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Horses are one of the most popular animals in the world. They have been around for a long time and are still used today in many ways, from work to sport. These majestic creatures have a long and interesting history, but how much do you know about them?
What is the most surprising fact about horses? That they can run up to 55 miles per hour over a short distance? That they have a lifespan of 25-30 years in captivity?
That there are more than 300 breeds of horses worldwide, which vary by size, shape, and coloration? Or that some species of wild horses can live for 40 years or more in the wild without any human intervention at all? Read on to find out.
Amazing horse facts.
1. Horses once had toes!
The ancient world was filled with many creatures that look much different than their modern descendant. One of those amazing animals is the horse, which has evolved for over millions of years to become an efficient animal that can survive in various environments from deserts to rainforests and even arctic tundra.
The earliest horses, such as the Mesohippus, had three toes, and the Hyracotherium had five toes. Eventually, horses lost their side toes and developed single-toed hooves, which helped them run fast and elude predators-all thanks to evolution!
2.. Some horses weigh more than a ton!
Horses are the largest of all domesticated animals, and they can weigh more than 2,000 pounds! A draft horse is the largest breed of horse, and they can be huge. The average size for a female is 17 hands high and around 1,300 pounds, while the male averages at 18 hands high and weighs an average of 2,000 pounds!
Draft horses are bred for strength and power, and they have been used in warfare and help develop early roads, railroads, farms, and mines. Some of the more popular draft horse breeds include Clydesdales, Shires, and Belgium’s.
3. Horses can swim!
Horses are amazing creatures. They can run, jump, and even swim! Have you ever seen a horse in the water? It’s so cool to see a horse swimming because they seem like such land animals.
Horses swim very differently than we do; they use their legs to propel them through the water and keep their head up high out of the water.
Trainers often swim horses recovering from an injury because it is a very gentle way for these animals to get back into shape without putting too much stress on muscles or bones that may be healing still.
4. Horses can’t burp or vomit.
Horses can eat and drink without any problems. If they have an upset stomach, it will come out of their back end or not at all. Horses cannot vomit because they don’t have the reflex muscle that we use for vomiting.
They also lack the type of valve in their intestines that allows stomach content to flow up and out of their mouths. Since horses take in small amounts of food, they rarely need to vomit. I wrote an article that explains all about why horses don’t vomit. I suggest you read it.
5. A horses head weighs about 10 percent of its total body weight!
A horse’s head makes up about 10% of its total body weight and can be as heavy as 25 pounds for some large draft breeds. A horse’s skull is composed mostly of bone, which means that they have little space to house their brain cells inside their heads.
Having a relatively small brain might sound like it would cause them to have a low IQ – but don’t worry! Horses are still intelligent creatures with plenty going on upstairs even though they only have little room inside their heads!
The brain of the horse is a lot like our own brains, but there are some differences too. They weigh about two pounds which is similar in size to a child’s brain. Some scientists say horses have intelligence that equals that of 12-year old humans.
6. Horses were once the size of a German shepherd!
Many people think of horses as big animals. But in the past, they had toes and were much smaller than modern horses. For example, the Mesohippus roamed the Badland regions in South Dakota about 33.9 to 23 million years ago.
Researchers determined it stood about two feet tall from fossils found during excavations, about the same height as a German shepherd dog.
7. North America is the birthplace of horses.
The evolution of horses began over 55 million years ago in North America. Later, all of the horses left, and most scientists think they walked across the Bering Sea land bridge into Siberia, searching for more food.
Horses spread across the world, and some made their way back to North America with Spanish explorers in the 1500s. You can find out more about how horses evolved in North America in my article, Are Horses Native to North America? The Fossils Tell a Story.
8. Horses have tiny stomachs.
Do you ever wonder why horses eat all the time? Horses eat so frequently because their stomach is small and processes food quick. Horses never have a big, full belly, and they are always ready to run from predators.
Horses have the smallest stomach in comparison to their bodies than any other domestic animals. Having such a small stomach requires them to eat smaller, more frequent meals. Horses’ stomachs are mainly used for mixing food and storing it until it is ready to be digested.
9. Horses are fast prey animals.
The word prey means someone or something that is hunted by another animal. Horses are prey animals, which means they have to be careful when out in the wild because they can get eaten by predators like bears and wolves.
Horses rely on their speed to escape danger. Horses can run at speeds up to 55 miles per hour, and when a predator is close behind them, horses will break into an all-out sprint. I wrote an article on the speed records of horses running various distances that display the incredible athletic ability of these animals.
In addition to being fast, horses have developed many other ways of defending themselves from predators. They use kicks and bites as well as running away in order to stay safe.
10. Horses grow large muscles, only eating grass.
Horses are one of the most interesting animals in the world. They have an anatomy that is different from most other animals on Earth. Horses are herbivores, which means they eat grass and other plants to survive, not meat.
A horse’s unique digestive system breaks down all of the food they eat into nutrients to be used by their body to produce energy and build muscle. People often think they need to eat a high protein diet with meat to get muscle, but horses prove it’s not necessary, at least for them.
11. Horses lather when they sweat.
When the white lather comes on a horse’s coat, it is because they either are overworked or it is too hot. When the lather is exceptionally foamy, their body has been pushed to its limit and needs time for recovery and cooling down.
A horse’s sweat is made up of mostly water and small amounts of electrolytes. When a horse sweats, the heat causes its sweat glands to secrete large quantities of fluid onto the skin surface.
