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Are Horses and Dogs Related? Plus Other Fun Facts

Last updated: November 13, 2022

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

My grandson and I were working with his dog when he pointed out how we use similar training methods on horses. This was the first time it hit me that maybe dogs aren’t so different from horses – and I began to wonder if they’re related.

Horses and dogs are related, but you have to look far back in their family tree to find a common relative. The earliest connection I found is in the grandorder of placental mammals called Ferungulata, a subset of Boreoeutheria 55-60 million years ago. 

When it comes to pets, few can beat the companionship of a horse or a dog. Both are intelligent, curious, athletic animals who love spending time with their owners.

These animals have developed a close relationship with human beings throughout the years. They have garnered our trust and friendship. However, are they that different? Which one is better?

picture of a horse and dog

The question may seem absurd. After all, how can anyone think that the two are in any way related?

The sheer size difference should be enough to show that they’re unrelated. However, that’s not the case. There are much deeper similarities between dogs and horses that lots of people don’t know about.

Dogs are more closely related to their canine ancestors, such as wolves and foxes. And due to their pronounced differences, it’s not easy for researchers to estimate who their common ancestor was. However, it is generally accepted that they did share a common ancestor with horses about 70 to 79 million years ago.

And this is the reason why horses and dogs are so much alike. They both seem to be incredibly fond of humans. They’re both strong and athletic animals. And they can both be trained in the same way. That’s why there is so much speculation on whether they are related or not. 

Differences Between Dogs and Horses:

The first and most obvious difference is that horses are prey animals while dogs tend to be predators. Both can be reliable friends and companions. But horses tend to be working partners and have been tamed to carry out essential tasks for their humans. 

In addition, horses are much easier spooked than dogs are, making it harder to form a trust-based bond initially. A relationship with a horse can be much more complicated and harder to build than with a dog, who loves its owners unconditionally.

Another major difference is the tendency for horses to herd together. They tend to form a pack where one horse might be assigned a leader. Some dogs do travel and hunt in packs; however, they can thrive as lone animals.

Horses and dogs have different nutritional needs. Horses are herbivores that eat a lot of roughage to stay healthy. They graze on grass, hay, and other plants throughout the day. On the other hand, dogs are omnivores consuming meat and plant-based foods.

Horse vs. Dog Intelligence – Which Is Smarter?

Animal behaviorists agree that the major difference between horse and dog intelligence is due to the prey vs. predator instinct. Both have the capability to learn quickly, but is one smarter than the other?

It’s hard to determine whether a dog or horse is more intelligent because they have different natures. Both dogs and horses are smart in their respective ways. However, I believe that horses are smarter than dogs.

Horses evolved and developed instincts needed to avoid predators, and they employ several skills, such as herding together and communicating danger. These characteristics lead to greater emotional and social intelligence and can help them recognize their owners’ emotional state. 

However, dogs have predatory instincts, which require a certain level of intelligence to be able to track and hunt for their food. Both horses and dogs can learn tricks and remember complex skills.

However, horses can understand the slightest cues and commands of riders thanks to their centuries-old interaction with humans. Also, horses are smarter when it comes to their visual-spatial ability.

They can judge both depth as well as distance. Nevertheless, dogs make up for their lack of visual intelligence by having an extraordinary sense of smell. 

Who is Faster: a dog or a horse?

While both animals are quite swift, a horse is much faster than a dog. Horses can average up to 6 m/s, whereas dogs can only put in 4 m/s. It is due to their long legs and body as well as more spacious lungs. Hence, they can cover more ground than a dog without getting tired. 

There may be some super-fast race dogs that might be able to outrun mediocre horses. However, an average racing horse can easily top 45-55 mph, while a greyhound, one of the fastest dog breeds globally, can reach a maximum of 45 mph.

In addition, dogs have shorter legs, making it harder for them to maintain their speed at top speed, resulting in low stamina. Thanks to their long legs and larger lung capacity, Horses can maintain their top speed for more than 20 seconds and easily run fast for over a mile. 

Do Horses and Dogs Get Along?

Both horses and dogs like to have companions and tend to get along with each other quite well. However, it all depends on the personalities of the horse and the dog in question. Horses might be nervous at first due to the dog’s predatory nature.

At the same time, your dog might be intimidated by the horse’s large size. In this case, they might even resort to attacking their equine companions. It’s important to research your dog breed and horses before getting one. Some breeds are better around horses than others.

When you get a new dog, it’s a good idea to keep your dog on a leash while making the first introduction. Otherwise, the horse might get spooked and run away. Once they both seem comfortable in each other’s company, remove the leash and let them grow accustomed to the other’s smell. Reward them both and keep up the practice daily. 

I had a few different breeds of dogs that I kept around my horses, and all of them did fine. My favorite is the Jack Russel Terrier because they’re smart, hyperactive, and easy to train; with only a little research and checking with horse owners, you can find out what kind would work best for your needs.

Picture of horses and dogs,
Picture of horses and dog

Can You Train a Horse Like a Dog?

Training a horse is much more difficult than training a dog. While both can be fun and create a bond with the owner, horse training can be quite risky and result in injuries for both the owner and the animal. If you’re a beginner, hire a professional horse trainer to work with you and your horse. 

Apart from that, horses are more easily spooked than dogs and tend to be vulnerable. Their response to any difficult situation is to either fight or fight. Dogs being predators, are much more eager to learn and tend to understand and analyze the situation before proceeding. 


All in all, horses and dogs can be a source of love and joy for their owners. While they tend to be very different instinctively and genetically, they are both highly intelligent animals in their ways. Once taught how to get along with one another, they can make a friendly pairing for any owner.

Are horses loyal like dogs?

Horses are one of the most loyal animals out there, and they will always remember you for your kindness. However, if they’ve been treated badly in the past, this will also be remembered.