Horse Facts and Equestrian Information
Welcome to the ultimate online encyclopaedia of horse facts and essential pieces of equestrian information for both adults and children.
Everything you need to know can be found here, from general horse facts, facts about their bodies, pregnancy and foals, horses in the wild, natural horsemanship, history and quirky trivia.
For example, did you know that in Argentina horses must wear hats in sunny weather? Or that in New York it's illegal to open an umbrella near a horse? Or that any horse under 14.2 hands high is technically a pony? No, neither did I!
Hope you enjoy reading these interesting facts, which are especially good for kids. There's a navigation menu to right that leads to different sections. Just click on which facts you're interested in and it'll take you there.
Biggest, Smallest, Tallest, Oldest
- The longest-living horse was Old Billy from Lancashire, England. He was born in 1760 and died in 1822 at age 62.
- The tallest horse ever recorded was the English gelding Sampson (also known as Mammoth). He was born in 1946, and by the time he was four years old stood seven feet two inches tall.
- A 42-year-old Australian brood mare was the oldest horse ever to give birth.
- The smallest pony ever recorded was called Sugar Dumpling. She weighed only 30 pounds and stood just 20 inches tall.
- The oldest pony on record died in France at age 54.
General Must-Know Facts
- Around 75 million horses are alive in the world today.
- China has not only the most people on the planet but also the most horses, with around ten million alive there today.
- There are more than 350 separate breeds.
- A female older than four years old is called a mare; a male older than four is a stallion.
- A father horse is called a sire. A mother is called a dam.
- A castrated male is called a gelding.
- Any horse under 14.2 hands high is technically a pony.
- Horses are measured in hands and fingers. A hand is four inches in length.
- Their scientific name is Equus caballus. Equus comes from the Greek word for ‘quickness’.
- Horses have four different gaits: walking, trotting cantering and galloping. The fastest gait is the gallop.
- Most horses have approximately 175 bones in their body.
- Horses have two blind spots: one directly behind and another directly in front of them.
- It's possible to tell a horse’s age by its teeth.
- Males generally have 49 teeth, while females have 36.
- Horses can see in two directions at the same time.
- They only breathe through their noses. They do not breathe through their mouths.
- Soaking hay before feeding it to a horse helps reduce respiratory problems.
- A fully grown horse weighing 1,000 pounds contains around 13.2 gallons of blood.
- Horses can require up to 10 gallons of drinking water each day.
- Horses with coats marked by large patches of white and another colour are known as pintos. In Britain and Ireland they are known as coloured, piebald, or skewbald.
- Any marking on a horse’s forehead is called a star, no matter what the shape. In fact, most stars resemble diamonds.
- The longest horse tail ever measured was 22 feet long. It belonged to an American palomino named Chinook.
- A normal horse has a body temperature of between 100 and 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
- A horse’s ear can be rotated almost 360 degrees and is controlled by 13 muscles.
- The heart weighs about 10 pounds.
- A healthy horse’s resting heart rate should be between 36 and 40 beats per minute.
- The upper lip is prehensile. This means it’s adapted for holding objects, is very sensitive, and can feel small differences in the texture of an object.
- A horse’s hoof will grow about a quarter of an inch each month.
- Contrary to some beliefs, horses are not color blind and can in fact see colours.
- Horse feathers are long hairs on the back of the ankles which help keep water away from the hoof.
- A hoof is similar to a fingernail. It grows constantly, and should be clipped before it becomes overgrown and causes discomfort.
Pregnancy, Foals and Breeding
- A mare’s gestation period (pregnancy) is usually 11 months, but can sometimes be as short as 10 months or as long as 12 months.
- Colts may sometimes be capable of reproduction as early as 18 months. However, they are rarely allowed to breed until they are at least three years old.
- Most foals are born in the springtime at night, when the herd is unlikely to be on the move and food is plentiful.
- At birth, a foal’s legs are already 90 per cent of their full-grown length.
- Foals instinctively recognise the scent of their mothers.
