The answer might surprise you! According to the Oklahoma State University Department of Animal Science, there are 350 documented breeds of horses on earth (though some argue about the exact number that are alive today).
Varieties of Horses
Many kinds of horses are found around the world in a variety of sizes ranging from small ponies that are kept as house pets to large Draft horses weighing up to 2,200 pounds!
The major distinguishing features are the hair type and size but there are other ways to tell them apart such as the way they move while traveling.
A lot of little ones grow up dreaming about having horses. These magnificent creatures are representatives of grace and speed. They are animals who, alongside canines, have been vital to advancing human civilization.
Horses have been a source of travel, labor, and most of all companionship for humans for thousands of years. Through the years, they have grown to include hundreds of breeds that are subdivided into four groups:
They can also be classified by their purpose for breeding, for example, a heavy horse breed may be used as a Draft Horse, a good example of this type is the Clydesdale horses that everyone knows from television commercials.
The Popular American Quarter Horse
A very popular breed is The American Quarter Horse which is known to be domesticated around the 1600s due to its agile and docile nature. These horses make great racehorses as they have been clocked in at an amazing 55 mph (88.5 km/h) on the racetrack!
What is a Grade Horse?
Grade Horses are typically horses that are mixed with unknown lineage. While mixed canines are considered mutts, mixed horses are considered Grade Horses. These are horses that aren’t registered by their breeder for various reasons that may include:
- Unintentional breeding
- Missing paperwork
- Failure to register the breed appropriately
Gaited Breeds Of Horse
Gaited is the ability for a horse to conduct the smooth-to-ride, intermediate speed, four-beat horse gaits also known as ambling gaits when combined. Gaited Horses have been bred specially for having gaited tendencies.
The classifications of horse gait include a walk at around 4.3 mph (7 km/h), a trot that averages 8.1 mph, and a gallop reaching approximately 30.25 mph (48.68 km/h).
Draft horses are the working class of horses so to speak because they are some of the largest horses that are capable of pulling many times their weight. Often this would be a horse you would think about when the word horsepower is discussed as one horsepower is considered equivalent to one horse. Being some of the largest they possess the largest skeletal structure for muscle mass required to pull large amounts of weight.
These horses are descended from those brought to North America by European explorers and were used extensively by Native American tribes. The Nez Perce tribe famously bred Appaloosas, but the breed nearly went extinct following the Nez Perce’s defeat in the Nez Perce War. This history, combined with popular culture, has made the Appaloosa an icon of the American West. Today, Appaloosas are commonly used in all kinds of equestrian activities, from endurance riding and horse racing to casual trail rides.
Appaloosas are also known for their spotted coats, which come in a variety of patterns.
Mongol horses are stockier than most breeds, having shorter legs and larger heads. These adaptations are what allows them to survive in the Mongolian steppes they originally come from. These horses play a vital role in Mongolia’s culture: mare’s milk is used for food and drink, horse racing is considered a “manly activity” in Mongolia, and the hair from their tails is used to make bowstrings for instruments.
The horse’s hair was once used for another type of bowstring: Mongol horse archers relied on their horse when they needed string for their bows. It’s because of Mongol horses that Genghis Khan and his armies were able to easily conquer territories and build the Mongol Empire to begin with.
Pintos are sometimes nicknamed “painted” horses due to their unique coats, which are usually a combination of dark and light hair. This breed was first brought to the Americas by Spanish conquistadors, but there is evidence that pintos have lived in Europe and Asia for thousands of years. Pintos come in all sorts of color combinations, making them one of the most popular horse breeds in the United States.
Another well-known horse breed is the Arabian. These horses originated in the Arabian Peninsula in the Middle East. There have been archaeological finds that date this breed of horse as being 4,500 years old, making it one of the oldest breeds in the world. They are recognizable by their distinctive head shape and high tail carriage, being bred for their intelligence, cooperative nature, and endurance. They were also used for these traits in the development of other breeds, the Arabian bloodlines can be found in many breeds throughout the world.
The Arabian is one of the ten most popular breeds in the world, and it is not hard to see why they’re so popular.
The Thoroughbred is well known for its use in horse racing. They are a fast, agile, and spirited breed. Their roots lie in 17th and 18th century England, where native horses were crossbred with Arabians, Berber (a breed from North Africa), and Turkoman (an oriental breed from the Turkoman Desert region) horses. While most well known for racing, they are also used for other forms of competition, such as dressage, showjumping, polo, and fox hunting.
The level of physical exertion from racing causes a higher rate of accidents as well as potentially severe health problems, such as bleeding in the lungs. Other known health issues tied to this are low fertility rates and abnormally small heart size, research into why this happens is currently ongoing and unanswered.
The first time I heard about the Morgan breed of horse was when I read a book by Marguerite Henry when I was a little girl. The Morgan breed was the focus of this book which was later turned into a movie by Walt Disney in 1972.
The Morgan horse is one of the oldest developed within the United States, able to trace its lineage to a stallion by the name of Figure who was later renamed after his owner Justin Morgan.
Hence, where the breed’s name comes from!
Overall, the Morgan is a very versatile breed. They were used by breeders to help create other breeds, such as the Standardbred, American Quarter Horse, and the Tennessee Walking horse. They also were used in the creation of the Hackney breed in England.
Morgans are mainly used to pull things, such as carriages, buggies, and harness racing.
Often at fairs or carnivals, there are places for children to ride ponies. Ponies are one of the subtypes of horse classifications. Another way to consider it is that all Ponies are horses, but not all horses are Ponies. The word comes from one that means foal or basically small horse. Ponies are horses that measure under 14 hands and 2 inches (58 inches) in height at the withers.
There are many different breeds of horses that fall under the classification of pony. One of the most well-known is the Shetland pony.
Ponies tend to have thicker manes and tails, proportionately broader bodies, and thicker heads with broad foreheads. They are built to withstand harsher climates than a full-sized horse would be. While they are known for being intelligent and friendly, in rare instances they can be stubborn and hard to train.
When properly trained, they are ideal for children that are just learning how to ride for the first time.
Are Horses Smart?
Horses, while known for their speed and grace, are also known for being very intelligent animals as well. They are very trainable and when raised with humans, able to learn many words and even pick up on the emotions behind the words themselves.
Research has even shown that they can recognize human emotion in a photograph. They are also able to learn how to undo bolts, open doors and gates, and figure out ways to escape barns and paddocks.
Horses can also be taught to use signals, such as touching something they need like a blanket. Anecdotal evidence of their intelligence has been shared by numerous horse owners and trainers through the years.
Why Do Horses Need Shoes?
Did you know horseshoes aren’t just for tossing across the yard into a sandpit?
Horseshoes had been invented to help protect a horse’s hoof from damage while working typically on a farm or as a transport for goods to and from town. The adoption of traveling with horses also fueled the development of horseshoes to prevent horses from injury while traversing across many different types of terrain ranging from hard rocky sharp surfaces to smooth and soft prairie lands.
The exact moment horseshoes came about are not known but speculated to be around 1000 A.D. from bronze castings since those are the oldest known to be found to date. Horseshoes come in all types of alloys today depending on what the horse breed is and what it’s doing a majority of the time.
Horses are amazing animals. To truly give justice to these animals would require a much longer article. We invite you to delve deeper into the world of horses and find out for yourself just how majestic these animals truly are.