Skip to Content

The 8 Smallest Horse Breeds In The World

Last updated: August 4, 2023

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

I was out driving with my grandson one day when we passed my friend’s place. He has a small farm where he raises miniature horses. My grandson asked me if they were the smallest horse breed in the world, and I told him I didn’t know, but I would find out.

A few different breeds of horses are considered to be the world’s smallest. The Falabella, Miniature Horse, and Shetland Pony are all relatively small horse breeds. However, the Falabella is generally recognized as the smallest horse breed of all.

Are you looking for information about the smallest horse breeds in the world? You’ve come to the right place. In this blog post, I discuss some of the most well-known small horse breeds, the world’s smallest horse, and much more.

Picture of a small horse


Picture of a falabella horse,
Running Falabella foal

The Falabella is the breed of horse recognized as the smallest in the world. The breed was created intentionally to produce a miniature equine; it did not originate as a naturally occurring breed.

The Falabella family of Argentina is responsible for the creation of the breed.

Miniature Argentinian horses have been crossed with various breeds, including Shetland ponies, Criollos, Arabs, and Thoroughbred horse breeds.

Although a significant amount of inbreeding was done, the progeny with the most miniature size was chosen to continue the lineages. They are considered a horse due to their conformation, personality, and demeanor, which are similar to that of a horse.

Numerous miniature ponies can carry large burdens, but Falabella cannot. Breeders have had to put in a lot of effort to fix genetic flaws that were caused by inbreeding and using young animals as breeding stock to advance the breed.

Falabellas have a height range of 24 to 28 inches (61 to 71 cm), which equates to 6.1 to 7 hands high. They could be tossed into your car’s trunk or back seat with no problem. The most common colors are bay and black, but others, such as pinto, palomino, and leopard spots, can occasionally be found. Bay and black are the most common colors.

The peaceful and even-tempered nature of Falabella horses makes them excellent candidates for keeping as pets. Most people interested in miniature horses keep them as pets and breed them as a pastime. The Falabellas can be purchased for a starting price of $1200.

The typical lifespan of a Falabella is between 40 and 45 years, making ownership a commitment for the rest of your life.

Shetland Pony

Picture of a shetland pony in a pasture.
Shetland Pony in a field

Shetland Ponies are from the Shetland Islands in the north of Scotland. Even though the climate on the islands is not very friendly, these little ponies have managed to stay alive. They changed to survive the cold and lack of food for most of the year.

The average height of Shetland ponies are 9 to 10 hands, or 36 to 40 inches (90 to 106 cm). They have short, thick legs, a thick, heavy mane and forelock, and a thick, heavy coat in cold climates. 

Shetland ponies are “easy keepers” and don’t need much food to stay fat. Owning a Shetland pony must ensure it doesn’t overeat rich grass and get fat. They don’t need it very often unless it’s a vitamin and mineral balancer.

It’s hard to believe how strong these little ponies are. They can carry grown men. One 36-inch-tall (91 cm) pony is said to have held a 168-pound (76 kg) man for 40 miles (64 km). A truly unique thing to do!

Because they were so strong, they were often used as pack animals to pull loads of coal in underground mines. Many bad things were done to these ponies, but thankfully, this awful practice stopped.

Most Shetland ponies are strong-willed and independent and can bite and kick quickly. Even though they are small, they are not usually suitable for kids because of how sometimes a good-natured Shetland pony is born, and these are worth their weight in gold.

Shetland ponies are often used as companion horses for large, high-strung, and excited horses. These miniature ponies are calming, and many top equine athletes take a Shetland pony with them when they travel.

The Yonaguni 

Picture of a Yonoguni, one of the worlds  smallest horse breeds.  It's native to Japan.
Yonaguni Horse

Originated on the island of Yonaguni in Okinawa. The breed was initially employed in agricultural tasks as well as transportation.

Today, it is frequently utilized for pedagogical purposes in nearby schools and for riding for recreational purposes. 

They were put to use mainly in agricultural settings. Still, They ultimately met the same demise as the Noma pony due to the mechanization of farming that industrialization brought about.

Because there are only around 80 farmed Yonaguni horses and only about 120 wild Yonaguni horses, the breed is considered endangered based on the findings of a count conducted in the year 2020.

The inhabitants of Yonaguni island, Japan, take great pride in their horses and view them as an essential part of the island’s natural history. These horses are revered because of their critical role in the past as pack animals, plowing, and transportation horses.

They are currently protected since it is thought that they played an essential role in the continuation of the island’s culture.

Miniature Horse

Picture of a miniature horse with its mother.
American Miniature Horse.

There are two distinct subcategories of miniature horses:

1st breed type: A tiny horse of the Arab breed that is exquisite in appearance and characterized by thin legs, delicate facial characteristics, and a short, smooth coat.

2nd breed type: The miniature horse is stocky, characterized by short legs with strong bones and a thick, blocky head. During the colder months, their coats grow longer and become even more densely furred.

Although there is a widespread misconception that miniature horses are a recent development, the breed has been around for over 400 years. The coal mines of Britain and Northern Europe are where the first examples of miniature horses are known to have appeared.

It is known that miniature horses are a challenging breed to nurture because their jaws are pretty small. They are prone to developing severe tooth problems, leading to abdominal pain. On the other hand, a miniature horse can enjoy a long life that is both healthy and happy if it is given the attention and cares it needs.

Fjord Horses

Picture of a fjord horse.
Fjord horse running in a paddock

Another kind of miniature horse, the Fjord horse, often called the Norwegian Fjord Horse, is renowned for its unique build and attractive appearance.