- Newly born foals cannot reach down to eat grass because their legs are too long.
- It’s not possible to predict a horse’s colour when it is a foal. It will experience several changes before the colour becomes fixed at about age two.
- A mare can give birth in as little as 15 minutes. But if someone is watching she may stop foaling and wait until the observer leaves before she continues.
- Many young domestic horses are handled by people within the first few days of their lives in order to get them used to the touch, sound and smell of humans.
- A mare’s first milk is called colostrum. It is very rich and protects against disease.
- Just one hour after birth, a foal is able to stand. After just two hours, it can run.
Horses in the Wild
- Mature horses will kick both colts and fillies out of the herd when they reach sexual maturity, helping to prevent inbreeding.
- Horses and ponies feel safest in herds.
- In the wild, mares decide when the herd moves to another spot to find food.
- Horses have a social hierarchy within their herds, with more dominant horses asserting themselves as the leaders. Just like humans, each horse has a different personality.
- Ponies are able to survive in inhospitable climates because they conserve body heat so well.
- Like sheep and cattle, horses are browsers, constantly wandering as they feed.
- Mustangs are related to horses brought to the New World by Spanish explorers nearly 400 years ago. They are one of the few wild North American breeds.
- Horses and ponies always feel safest when they are in herds.
- There is usually only one stallion in any herd of horses.
- In tropical areas, horses are usually small, energetic, hardy, and capable of surviving with little food.
- In the wild, horses feed on grass and herbs. Combined with water, these alone are adequate for sustenance
- Horses expend more energy when they are lying down than when they stand upright
- Herd-bound horses become flighty and difficult to control when they are separated from the herd.
- In the wild, all horses eat for about 22 hours each day and sleep for about two.
Body Language, Horse Whispering and Natural Horsemanship
- Horses make eight basic sounds: snort, squeal, greeting nicker, courtship nicker, maternal nicker, neigh, roar, and blow.
- Horses use facial expressions to communicate their emotions and moods. If a horse has its ears back and its nostrils flared, it may be preparing to attack.
- A healthy horse will be bursting with energy, displayed in its unrestricted movement.
- Horses will sometimes groom one another by nibbling around the neck region, in the much the same fashion as mares care for their young.
- Sacking out is the process of slowly introducing a horse to frightening objects in order to prevent it from spooking when it comes across them.
- Horses sometimes communicate vocally. A whinny means a horse is excited or agitated, while a snort usually means that it senses danger.
- When a horse’s ears are lowered or limp, the horse is relaxed or resting.
- Horses will often rear up when startled, at play, or excited.
- A horse’s head shape varies widely based on breed. Arabians usually tend to be dish-faced with a concave profile; draft horses have Roman noses and a convex profile.
- Standardbred horses generally have larger hearts than other breeds.
- After elephants, draught horses are the world’s strongest land animals.
- The Arabian is the oldest pure breed in the world. It is also the most likely to pass along its character traits through the generations.
- Arabians are slightly different from other horses in anatomy, with one less rib, one less lumbar bone, and one or two fewer vertebrae.
- The saddle was invented by the Chinese.
- Horses are not naturally predisposed to jumping. When able to do so most will go around the obstacle instead.
- From the middle ages to the 1930s, wealthy women were expected to ride side-saddle because it was thought improper for them to sit with their legs astride.
- The first recorded horse-jumping competitions were held in Dublin, Ireland by the Royal Dublin Society in 1864.
- The Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria, was founded in 1572. It is one of a handful of schools that still teaches classical dressage.
- A blacksmith, or farrier, is a person who trims and shoes horse’s hooves.
- Depending on the sporting event, a horse’s mane can be worn in many ways, from naturally down, to roached, to various kinds of braids.
- Untrained young horses can be bought cheaply, even those from top bloodlines. Once a horse is trained, however, its price can easily triple.
- Riding a horse burns between 148 and 690 calories each hour, depending on the gait of the horse and the weight of the rider.
- Some fox hunters ride horses called field hunters that are specially trained for the pursuit.
