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13 Fastest Horse Breeds in the World & the Races They Run

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I was excited to watch the races at the New Orleans Fairgrounds because it’s a day that Thoroughbreds and Quarter horses race, though not against each other. While watching these powerful animals compete, I wondered which breeds were the fastest. So, I decided to find out how different horse breeds compare speed-wise.

The world’s fastest horse breeds are Quarterhorse, Thoroughbred, Arabian, American Paint horse, Akhal Teke, Appaloosa, and Standardbred. The fastest horses at a short distance are Quarter horses, but Thoroughbreds are faster running longer distances.

Horses race a wide range of distances, obstacles, and surfaces, and because of this, different breeds excel in various types of races. But the length of the race typically determines which horse breed does the best.

Picture of racehorses.

This article is part of my series focused on horse breeds-I started by writing an introductory piece: Horse Breeds: The Ultimate Guide. The “Guide” is a comprehensive overview of different breeds and types of horses.

While there are many different breeds of horses that excel in a variety of different areas, some horses stand out as being truly fast. Some of the fastest horse breeds include Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, and Arabians.

These breeds are known for having long strides, strong muscles, and tireless energy. Additionally, they have been selectively bred over generations to be as fast and agile as possible.

Thanks to their speed and athleticism, these horse breeds have been used for everything from racing to traveling over great distances. Whether you are looking for a horse to compete in races or simply want one that can cover a lot of ground quickly, these breeds are sure to meet your needs.

1. American Quarter horse

American Quarterhorses are a popular horse breed known for their fast and agile nature. These horses have deep roots in American history, having been first bred in the early 18th century by settlers on the western frontier.

Since then, they have stood out for their distinct conformation, with strong bodies and stocky builds that make them fast, powerful, and well-suited for long rides across open terrain.

Picture of a quarter horse.

Today, American Quarterhorses continue to be extremely popular all over the world, prized for their athleticism as well as their gentle temperament. Quarter horses own the record for the fastest horse at any distance. How fast can these horses run, they’ve been clocked running 55mph, and this is faster than any other breed.

Quarter horse racing originated in colonial America over 200 years ago. The horses were identified for the distance they typically raced, a quarter of a mile. The Colonial quarter horse owners bred their animals for speed, first and foremost.

Sanctioned Quarter horse racing started soon after the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) was formed. Quarterhorses race 11 distances, from 220 yards to 870 yards. The most illustrious quarterhorse race is The All-American Futurity, which has a purse of 3 million dollars.

Quarterhorses in barrel racing

Quarterhorses are one of the most popular breeds of horses used in barrel racing. This is because they are fast and agile, able to change directions quickly. Quarterhorses are also powerful, meaning they can explode from a stop and maintain a high speed for the duration of the race.

Barrel racing is a timed event, so the horse that completes the course in the shortest time is the winner. There are three barrels set up in a triangle formation, and the horse must go around each barrel before crossing the finish line.

Quarterhorses are well-suited to this task, as they have the speed and agility to navigate tight turns. In addition, their powerful muscles allow them to maintain a fast pace throughout the race. For these reasons, Quarterhorses are one of the most popular horse breeds used in barrel racing.

In addition to Quarterhorses, other popular breeds used in barrel racing include paints, appaloosas, and mustangs. Barrel racing is a fast-paced sport that requires both speed and accuracy, and the right horse can make all the difference.

Quarterhorses are a versatile athletic horse breed that competes in many equine activities. To learn more about the Quarterhorse breed, visit the American Quarterhorse Association website here.

2. Thoroughbreds

Thoroughbred horses are some of the fastest and most versatile horses in the world. These horses are prized for their speed, agility, and endurance, and they have been used for racing, polo, and other mounted sports for centuries.

Picture of a thoroughbred stallion.

Thoroughbreds were developed in England in the late 17th century. The founding sire of the breed was an Arabian stallion named Byerly Turk, and other Arabian and Barb Horses were later used to create the Thoroughbred bloodline.

Today, Thoroughbreds are bred all over the world and are used for a variety of purposes. They continue to excel in racing and other athletic endeavors, but they also make excellent riding and show horses.