They are easily identifiable thanks to the distinctive marks on their brown coat. In addition, the mane of a Fjord horse stands unusually upright.

The Fjord horse was produced in Norway for agricultural uses at the beginning of its existence, and it spent its entire life surviving in harsh, mountainous surroundings.

They are still employed as farm animals in modern times, but due to their naturally smooth gait, they are also put to use pulling coaches for visitors. This is a secondary purpose for the breed.

Welsh Pony

Welsh pony

The Welsh ponies came from Wales. Sections A, B, C, and D are the names of the four different parts.

Section A: Welsh ponies belong to the group of horses that are the smallest in the world. Since 1600 BC, people have written about Welsh ponies.

They came from Celtic ponies crossed with Arabs, Thoroughbreds, and Hackney horses to improve the breed.

In 1901, the first stud book for Welsh ponies was made. At the start of the 20th century, most ponies were half-wild. They became tough, hardy ponies that could live in harsh conditions. Some horses were tamed and worked as pit ponies on farms and in mines.

Welsh Mountain Ponies are another name for Welsh Section A ponies. British rules say that the height of a Section A pony can’t be more than 50 inches (127 cm) or 12.2 hh. The American Welsh Association, on the other hand, says that Section A ponies can’t be taller than 48 inches (122 cm) or 12 hh.

Icelandic Horse

Picture of an Icelandic horse.
Icelandic horses feeding on the dune grass

This breed is recognized for strength, compactness, and robustness. Even though it is classified as a breed of more miniature horses, its height only satisfies the “small horse criterion” by a margin of three inches.

As working horses, Icelandic horses are frequently employed nowadays for herding sheep and other livestock and regulating and managing animal flocks.

The Icelandic is shorter in the leg than the ponies, although having a larger body than the ponies. These horses are frequently utilized in sheepherding for herd management and control. They can withstand adverse circumstances.

Haflinger Horse

Picture of a haflinger horse.
A haflinger horse in the Italian alps.

Haflinger horses, often called Avelignese, are mighty horses initially developed to serve as working animals in mountainous regions.

This horse breed is exceptionally hardy because it can make do with meager amounts of food and still thrive.

Additionally, it possesses robust lungs and a heart that enable it to endure the harsh conditions of the alpine air.

Haflingers are well-known for having a pleasant disposition and approachable nature. Because of this quality, they are great horses for families and make excellent small draft horses. The majority of a family’s members can ride comfortably on a Haflinger because of its size and strength.

How is a Small Horse Breed Classified?

A horse breed is considered small if its height from the ground to its wither is between 20 and 57 inches, which translates to 5-14.25 hands in horse measures. The wither is where a horse’s neck and saddle dip meet.

However, there are instances in which a horse of a tiny breed attains a height that exceeds the maximum breed standard for that breed. When this occurs, the horse is no longer classified as a “little breed” but a horse of the standard size. Don’t confuse a baby horse with a pony.

Which Is The Smallest Horse In The World?

Thumbelina was known as the Smallest Horse in the world. She was born on May 1, 2001, and died in 2018. Miniature horses are tiny because that’s how they are bred. Thumbelina is even smaller than the others.

This little mare, 17 inches (43 cm) tall and weighing 26 kilograms, has the Guinness World Record for being the littlest miniature horse still alive. Dwarfism is the medical term for the condition that makes her very short.

As with other species, her dwarfism makes her very small, even compared to others of her species. However, this comes with a cost. Dwarfism in horses often causes problems with their appearance, like legs that are shorter than usual, skulls that aren’t shaped right, and barrels that are wider than normal. This condition can create many chronic health problems.

What is considered a small horse?

According to the International Federation of Equestrian Sports, any equine measuring more than 14.2 hands (57 inches) is recognized as a horse. At the same time, those measuring less are categorized as ponies, small horses, or miniature horses.

The Falabella horse claims to be the smallest horse breed in the world, standing only 25-35 inches tall. However, miniature horses range in size from 24 to 34 inches. In addition, pony breeds, although not technically a horse, are also pretty small, 50 to 58 inches or 12.2 hands to 14.2 hands.

If you’re interested in learning about the largest horses in the world, I wrote an article about them you may find helpful.

Conclusion – Smallest Horse Breeds In The World

If you are an adult and want to ride one of these smaller horses, you should steer clear of riding tiny horses or Falabellas. Both of these breeds are not suitable for normal-sized riders. These miniature horses should never be ridden by anyone who weighs more than 50 pounds unless they are very young children.

Horse BreedHorse Height
Falabella25-34 inches
Shetland Ponies36 to 40 inches 
The Yonaguni 47 inches
Miniature Horse38 inches
Fjord Horse52.8 to 60 inches
Welsh Pony Section A50 inches
Icelandic Horse52-56 inches
Haflinger Horse56-57 inches

Falabellas are the tiniest of all horses, with some weighing as little as 40 pounds; such ponies should never have a rider on them should they injure the pony’s back. Shetland ponies and Yonaguni breeds are also suitable for children to ride, but the horse must be on the heavier side and in good physical condition for this to be possible.

Watch the YouTube video below if you want to learn more about the smallest horse breeds in the world.

YouTube video


Is Einstein the smallest horse in the world?

Einstein set a new record for being the planet’s most diminutive newborn equine, with an astonishingly low birthweight of just over 6 pounds and standing 14 inches tall. He was born on April 22nd, 2010.

What is the biggest breed of horse?

The biggest breed of horse is the Shire. They can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and stand as tall as 17 hands high. They are draft horses and were originally bred for farm work. However, they are now often used for show horses or parade horses.