- Dressage is the art of training a horse to perform precise movements. It requires an equal amount of skill and concentration from horse and rider.
- When horses are teamed during riding sports, such as in a group of four, either of the two foremost horses is called the leader.
- A German horse, Meteor, won show-jumping medals at three consecutive Olympic Games, in 1952, 1956 and 1960.
- The first horse lived around 50 million years ago and is called the Hyracotherium. It had four hoofed toes on the front feet, three hoofed toes on the back feet and was about as big as a fox.
- Alexander the Great’s horse was named Bucephalus. Alexander received the wild horse as a boy and was able to tame it.
- Hipposandals were used in the first century as a precursor to horseshoes. They were tied to the horse’s hoof with leather strings, rather than being nailed in place as is now done.
- Both the ancient Romans and Asians looked upon their horses as great warriors. Although the Romans prized large horses in battle for their strength, Asians preferred smaller, more nimble and sure-footed ones.
- On April 7, 1933, the Clydesdale became the Anheuser-Busch brewery symbol.
- The Roman emperor Caligula made his horse, Incitatus, a priest of Rome. It had nearly 20 servants, a jeweled collar, and was often fed oats dripped in gold.
- The Greeks used horses in an ancient version of the Pony Express.
- The Battle of Komarow on August 31, 1920 was the last major cavalry battle.
- The Society of Horseman’s Word was a club in Scotland in the 1800s. Elder members were believed to have supernatural abilities to understand and control horses.
- Horses first evolved in the Americas but they became extinct there until the Europeans reintroduced them.
- Horses were domesticated by at least 2000 BC, and there is evidence that they could have been domesticated as early as 4500 BC.
- Horse Racing Facts
Horse racing facts from around the world. For example, did you know that 90 per cent of all thoroughbred horses are descended from a seventeenth-century stallion named Eclipse?
- Famous Horse Quotes
Abraham Lincoln, John Steinbeck, William Shakespeare, Winston Churchill and more. All the best and most memorable horse quotes from famous people throughout history.
- Famous Horse Quotes (Part Two)
More quotes from famous people and celebrities including Benjamin Disraeli, J.D. Salinger, Jonathan Swift, Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling, W. C. Fields and many more.
- Poems and Songs About Horses
Horses have been described movingly in songs and poems throughout history. From the English poet Lord Byron and his verse about the power and beauty of wild horses in 1818, to country singer Johnny Cash's song about the Tennessee Stud.
- Horses in TV, Entertainment, the Arts and Culture
Great collection of little-known horse facts from films, books, art and culture. For example, did you know that fictional cowboy Pecos Bill rode a horse called Lightning, also known as Widow-Maker?
Did You Know?
- There is an archaic British law which states that an Englishman may not sell a horse to a Scotsman.
- It is illegal to open an umbrella near a horse in New York City.
- New Jersey’s state animal is the horse.
- Ribbons were once braided into horses’ tails to keep the animals safe from witches.
- The bows used on string instruments are often made from the tail hair of horses.
- In Canada, drinking before or while riding a horse is punishable as a DUI. A horse and carriage is classified in the same category as a car, while horseback riding is classed with bicycle riding.
- On the Greek Island of Hydra, horses and ponies are the only legal form of transportation.
- In statues of a horse and rider, if the horse has both front legs in the air, the rider was killed in battle. If the horse has one leg raised, the rider died as a result of wounds received in battle. If all four legs are on the ground, the rider died of natural causes
- Julius Caesar rode a horse with three toes. The condition results from a rare genetic mutation that can affect the front hooves.
- In Rosario, Argentina, horses are required to wear hats in warm weather.
- The national sport of Afghanistan is Buzkashi, a game in which riders on horseback attempt to capture a goat carcass.
And Finally... Hippos
- Hippotherapy is the use of horses and horseback riding in physical, occupational, speech and psychological therapy.
- Hippophobia and equinophobia both refer to the fear of horses.
- Hippocrates translates to ‘horse master’.