Regardless of their purpose, Thoroughbreds are fast, powerful horses that are beloved by riders and spectators alike. Thoroughbreds dominate the horse racing industry and are the fastest horse breed in the world in races over 6 furlongs.

The British Isles were introduced to horse racing by the Romans during their quest to dominate the world. The sport floundered until three sires of Arabian blood were crossed with local mares and produced the Thoroughbred horse breed.

Every racing thoroughbred can trace its bloodlines to one of these three sires: the Byerly Turk, the Darley Arabian, and the Godolphin Barb. Thoroughbreds typically run in races close to a mile long and have to pace themselves over the course.

They have long legs with lean muscular bodies built for distance running, similar to Arabians. The Triple Crown is one of the most famous horse races in the world race and can only be entered by three-year-old Thoroughbreds.

Thoroughbreds world record

The Guinness Book of Records considers Winning Brew as the fastest Thoroughbred, and her speed is listed at 43.97 mph. She was just two years old when she set the record in 2008 at Penn National Race Course.

The average rate of the Kentucky Derby winner is about 37 mph. Secretariat’s speed in the Derby was 38 mph.

3. Arabian horses

Originally nomadic tribes selectively bred the Arabian horse for warfare in the Arabian peninsula. The horses had to be hardy enough to survive desert conditions and have the speed to outrun their foe.

European breeders cross-bred Arabian stallions with their local mares to increase the breeds’ speed and endurance. One breed that resulted from the crossbreeding is the Thoroughbred.

Picture of an Arabian horse.

Arabian horses are considered to be one of the fastest horse breeds. They have extreme endurance and can travel long distances at a fast pace. The average Arabian horse can gallop at speeds of 35 miles per hour.

Arabians are also sure-footed and agile, which makes them well-suited for activities such as trail riding and polo. Arabian horses have been used in warfare since ancient times, and their speed and agility made them prized mounts for cavalry units.

Today, Arabians continue to be popular sports horses, and their speed and stamina make them a force to be reckoned with on the race track.

Arabians excel in endurance racing.

Arabian horses are prized for their speed, stamina, and athletic ability, making them well-suited for endurance racing. Arabian horses are one of the oldest horse breeds in the world, and they have been used in war and racing for centuries.

Today, Arabian horses compete in endurance races all over the world. In an endurance race, horses must cover a long distance over rough terrain within a certain time limit. Arabian horses are particularly fast and have strong hearts and lungs, which allow them to maintain a fast pace over long distances.

One-day endurance horse races vary in distance from 50 to 100 miles and have strict fitness compliance regulations. Competitions over 100 miles are typically multiday races.

Horses have checkpoints throughout the race to monitor the horse’s fitness. Only horses the examing vet determines are physically fit can continue the race; unsound horses are withdrawn.

Arabian horses are sure-footed and can navigate tough terrain without slipping or falling. Because of these qualities, Arabians are often considered the best breed for endurance racing.

Below is a YouTube video of an Arabian competing in an endurance race.

Long-term physical exertion can result in permanent muscle damage. Click here to read a study on the effects of prolonged exercise on horses that compete in endurance races.

The Tevis Cup is considered a top endurance race. The course covers a 100-mile lasts 24 hours, and goes through the rugged Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. Arabians are the most common horse breed in the race. To learn more about endurance racing, visit the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) website.

To learn more about Arabian flat track racing, you can visit the website of the Arabian Jockey Club. They have information for locations and dates on upcoming races at U.S. tracks.

4. American Paint horses

The American Paint Horse is a fast horse breed that is known for its beautiful coat colors. The breed was developed in the United States and is one of the most popular horse breeds in the world.

The Paint horse breed originated from Spanish Conquistadors horses brought to the U.S. in the 1500s.

American Paint Horses are known for their athleticism, intelligence, and willingness to please. They are often used in a variety of disciplines, including dressage, eventing, show jumping, and racing.

American Paint Horses are also popular as trail horses and pleasure horses. The breed has a wide variety of coat colors, including black, white, brown, bay, chestnut, grey, dun, roan, and pinto.

American Paint horses have a lot of quarter horse breeding in their pedigree and display them in their racing ability. Paints combine the conformation traits of a quarter horse and the coat pattern of a pinto.

