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Horse Facts

Horses can perform several helpful tasks and skills around the farm that make our life easier. Horses help to plow fields, pull heavy carts, and even help steer large herds of cattle.

Horses can help carry people from place to place and help us navigate tough or tricky terrain. Plus, horses give us entertainment, from performing in equestrian shows to racing.

While we may see horses every day either in our travels or on television, how much do we really know about horses? Below, let’s take a closer look at this big, beautiful animal, so we can better understand this amazing creature.

Horse Facts for Kids

  • Horses can sleep standing up or lying down
  • They have excellent eyesight, hearing, and balance
  • They have a life span of 25 – 30 years
  • Horses have 205 bones
  • Many police forces around the world use horses
  • Horses can’t burp
Anatomy of a Horse

Types of Horses

Just as there are different breeds of cats and dogs, there are also several breeds of horses. Different horse breeds may look different and often have different strengths.

Particular breeds of horses may be used for their speed, strength, or intelligence. While there are several types of horse breeds, here are a few of the most common.

Arabian Horse

The Arabian horse is one of the oldest breeds of a horse, with many scientists believing this horse dates back more than 4,500 years. The horse was initially found in the Arabian Desert in the Middle East. Very strong and sturdy, this horse can withstand the tough Arabian Desert conditions. This horse eventually spread throughout the world through trade and travel, and today is found worldwide. The Arabian horse has even been used to help develop other horse breeds.  

This is an easily recognizable horse breed because it has a long slender neck, high tail, and very distinct head shape. The horse is very desirable because it has been bred to work closely with humans. It is fast, smart, and learns new tasks very quickly. Because of these traits, people commonly use this horse for equestrian skills and competitions.

Thoroughbred

Commonly referred to as a “hot-blood” horse, Thoroughbred horses are commonly used for horse racing. This is because they have plenty of spirit, packed into a body built for agility and speed.

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Facts for Kids video

The breed of Thoroughbred Horse that we know today was developed in England between the 17th and 18th centuries by breeding several horses, including the Arabian, to develop a fast and strong horse perfect for racing. Although racing is most common, Thoroughbred horses can also be used for dressage and polo.

A Thoroughbred horse comes in many different colors and patterns, but sadly often have a high fatality rate. Selective breeding has led to dangerous lung conditions inherent in the breed, and often infertility is a challenge among Thoroughbred horses.  

American Quarter Horse

The American Quarter Horse is a speedy horse that excels at sprinting short distances. In fact, its name comes from the fact that this breed of horse commonly outpaced other horses at a quarter-mile distance. This horse can run quickly, maneuver around objects, and make sharp and cutting turns. Not only does this make the horse perfect for short races, but it makes the horse ideal for barrel racing competitions.

As the most popular horse globally, the American Quarter Horse has over 3 million horses registered in the United States alone. This horse can come in many colors and patterns and is a popular staple for horse owners. This horse is a very common working ranch horse.  

Appaloosa

The Appaloosa horse is an easily recognizable horse that has distinct spotting coloration. In fact, selective breeding has influenced the spot pattern that appears on the horse over centuries. Horses with spot patterns have been depicted worldwide, including the United States, China, and Ancient Greece. This is a top-rated horse that is smart, athletic, and beautiful.

This horse almost went into extinction in the 1870s due to wartime conflict, and for a time period, the survival of the species was in question. With careful and dedicated breeders, the Appaloosa horse returned to prominence, becoming one of the most popular horses in the world. Many people will use the Appaloosa horse for riding in both the United States and England.

Clydesdale Horse

Compared to some other horses, the Clydesdale horse is a relatively new breed. Developed in Scotland in the 1800s, this breed of horse officially rose to fame in 1877 with the breed’s official recognition. The Clydesdale horse originated from Scotland and was originally used as a draught horse.

What sets this horse apart from others is its large size and immense power. Original Clydesdales were even larger than the ones we know today. The Clydesdale horse was commonly used as a draught horse, pulling carts and carriages with ease. Today, you can commonly expect to see this horse pulling a carriage or used in parades and processions. The Clydesdale horse is the type of horse seen in the Anheuser-Busch advertisements.

Friesian Horse

Bred and developed in the Netherlands, the Friesian horse is a strong, large, and powerful horse. Although, for its size, this is a very nimble and agile horse. The Friesian horse rose to fame during the Middle Ages as the preferred horse for knights.

The horses were used as war horses carrying their owners to battle. With their large size and strength, they supported a knight and all of his armor.

Although this breed nearly went extinct several times throughout its history, it is a popular and plentiful horse today. This is a commonly used horse for dressage because it is very nimble and agile and responds well to human instruction.  

What Kinds of Horses Are There?

