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Will Horses Eat Meat? Hooves and Carnivory

Last updated: June 21, 2023

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

Many assume that horses solely graze on grass and hay, but some unexpected information about their dietary habits challenges this belief. The idea that “horses eat meat” might seem surprising, but there’s more to their nutrition than initially meets the eye.

Although horses are primarily herbivores, there have been instances where they’ve consumed meat. However, these occurrences are generally rare and often due to unusual circumstances, such as scarcity of food resources. As a rule, horses do not naturally seek out meat as part of their diet, and it is not a recommended source of nutrition for them.

Curious to know more about these extraordinary cases and the factors that drive horses to consume meat? Keep reading as we unravel the mystery behind these rare events and dive into the world of equine nutrition, discussing the potential implications of such an unusual diet on our beloved hoofed friends.

The Natural Diet of Horses

Picture of my horse grazing.
Horse grazing

Horses, by nature, are herbivorous creatures that thrive on a diet consisting mainly of plants. Their daily routine often involves hours of grazing on grasses, hay, and various other types of vegetation. Horses are also known to nibble on leaves, twigs, and even the occasional fruit, showcasing the diverse range of plant-based foods that make up their diet.

To efficiently break down and extract nutrients from these fibrous plant materials, horses have evolved a specialized digestive system. Their unique process, known as hindgut fermentation, allows them to digest and utilize the energy from fibrous plants effectively.

To maintain optimal gut health, horses need to graze continuously throughout the day, providing their digestive system with a steady flow of roughage to keep things running smoothly.

Instances of Horses Consuming Meat

Throughout history, there have been a few recorded instances and anecdotes of horses eating meat. These cases, although rare, have sparked curiosity and raised questions about the extent of their herbivorous nature. Some stories even tell of warhorses being fed meat in times of conflict to sustain them through harsh conditions.

In most instances, meat consumption by horses can be attributed to unusual circumstances. Scarcity of food resources, especially during extreme weather conditions or in remote locations, might lead horses to eat meat out of desperation. Additionally, horses may consume meat out of curiosity or through accidental ingestion while foraging for other food sources.

Scientific studies and research on meat consumption in horses remain limited. However, the few studies that do exist have contributed to our understanding of how and why horses might consume meat. These studies have helped shed light on the potential nutritional and health implications of such an uncommon dietary choice for these magnificent animals.

Picture of a horses eating watermelon.
Horses eating watermelon

Health and Ethical Implications of Feeding Meat to Horses

Feeding meat to horses poses several potential health risks. Since their digestive system is specifically adapted for processing plant materials, introducing meat into their diet can cause complications such as colic, indigestion, or even more severe issues. Furthermore, an improper diet that includes meat can lead to nutritional imbalances, putting the horse’s overall health and well-being at risk.

Beyond the health risks, there are ethical concerns to consider when it comes to feeding meat to horses. Animal welfare advocates argue that introducing meat into a horse’s diet is unnatural and may cause undue stress or harm to the animal.

Additionally, the equine industry is responsible for promoting and maintaining best practices when it comes to horse care and feeding. Introducing meat as a food source not only goes against the natural diet of horses but also raises questions about the ethics of such a practice within the industry.

Expert Opinions and Recommendations

Veterinarians and equine nutritionists are generally in agreement that horses should not be fed meat. Their expertise highlights the potential health risks and complications that can arise from deviating from a horse’s natural, plant-based diet. Experts emphasize the importance of adhering to species-appropriate feeding practices to ensure the well-being of our equine companions.

A balanced, species-appropriate diet is crucial for maintaining a horse’s health and performance. This means providing them with the necessary nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and proteins, from plant-based sources. Proper nutrition helps prevent diseases, supports growth, and ensures overall vitality for horses at every stage of their lives.

For those concerned about providing adequate protein for their horses, there are plenty of plant-based alternatives to meat. High-quality hay, alfalfa, soybean meal, and various commercial horse feeds are all suitable sources of protein that can be safely incorporated into a horse’s diet. These options not only meet their nutritional needs but also align with their natural eating habits, promoting optimal health and well-being.

Picture of a horse and dog checking out some food.  Will horses eat meat?

Conclusion: Will Horses Eat Meat?

In conclusion, while there have been rare instances of horses consuming meat, it is not a natural or recommended part of their diet. Horses are primarily herbivores, with digestive systems specifically adapted for processing plant materials.

Feeding them meat can lead to health risks and ethical concerns. Veterinarians and equine nutritionists advise maintaining a balanced, species-appropriate diet for horses to ensure their overall health and well-being.

By providing our equine companions with the proper plant-based nutrition they need, we can promote their longevity and happiness, and in turn, continue to enjoy the special bond we share with these majestic animals.


Do horses in the wild eat meat?

Wild horses are primarily herbivores and mostly graze on grasses and other plant materials, there have been rare instances of horses consuming meat. These occurrences are usually due to unusual circumstances, such as food scarcity or curiosity.

Why can’t humans eat horse meat?

Humans can and do eat horse meat in some cultures and countries. However, horse meat consumption is not widespread due to cultural, social, and ethical reasons. In many places, horses are considered companion animals or working animals, leading to a reluctance to view them as a food source.

Why would a horse eat a chicken?

If a horse were to eat a chicken, it could be due to a bizarre twist of fate, like extreme hunger, a moment of inexplicable curiosity, or a clumsy peck that went awry. However, these horse-chicken interactions are as rare as hen’s teeth, so it’s safe to say that our equine friends generally stick to their greens!