Sanctioned Paint horse races are held at racetracks across the United States. To learn more about Paint horse racing in the United States, visit the American Paint Horse Association website.

5. Appaloosa

The Appaloosa horse is a fast horse breed that was developed in the United States. The breed was named after the Palouse River, which runs through eastern Washington and Idaho.

Picture of an Appaloosa running.

The Appaloosa is most known for its unique coat pattern, which can include spots, mottling, or roaning. The breed is also known for its hardy constitution and athleticism. Appaloosas are often used in rodeos and as working ranch horses.

They are also popular as show horses and pleasure horses. Many people enjoy the Appaloosa’s unique appearance and pleasant disposition. Appaloosa horses race mainly in the Western U.S.

Appaloosas are compact horses with unique white patterned coats. Appaloosa horses, like Paint horses, have quarterhorse blood in their pedigree.

Appaloosa racing is held at tracks, mainly in the western United States. They are run in conjunction with Paint horse races. Visit the Appaloosa Horse Club website to learn more about Appaloosa horse racing.

6. Akhal Teke

An Akhal Teke horse is a fast, highly prized breed of horse that is known for its unique appearance, athleticism, and strong work ethic.


These horses are generally slender in build, with long, arched necks and powerful legs. They are fast and agile on the race track, as well as extremely durable and hardy under harsh conditions.

They have a build similar to Thoroughbreds’ but smaller; they average only 15.1 hands tall. Some people consider the Akhal-Teke to be the original racehorse.

Additionally, they are known to be intelligent and good-tempered animals who display a great deal of loyalty to their herd mates and trainers. Akhal Teke horses are the earliest racehorses; they are an ancient breed that is fast and has endurance.

It is best known for the metallic sheen of its coat. Overall, with its impressive speed and stamina, graceful beauty, and excellent temperament, the Akhal Teke horse has earned its place among the most beloved breeds of horses around the world.

Their origin traces back to Turkmenistan, where they were used as battle horses and racing more than 3,000 years ago. To learn more about this fantastic horse, visit the Akhal Teke Association of Americas’ website here.

7. Standardbred

Standardbred horses are some of the fasted horse breeds in the world. They are most commonly used for harness racing but can also be used for pleasure riding and light work.

Standardbreds are descendants of English Thoroughbreds and Canadian pacers and were developed in the United States in the late 1800s. This horse breed is known for its speed, endurance, and agility.

Standardbred horses have strong musculature and are relatively compact compared to other horse breeds. They typically stand between 15 and 16 hands high and come in a variety of colors, including bay, black, brown, chestnut, and gray.

Standardbreds are versatile and people-oriented animals. They are often used for trail riding and other equestrian events. While they are generally considered to be calm and even-tempered, Standardbreds can also be high-spirited and willful if not properly trained. Still, with proper care and training, they make excellent equine partners.

8. Irish Sport Horse

The Irish sport horse is a breed of horse resulting from crossing Irish draught horses with thoroughbreds.

They are some of the fastest horses in the world. They’re bred for speed and agility and used in various disciplines, including racing, show jumping, and eventing.

irishsport edited scaled

Irish sport horses are also known for their good temperaments and willingness to work, which makes them popular partners for riders of all levels. If you’re looking for a horse that can give you an adrenaline-filled ride, an Irish sport horse is definitely the right choice.

The Irish sport horse is a relatively new breed, but it has quickly become one of the most popular breeds in the world. Thanks to their versatility and trainability, Irish sport horses can excel in any discipline.

9. Selle Francais

The Selle Français is a popular breed of horse for show jumping, dressage, and eventing. The breed is known for its athleticism, versatility, and beauty.

They are also noted for their speed and agility, making them one of the fastest horse breeds in the world.

Picture of a Selle Francais horse running in a pasture.

Selle Français horses are often chestnut in color, with white markings on the face and legs. They are muscular and powerful yet graceful and elegant. Selle Français horses excel in many different disciplines due to their exceptional athleticism and intelligence.

They are often used in show jumping competitions due to their ability to clear large fences with ease. Selle Français horses are also successful in dressage, thanks to their gracefulness and responsiveness to training.

