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Are Horses Considered Pets or Livestock? There is an answer.

Last updated: November 19, 2022

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

The debate over whether or not horses are considered pets has been raging for years. On one side, there are those who say that horses are farm animals and should be treated as such. On the other side, there are those who believe horses are like any other domesticated animal and can be kept as pets. So what’s the answer?

Horses are not pets. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (H.R.) defines “pets,” and it expressly excludes horses. This is good news, as it qualifies horses for disease protection funding. However, some people will always consider their horse a pet, regardless of the legal definition.

Almost everyone has a pet of some kind, and for the most part, people consider them members of the family. But are horses pets? There is no right or wrong answer to this question, but we’ll look at both sides of the argument and see what conclusion we can reach.

Picture of a dog and horse, are these pets.

Are horses pets or livestock?

Although horses are often thought of as pets, they are technically considered to be livestock. This classification is due to the fact that horses have been domesticated and used for labor and transportation for centuries.

Today, horses are still used for many practical purposes, such as law enforcement, therapy, and farming. However, the majority of horses in the United States are kept as companions or for recreational activities such as riding and racing.

Whether horses are considered pets or livestock is largely a matter of opinion. Some people believe that horses should be classified as pets because they can form strong bonds with humans and provide companionship.

Others argue that horses should be considered livestock because they serve a useful purpose and have a long history of being domesticated animals. Ultimately, the decision of whether to classify horses as pets or livestock is up to the individual.

Wikipedia defines livestock: as “domestic animals raised for home use or profit, such as cattle, horses, sheep, hogs, or goats.”

Picture of yearlings in a field.

How do you tell the difference between a pet and livestock?

Animals caught and domesticated for use in human agriculture are referred to as livestock animals. They are utilized in agriculture to plow the soil and provide various products such as meat, dairy, wool, and leather. 

Pets, on the other hand, are animals that are kept purely for the sake of companionship, and they form emotional bonds with both their owners and any other members of the household with whom they share their space.

PetsLivestock animals
They are kept to serve as companions for a family.Obtained for both economic and recreational use.
Dogs, cats, snakes, lizards, and other reptiles are just a few examples.Animals like horses, cows, chickens, and goats are all good examples.
Stay at home with the family.They live in a pasture and require land.

What does the ASPCA say regarding horses as pets?

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals classifies as “companion animals” a wide variety of domesticated animals, including but not limited to dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, ferrets, birds, guinea pigs, and even a few other species of small mammals, reptiles, and fish.

However, just because this organization has designated the horse as a potential companion animal doesn’t guarantee that the animal may be legally deemed a pet.

Horses are classified as livestock, as stated by the American Horse Council and numerous other government bodies, associations, and interest groups. The American Horse Council believes that keeping the horse’s position as livestock supports the following:

  • Beneficial tax laws accord the same favorable treatment to commercial horse breeders and owners as farmers.
  • Humane laws ensure that animals are treated in a kind and compassionate manner while allowing for their usage.
  • Continued funding from the state and the federal government for research into equine diseases and the Horse Protection Act.

Although no hard and fast regulation states you can’t treat your horse like a pet, it’s crucial to remember that horses in the United States are considered to be livestock.

The following government agencies in the United States assert that horses are not pets:

  • American Horse Council
  • American Association of Equine Practitioners
  • The Missouri Horse Council
  • American Veterinary Medical Association
  • National Animal Identification Act
  • Many more
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What’s in the 2018 FARM BILL?

On December 12, 2018, both chambers of Congress voted to pass the Farm Bill, also known as the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.

According to a legislative update provided by the American Horse Council, some of the most significant changes for the horse industry include a new definition of “pets” that does not include horses and funding for essential livestock and international market development programs that will continue through Fiscal Year (FY) 2023. 

Both of these changes are expected to take effect shortly. This means that a law that the government made has been changed.

The bill is primarily about conservation, nutrition, and commodities, but most of the provisions for livestock industries are in the “Miscellaneous” title. In this section, horses were finally put into the category of livestock.

Most states think of horses as animals. But the fact that this is now a federal law is good news for the horse industry.

Being considered livestock is actually a good thing for horses

Since horses are officially considered to be livestock, the government has made significant contributions to the study and development of various vaccines and treatments for various diseases. Most of this study would be rendered useless if horses were “downgraded” from their current status as livestock to that of companion animals or pets.