The lather occurs because of a particular protein in horse sweat called latherin. It wet the hairs for water to flow easier and evaporate better. The white lather is especially prevalent where parts of the body rub together.
If their coat has these signs, it could indicate that you need to give them more rest days before using them again for intense activities.
12. Horses like company.
Horses are herd animals who thrive on companionship. When they live alone, they can become very lonely and depressed. That is why it is vital to have a companion for your horse to keep them happy and healthy.
Have you ever seen a horse with a cat, dog, or even a goat? If not, then you haven’t been to many horse farms. Horses often have other animals besides horses for a companion.
Horses are social creatures, and just like humans, they often need companionship. They are herd animals and enjoy the company of their own species, but sometimes this is not enough. This is where having another animal that doesn’t live in the wild comes in handy!
Many people think that it’s weird to see photos of horses with cats or dogs as their friends, but there’s actually an explanation behind it: When these types of animals grow up on farms or ranches, they become more accustomed to being around all sorts of different animals and enjoy the friendships they develop.
13. Horses have big eyes and good night vision.
Horses are incredible animals that have many extraordinary qualities. One of the things that make them so cool is their ability to see good in the dark. Horses have some of the most enormous eyes of any living animal, and they evolved to have good night vision to see when predators are lurking in the dark.
Horses also have a reflective layer of tissue behind their retina called the tapetum lucidum that reflects light back through the retina, increasing sensitivity and allowing them to see better at night.
14. There are over 300 different horse breeds!
Horses are a diverse species with many different breeds all over the world. More than 300 horse breeds exist, and there is no one “perfect” breed for every person or situation.
Some horses have thick, long hair, and some horses have thin hair with short manes and tails. Some are tall, while others are short. Horses come in many different shapes and sizes! All horses have their own unique personalities and characteristics that make them wonderful animals to work with!
15. Horses are great communicators.
Horses are fun to watch as they roam the fields, but did you know that they also have a special language? Horses use their tails and ears to communicate with each other, and this is how they survived in the wild.
A horse swishes its tail back and forth when it is angry or feeling uncomfortable. When a horse flicks its ears back and forth, it means the animal is listening for sounds coming from behind, such as a predator in pursuit.
16. Male horses go by a few names: gelding, stallion, stud, or colt.
Horses are very unique and fascinating animals. There’s even different terminology for the male variety of horses, such as gelding, stallion, stud, and colt, and they all have different meanings.
A stallion is a male horse, and when used for breeding, it is called a stud, a castrated male horse is a gelding, and a colt is a young uncastrated male horse, typically under four years old.
17. Female horses or either a mare or filly
A female horse is either a mare or a filly, depending on how old she is. For example, a girl horse who has not yet grown-up is called a filly. This term is usually used until the horse turns four or five years old. When the female horse has matured, she becomes a mare. FYI: A mare primarily used for breeding is called a broodmare.
18. Horses are smart
Horses are not just large, strong animals that can make you feel like a hero in the saddle. They’re also intelligent beings with complex social lives. Horses are one of the most intelligent animals on Earth.
It has been found that they can even remember previous owners even after many years apart! I wrote an article about equine intelligence that includes some exciting results. I suggest you check it out if you are interested in learning about how intelligent horses have proven to be.
Horses’ brains are small compared to their body, but their cerebellum is larger than that of a human because it is designed to adapt to a predatory environment. The horse has to learn how to survive right after they are born, so it needs to coordinate its legs and react quickly to its surroundings.
19. Horses only sleep about three hours a day.
Horses sleep differently than other animals. Horses can sleep while standing up most of the time, and they usually only sleep for less than 3 hours a day. They also take naps throughout the day instead of sleeping all at once, as other humans do.
Horses sleep standing up because they have to be ready for a predator coming at any moment. But their upright slumber doesn’t provide the deep rejuvenating rest that horses need.
In order to maintain long-term health, horses must be able to lay down and get deep REM sleep. Horses lie down to rest during deep sleep and are interspersed with shorter periods where they nap standing.
Laying down is crucial for a horse’s long-term health as they need to get deep REM sleep, and that can’t do this standing. Horses have a different sleeping pattern than humans.
Horses “sleep” throughout the day in short intervals, and they take a couple of deep naps, where the horse lays down. In an entire day, horses sleep less than 3 hours, so they need to make the most of it.
20. A horse will drink up to 10 gallons of water a day.
Horses are large animals that need a lot of water to stay healthy. It can be tricky for them to find enough water in the wild, but luckily horses have humans around who give them plenty of fresh drinking water.
If it is scorching outside, horses drink more water. This is because they need the water to stay hydrated and to offset the sweat losses. So, if it’s hot, always make sure your horse has access to clean water, so it doesn’t dehydrate.
21. Horse can leap tall structures!
Horses are known for their agility and ability to jump high, but did you know they can jump over 8 ft. Leaping this high is an extreme example. Still, competitive jumping horses frequently jump over seven feet. Think about how high that is; it’s taller than Shaquille O’ Neil.
How long do horses live in the wild?
Horses in the wild horses live for about 15-16 years, which is less than the life expectancy of a domestic horse. The reason may be because wild horses are more likely to get sick with viruses and bacteria.
Can horses laugh?
Horses do not laugh. They make funny faces and seem to be laughing, but they are actually sniffing the air to figure out what you smell like. Horses use their noses to take scents in the air towards their olfactory glands and figure out what you smell like.