And finally, Selle Français horses are often used in eventing due to their bravery and sure-footedness. No matter what discipline they compete in, Selle Français horses always give their best.

Interesting Fact: A Selle Francais horse once sold for 15 million dollars, making it one of the most expensive horses ever sold.

10. Hanoverian

Hanoverians are incredible athletes, and they’re frequently seen in the Olympics.

They’re a Warmblood horse breed that originated in Germany and are known for their agility, speed, and endurance.

Picture of a Hanoverian horse

Hanoverians are also incredibly intelligent and quickly learn new tricks and commands. As a result, Hanoverians are popular horses for showjumping, dressage, and eventing. If you’re looking for a horse that can compete at the highest levels of competition, then a Hanoverian is a perfect choice.

11. Oldenburg Horse

The Oldenburg is a type of warmblood horse that originates from the northwestern corner of Lower Saxony. The Oldenburg is known for its versatility, athleticism, and intelligence.

Picture of an Oldenburg horse.
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The Oldenburg was originally bred as a workhorse, but today they are commonly used in dressage, eventing, and show jumping. The Oldenburg is also a popular choice for pleasure riding and trail riding.

Oldenburg horses are usually bay, black, or chestnut in color. They are typically between 16 and 17, hands high, and have compact, muscular bodies.

Oldenburg horses are known for their elegant movements and powerful jump. If you’re looking for a fast, athletic horse that can do it all, the Oldenburg is the breed for you.

12. Dutch Warmblood

The Dutch Warmblood is a type of horse that is bred for competitive dressage and show jumping. They are fast, athletic, elegant, and versatile.

Dutch Warmbloods are often used in dressage competitions due to their willingness to work and their ability to perform complex movements with grace.

Picture of a Dutch Warmblood horse

In show jumping, Dutch Warmbloods are prized for their jumping ability, power, and stamina. Dutch Warmbloods are also popular as pleasure horses due to their calm dispositions and easygoing nature.

Whether you’re looking for a horse to compete with or simply to enjoy spending time with, the Dutch Warmblood is an excellent choice.

13. Barb Horse

The Barb horse is an ancient North African breed that is known for its hot temperament and positive influence on other breeds.

The Barb is a hardy breed that can survive in harsh conditions and is believed to be the ancestor of many modern Arabian and Barb horses.

Picture of a barb horse.

The Barb has a reputation for being spirited and high-strung, but it is also known for being intelligent and curious. They are prized for their speed, endurance, and agility, and it was used to raid coastal towns.

Barb horses are often used in racing, dressage, and show jumping, and they are prized for their athleticism and agility. The Barb horse is a unique breed with a long history, and it continues to play an important role in the equestrian world.

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Zebra Racing is held in New Orleans.

I took my granddaughter to the exotic animal races at the New Orleans Fairgrounds. We had a great day and got to see camels, zebras, and ostriches compete. None of the zebras crossed the finish line with a jockey on board.

Zebras are relatively fast, distinctive-looking animals that can be found in the wild throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Despite their appearance, zebras are actually members of the horse family, sharing DNA and evolutionary history with horses, donkeys, and other equine breeds.

Zebras with sleek bodies that allow them to move quickly through their natural grassland habitats. They rely on their speed in order to evade predators such as lions and hyenas, who hunt zebra herds both for food and sport.

In addition to their fast speeds, zebras are also known for their striking black-and-white striped coats, which provide camouflage and make it difficult for predators or prey to distinguish individual members of a herd.

Today, there are several different types of zebra species living in the wild, each sporting its own unique pattern of stripes and markings. Whether you’re admiring them from afar or up close, zebras are sure to capture your attention with their graceful movements and bold personalities.

Picture of a young thoroughbred horse in training.


The history of horse racing traces back to the domestication of horses; however, formalized horse racing originated with the ancient Greek chariot races. The exciting competition gained popularity and evolved into various horse racing contests. Horse breeds with distinct skill sets are used in multiple types of races.

It’s difficult to determine the fastest horse breed without context. A better question would be, what is the fastest horse breed in a quarter-mile race, one-mile race, or 100-mile race? The style of racing, the distances, and the type of events vary by breed.

Below is a YouTube video about the ten fastest horse breeds in the world.