There is also the matter of equine husbandry and the rules that govern the humane treatment of animals, which might no longer apply if the horse suddenly becomes a simple pet. 

The current legislation regarding livestock includes provisions for punishing the inhumane treatment of animals, which, if you ask me, is a highly welcome development. These magnificent creatures are subjected to inhumane treatment in some regions of the world, partly because there are no laws to protect them.

In light of those mentioned above, the fact that the government considers your horse to be livestock should not cause you any concern. In this way, at least some regulations protect its well-being, and research is being done to ensure that it will continue to enjoy good health.

Picture of a bay horse on a walker.

Horses as pets?

The idea of horses as pets may seem far-fetched, but it’s not entirely impossible. In recent years, there has been a growing trend of people keeping horses as companions. In the United States, horse ownership has increased steadily since 2007. And while most of these horses are still used for riding or competition, an increasing number are being kept as pets.

There are a number of reasons why people might choose to keep a horse as a pet. For many, the appeal lies in the horse’s unique combination of strength and fragility. Horses are powerful animals, but they’re also sensitive and deeply emotional.

They form strong bonds with their owners and can provide years of companionship. Additionally, horses require a great deal of care and attention. This can be challenging for some people, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. Caring for a horse can teach responsibility, patience, and empathy.

Of course, there are also some drawbacks to keeping horses as pets. They’re expensive to buy and maintain and require a significant amount of space. Additionally, horses can be dangerous if they’re not properly trained or cared for.

But for those who are willing and able to take on the challenge, owning a horse can be an immensely rewarding experience.

Do horses like it when you pet them?

It’s a common question asked by horse owners and animal lovers alike: do horses like being petted? The answer, of course, is that it depends on the horse. Some horses seem to genuinely enjoy the attention, while others may prefer to be left alone.

However, a few general characteristics can help gauge a horse’s level of comfort with being petted. For example, horses will often turn their heads toward you when they want you to pet them.

And they let you know when they’ve had enough by pulling away from your hands. However, if they enjoy the attention, horses will often lower their heads and necks, which indicates they’re relaxed and comfortable.

They may also close their eyes or “half-close” them, a sign that they’re enjoying the physical contact. Of course, every horse is different, so it’s always best to ask before reaching out to pet one.

The Economic Power of Horses as livestock

Even though these beautiful animals have an economic impact of $112.1 billion, creating 1,404,400 full-time equivalent jobs and paying $1.9 billion in taxes at all levels of government, their owners still enjoy having them as pets. Many might say that the horses’ work makes them care more about them.

Picture of a herd of female horses.

Benefits of owning a horse as livestock

Plowing with horses is an environmentally responsible way to get work done.

My son-in-law uses his quarter horse to till his ground for a small garden twice a year. And a few farms refuse to use tractors or large vehicles for agricultural purposes because they want to avoid making a negative impact on the environment.

Horses don’t require fossil fuels as large farm equipment does. Most horses get by on a little bit of grain, fresh hay, and grass as their fuel source.

It’s no surprise that horses excel in log pulling.

Logging is an ancient and time-honored practice. For centuries, loggers have used the power of horses to pull heavy loads through rough terrain. The most popular horses used for this task are large draft breeds.

These horses were bred to pull heavy loads and are the tallest, heaviest, and strongest of all the horses in the world. For example, a Belgian horse typically weighs over 2,000 pounds and can pull up to 8,000 pounds.

Horses are great farmhands.

Even though tractors and trucks have taken the place of some heavier workhorses, nothing can take the place of a reliable ranch horse. A horse utilized on a ranch for herding cattle, riding the fence lines, and carrying out various other essential tasks is known as a ranch horse.

The most popular ranch horse breed is the American Quarter horse. However, it’s not unusual to see other types of horses as well, including Arabians, Standardbreds, and Thoroughbreds.

Wrapping Up

Horses have been domesticated for centuries and used as working animals on farms across the world. While they are often considered pets in some countries, they are more commonly considered livestock in the United States.

The 2018 FARM BILL made a few changes that could lead to horses being more widely considered pets, but there are still many factors to consider before this happens. 

If you’re wondering how horses work on farms, watch the Youtube video below.

YouTube video



Monday 13th of November 2023

Thanks for the kind words.