Foal

Aside from different horse breeds, which are easily distinguished based on appearance alone, other horse designations can indicate their age or gender. Some commonly used terms to help identify a horse include:

  • Foal: The term foal is used to describe a baby horse until it is about one year old. This term can be used for male or female horses, although more specific terminology applies to the horse’s gender as the horse ages.
  • Yearling: A yearling is a horse that is between one and two years of age. This is similar to a teenager for humans. While the horse may be fully developed, it is not old enough to be included as a breeding horse.
  • Colt: The term colt specifically applies to a male horse under the age of four. This term is commonly used after the horse has outgrown the foal or yearling designation.
  • Filly: A filly is a female horse that is still too young to be officially called a mare. In the United States, this applies to female horses under the age of four, but in England, a filly can be used for a female horse under five.
  • Stallion: This term is applied to a male horse that has not been gelded or castrated. Depending on genetics and personality, a stallion may be more aggressive or temperamental toward other stallions. This is the type of horse that is commonly used for racing or Olympic competition.
  • Gelding: The term gelding refers to a castrated male horse. The term can also be applied to a donkey or mule. A gelding often has a softer, more amenable temperament and is more suited to an everyday working horse on a farm.
  • Mare: This is a female horse that is too old to be called a filly. Mares are commonly seen as working farm horses or can be found in the equestrian ring or race track.

What Do Horses Eat?

Horses are herbivores, which means that they rely on plants to get their nutrition. Horses will predominantly eat hay to get enough nutrition to power their big, strong bodies. Because horses are so large, and because they have an extremely long digestive track, a horse must continue to eat almost the entire day to get enough calories to sustain its activity.

Although a horse’s diet is almost completely hay, they often have other snacks and treats to supplement their daily intake. Horses will have salt, fruits, and vegetables to help give them the vitamins and minerals they need to be healthy and strong.

What Can Horses Do?

Horses can perform a wide range of tasks, making them an ideal companion on a working farm. Big and strong horses, like Clydesdales, can help pull carts and carriages. Before modern machinery, these strong draught horses were used to plow fields and move heavy supplies around the farm.

Fast and agile horses, like American Quarter Horses, are great for helping farmers control large herds of cattle. These horses are quick and can easily maneuver around large herds of cows.

Horses are also able to provide entertainment. Horses are commonly used for horse racing, equestrian, dressage, and polo. Horses are smart, powerful, and fast and can easily learn the tasks humans teach them.

At their most basic set of skills, horses can be used for travel and transport, helping farmers make it to all ends of their property or help people navigate tricky trails.  

What Do Wild Horses Look Like?

Although there are many different types of horse breeds, including wild horses, many of them carry the same shape. Horses are very tall, often reaching 5 to 6 feet tall at their shoulders, with the neck and head extending even higher.

A horse has a long, oval-shaped head, with small ears perched on top. The horse’s body is large and broad and is set atop long and strong legs. The horse legs are very muscular, able to propel horses at high speeds and to give them enough endurance to wander a field for days on end. 

Wild horses tend to be slightly smaller than a bred horse but still come in a variety of different colors and patterns.  Just like their bred and captive brothers and sisters, wild horses can be brown, white, black, tan, beige, or patterned.  

How Fast Can a Horse Run?

One of a horse’s best attributes is its amazing speed.

Horses are very strong and can reach top speed quite quickly. At a full-on sprint, a horse can easily reach 55 mph for a short amount of time.  

How Old Do Horses Live?

Horses are large animals, and it follows that they are relatively long-lived. The average horse will live between 25 and 30 years. Of course, different factors in a horse’s life will impact how long a horse lives.

Ongoing exercise and the right nutrition throughout a horse’s life can help a horse live longer.

A strong family and genetic profile can also help a horse live longer. Some breeds of horses, like Thoroughbred horses, have traditionally been rather short-lived due to inherited genes that can cause lung disease.

Other horses, such as the Arabian breed of horse, has been known to push well into their 30s, with the right care and attention.  

More Fun Horse Facts for Kids

Horses use their faces, ears, eyes, and nostrils to show expressions and moods.

  • North America has a number of populations of feral horses such as mustangs, but the only real species of wild horse that still exists is the Przewalski’s horse in Mongolia.
  • Horses gather in groups called a ‘herd’ and you will never see all of the horses lying down at the same time. They always have one horse established as a lookout to alert for potential predators or danger.
  • Horses can see almost all the way around with vision nearing 360 degrees. There ‘blind spots’ are directly behind and in front of them.
  • There is danger in standing behind a horse as they have a defense mechanism to kick and scare anything away from them.
  • Horses communicate in a number of ways including neighing and whinnying. They typically make their sounds as they leave or greet each other. Adult male horses can make a mating call that sounds like a loud roar. A snorting sound is an alert to all other horses for danger. Adult females have a particular noise that they make for soothing a baby while it is nursing.
  • Adult male horses are called stallions and female horses are referred to as mares. Their babies are called colts.
  • Horses are part of the equine species and have very excellent senses of hearing and smell; far better than people. They have the ability to turn their ears in a variety of directions to help them hear.
  • The intelligence of horses is incredible. They are clever and can accomplish easy learning tasks as well as more advanced tasks such as categorized learning and some formation of concepts or ideas.

The Chinese have the horse as one of their twelve zodiac signs. If someone is born in the ‘year of the horse’ they are considered to have the same characteristics: independence, intelligence, and free spirit.

Native Americans rode domesticated horses, mostly bareback. In their culture, they considered all living things as a gift and held a high level of respect for the bond they had with their horses.

The ability to bond and share emotions have made the horse an incredible help in new therapies called ‘Equine-assisted therapy’.

Horses assist those people that have a variety of issues in mental health and gives the person the opportunity to work with a peaceful and beautiful animal as part of nature.

The skills that are learned in relationship building can then be taken to other areas of their lives. There have been very positive results working with horses in therapy for those that suffer from autism.