Last updated: July 10, 2023
Welcome to a fascinating exploration of horses. No matter if you’re a horse owner or an animal lover, there’s always something new to learn about these remarkable animals. From their exceptional memory to surprising behaviors, this article is filled with 21 captivating facts about horses.
For example, did you know that horses have a very good memory? Studies have shown that they can remember up to 30 other horses, and they can also recall human faces and voices for years. Horses are also capable of making different facial expressions to communicate with each other and with humans.
Ready for more intriguing horse facts? From identifying the last truly wild horse to unveiling the ‘Cheetah of the Desert,’ we’re about to delve deeper into equine mysteries. Hold on tight; our exhilarating exploration of these majestic creatures is just getting started!
1. Horses 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 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 it can be huge. The average size for a female is 17 hands high and around 1,300 pounds, while the male averages 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 helped develop early roads, railroads, farms, and mines. Some of the more popular draft horse breeds include Clydesdales, Shires, and Belgium.
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 still be healing.
4. Horses Can’t Vomit or Burp.
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 Horse’s Head Weighs a Lot.
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 its 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. Horses Went Extinct in North America.
Horses first appeared in North America around 55 million years ago. However, these early equines vanished from the continent, a disappearance attributed largely to climatic shifts and overhunting. Many scientists propose that these horses migrated across the Bering Land Bridge into Siberia, driven by their quest for more plentiful food sources.
Horses spread across the world, and some made their way back to North America with Spanish explorers in the 1500s. These horses are the ancestors of many of the horse breeds we know today in North America.
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 quickly. 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 up to 55 miles per hour, and horses will break into an all-out sprint when a predator is close behind them. 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 Only Eat Plants.
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 its 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, its 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 largest 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. However, horse color vision is limited.
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 others 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 Are Called: Geldings, 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 they can’t do this standing. Horses have different sleeping patterns 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 sweat losses. So, if it’s hot, always make sure your horse has access to clean water so it doesn’t dehydrate.
21. Horses 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.
22. The Przewalski Horse, Nature’s Last True Wild Equine
Meet the Przewalski Horse, the last truly wild horse on earth. Native to Mongolia, these sturdy animals have never been tamed. They look different from common horses, with shorter bodies, upright manes, and a dark stripe down their backs.
Przewalski Horses were declared extinct in the wild in the late 1960s. The remaining individuals were kept in zoos, and thanks to a successful captive breeding and reintroduction program, they were re-established in their native habitats of Mongolia starting in the 1990s.
23. The Cheetah of the Desert
Akhal-Teke, a horse breed from Turkmenistan, is known for its speed, endurance, and remarkable ability to survive in harsh environments. This breed is among the fastest and oldest existing horse breeds in the world. Its distinctive metallic sheen also adds to its allure, making it one of the most unique and prized equine breeds.
24. Newborn Horses Can Walk Shortly After Birth
Indeed, newborn horses, known as foals, display an astounding ability. They can stand and begin to walk within merely one to two hours following birth. This rapid mobility is a vital survival trait inherited from their wild ancestors.
In the wild, being able to move swiftly helps them stay close to their mothers and the protective herd. It also enables them to evade potential predators. This instinctual behavior showcases the resilience and adaptability of horses from the earliest stages of their lives.
25. Horse’s Height Is Measured in Units Known as “Hands.”
Yes, a horse’s height is traditionally measured in a unit called “hands.” A hand is equal to four inches. This unit of measure dates back to ancient Egypt and is still in use today in many parts of the world, predominantly in English-speaking countries.
To measure a horse, you start from the ground and go up to the horse’s withers, which is the highest part of its back at the base of the neck. The measurement is expressed in whole and partial hands, for example, 15.2 hands (which equals 15 hands and 2 inches).
The Fascinating World of Miniature Horses”
Fact: Despite their small stature, Miniature Horses are not considered ponies. In fact, they carry the genetics of full-sized horses and maintain the proportions of their larger counterparts. Their height typically ranges between 34 to 38 inches, making them small enough to enter a house, which is why they are occasionally trained as guide animals, similar to guide dogs.
Unraveling the Mysteries of Wild Horse Habits
One might wonder how wild horses like Mustangs manage without regular hoof care. Unlike domestic horses, wild horses don’t need human intervention to maintain their hooves. Their natural lifestyle involves roaming over varied terrain for miles each day in search of food and water, which naturally trims and shapes their hooves.
Their diet primarily consists of grasses, but in harsher conditions, they are adept at finding other vegetation for sustenance. Studies have shown that wild horses can travel over 20 miles in a single day while foraging. This robust, active lifestyle contributes to their overall health and longevity.
Unveiling the Charm of Domestic Horses
Domestic horses display an impressive diversity in size, color, and temperament due to centuries of selective breeding. One standout trait of domestic horses is their ability to form strong bonds with humans.
Studies have shown that horses are able to read human emotions, respond to subtle changes in a human’s voice or posture, and even remember individuals who have treated them well. This emotional intelligence, coupled with their powerful physicality, has made domestic horses invaluable partners in work, sport, and companionship throughout human history.
Conclusion: Facts about Horses
Horses have been a part of human history for centuries. From the battlefield to relaxing trail rides, horses have played an important role in our lives. As we continue to learn more about these animals, we come to appreciate them even more. We hope you enjoyed learning about some of the most interesting horse facts.
Below is an interesting YouTube video that includes some unique horse facts, a few I’ve never heard before.
How long do horses live in the wild?
Horses in the wild live for about 15-16 years, which is less than the life expectancy of a domestic horse. The reason may be that wild horses don’t have access to stable nutrition or vet care.
Can horses laugh?
While horses can’t laugh in the human sense, they exhibit a behavior known as “flehmen,” often mistaken for a horse laugh. They curl their upper lip and inhale deeply, assessing scents. It’s part of their communication and sensory system, not an expression of amusement. So, in essence, horses don’t laugh as humans do.
Meet Miles Henry
An avid equestrian and seasoned racehorse owner, Miles Henry brings his extensive experience to the equine world, proudly associating with the AQHA, The Jockey Club, and various other equine organizations. Beyond the racetrack, Miles is an accomplished author, having published various books about horses, and is a recognized authority in the field, with his work cited in multiple publications.
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