for brief periods of around twenty minutes each, dispersed throughout the day and night. They don't sleep for several hours at night like other animals.

9. The Domesticated Horse Has Existed for More Than 6,000 Years

Domestication of the earliest horses took place around 3,500 BCE in the Eurasian Steppe region. These were labor animals used for agriculture, transportation, and even warfare. Humankind's relationship with horses began later than with cats and dogs, for which domestication occurred about 8,500 and 14,000 years ago, respectively.   

10. A Horse's Lifespan Can be Over 30 Years

Progress in veterinary medicine and an increase in information on proper horse care has allowed for these animals to experience greater longevity than ever before.  The horse's lifespan is twice the length of a cat's and three times the length of a dog's.

11. The Modern Horse Is a Descendant from a Much Smaller Prehistoric Ancestor

Paleontologists have done extensive research tracing the evolutionary ancestors of horses.  The oldest equine ancestor was the Hyracotherium or Eohippus, and it lived during the Eocene Epoch, about 56 million years ago.  Its average height was about 4.2 hands, comparable to the average golden retriever.

12. The American Quarter Horse Is More Popular Than Any Other Breed in the World

The American Quarter has a reputation for running incredibly fast for short distances. It is sought-after by equestrians all over the world interested in exploiting this advantage in races.  

This breed can run at speeds of up to 55 miles per hour (ca. 89 km/h). It is an incredibly popular horse breed for races under ¼ of a mile. 

13. They Have a Unique Digestive System

The horse's digestive system only allows for movement in one direction.  As a result of this, horses cannot burp, vomit, or breathe through their mouths.  

The horse is a non-ruminant herbivore.  This classification means that rather than having a compartmentalized stomach like a cow, it has a simpler stomach with one compartment.  

Problems with the digestive tract can lead to colic, and some gastrointestinal causes of colic can be fatal if untreated. Thus, knowing the unique digestive system and how to work around it is a vital part of horse tips and feeding.

14. The Arabian Horse Has Fewer Bones Than Other Breeds

The Arabian is a native to the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula. It is one of the top ten most popular horse breeds in the world.  

While about half of modern horse breeds are descendants of the Arabian, the purebred Arabian is unique in that it has one less vertebra, rib, and tail bone than other breeds.  Other physical traits unique to the Arabian are its high tail carriage and head shape.

15. You Can Determine a Horse's Age by Studying Its Teeth

Horse teeth experience a significant degree of wear and erosion over time.  Because of this, the extent of tooth erosion is a useful marker for estimating the approximate age of the horse.  

However, you also want to be careful in using tooth erosion alone to determine its age. Reports have come out that some horse owners and traders alter their horses' teeth to make them appear younger than they are. Your best bet is to have other papers and horse facts to inform your purchasing decision to avoid these scammers.

16. Horses Respire at an Average of 4 Breaths per Minute

The average resting breathing rate of a horse is four breaths in any period of sixty seconds.  When the animal is under conditions of work or distress, its breathing rate will increase significantly.  

The equestrian needs to monitor the breathing rate of the horse to avoid overworking it and minimize the potential for undue harm.


Riding and caring for a horse can be an incredibly moving experience. As these horse facts have shown, these beautiful animals are indeed unlike any other. Using this article as a guide, you also can use these facts and apply these horse tips to caring for your horse. 


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