15 Fascinating Facts About Horses

Horses are such fascinating creatures. Even if you never learned to ride one, you could spend your whole life studying them and still have plenty to explore. Here are 15 interesting facts about horses.

  • 01 of 15

    Horses Sleep Standing Up

    three horses sleeping in sun. close up of head.
    Daniel Valla Frps / Getty Images

    Yes, horses can sleep standing up! They sleep laying down too. Learn all about the sleeping habits of horses. Horses must lie down to achieve a full restorative sleep cycle for a minimum of 30 minutes per day to avoid sleep deprivation. There are many factors that influence a horse's ability to lay down to sleep and rest. These factors may be environmental such as weather, available space and comfortable bedding or physical deterrents such as musculoskeletal impediments; ie osteoarthritis.

  • 02 of 15

    Horses Can't Burp

    Horse skeleton, artwork

    SCIEPRO / Getty Images

    That's right! Horses can't burp, at least not the way humans do. They can't vomit or breathe through their mouths like humans do either. A horse's digestive system is a one-way street, unlike cattle and other ruminants who regurgitate food to re-chew it. Although they have a pretty efficient way of processing the tough fibrous foods that make up their forage, this long, one-directional system can cause problems that result in colic.

  • 03 of 15

    You Can Estimate a Horse's Age by Its Teeth

    Angry Horse On Field

    Kat Fo / EyeEm / Getty Images

    While you can't tell the exact age of a horse by its teeth, you can estimate its age. Horses need proper equine dental care for their teeth, but sometimes a horse lives longer than its teeth do, so extra care is needed when feeding senior horses.

  • 04 of 15

    Horses Can Live to Be More Than 30 Years Old

    A horse standing near a fence

    Image Source / Getty Images

    One of the most common questions about horses is "how long does a horse live?" The answer may surprise you. Knowledge of horse nutrition, horse care, and veterinary medicine has increased. Because of this, just as human life expectancy has increased, so has equine longevity.

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  • 05 of 15

    The American Quarter Horse Is the World's Most Popular Breed

    Quarter Horse with western saddle.

    Kit Houghton / Getty Images

    Appreciated by beginner riders and professional horsemen alike, the American quarter horse is the world's most popular breed. Learn more about the American quarter horse.

  • 06 of 15

    (Most) Arabian Horses Have One Less Vertebrae Than Other Breeds

    Rider atop a Native Arabian horse

    Christof Koepsel / Getty Images

    The Arabian horse is the foundation of many other light horse breeds. They also possess some unique characteristics. Most Arabian horses have one fewer vertebrae, rib bone, and tail bone than other horses.

  • 07 of 15

    Horses Are Herbivores

    Horses grazing in Canada, British Columbia, Tweedsmuir Park, Chilcotin region, Chilcotin Ark, Rainbow Mountains

    Chris Harris / Getty Images

    Humans are omnivores, lions are carnivores, and horses are herbivores. The way their teeth are formed (grinding molars to break down fibrous plant material), the position of their eyes (face to the side to be on the lookout for predators), and the type of digestive system are all typical characteristics of herbivores.

  • 08 of 15

    Horses Are Herd Animals

    Group of Horses.

    Arctic-Images / Getty Images

    Horses in the wild live in small herds, and domestic horses feel more comfortable if they have companions too. It can be quite stressful for a horse to live alone. Companionship for horses may be an equine stablemate or even another species such as a goat, donkey, or mule. Even a dog may become a suitable companion for a horse.

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  • 09 of 15

    Horses Were Domesticated by Humans More Than 3,000 Years Ago

    Drawing depicting preparation of chariot, mortuary temple of Ramesses III, Medinet Habu, Thebes

    De Agostini / C. Sappa / Getty Images

    Dogs may have become domesticated around 14,000 years ago. Cats became human companions about 8,500 years ago. Humankind's relationship with the horse began a little more recently, around 6,000 years ago, although some evidence has come to light that horses may have been domesticated even earlier.

  • 10 of 15

    Horses Are Measured in "Hands"

    A woman and a girl measuring height of pony using measuring stick against withers

    Bob Langrish / Getty Images

    The standard measurement for determining the height of a horse is called a hand. One hand is equal to 4 inches. A pony is an equine under 14.2 hands. The only equines not measured in hands are miniature horses, which are measured in inches or centimeters.

  • 11 of 15

    Most White Horses Are Actually Gray

    Two wild horses (Equus caballus) on coastal headland

    Steve Coleman / Getty Images

    Most of the white horses that you see were actually a much darker color at birth and gradually turn white. These "white" horses may start as bay, chestnut, or almost black. These horses aren't called white, but gray.

  • 12 of 15

    A Horse's Resting Respiratory Rate Is About 8-14 Breaths per Minute

    Veterinarian examining the horse

    Alina Solovyova-Vincent / Getty Images

    It's important to know the resting pulse and respiration rate of your horse. While the resting respiration rate of a horse can be as low as eight breaths per minute, that can quickly increase with work or distress. Learn your horse's resting pulse and respiration rate (TPR).

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  • 13 of 15

    Horses Are Not Native to North America

    Rock painting of tarpans (ponies), c.17000 BC

    Paleolithic / Getty Images

    Every horse on the North American continent is a decedent of European horses. Even the horses that we regard as "wild" are actually feral horses, whose ancestors escaped from captivity. Horses disappeared from the Americas more than 11,000 years ago, and there is ample fossil evidence that the horse's ancestors lived here previous to that.

  • 14 of 15

    A Baby Horse is Called a Foal

    Nursing foal.

    ElaiEva / www.freeimages.com/

    What is the difference between a filly, a colt, and a foal? It all depends on gender and age. Generally, a foal is a baby horse. After it is weaned from its dam, it is called a weanling. But, horses remain fillies or colts until they are four years of age.

  • 15 of 15

    The Original "Horse" Was the Size of a Golden Retriever

    Close-up of a phorusrhacos (Phorusrhacos longissimus) chasing Eohippuses

    DEA PICTURE LIBRARY / Getty Images

    The original horse was no larger than a golden retriever. Diminutive Hyracotherium may have looked more like a small goat or deer than a modern-day horse. Hyracotherium lived during the Eocene Epoch about 50 million years ago.

Article Sources
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Burla J-B, Rufener C, et. al. (2017) Space Allowance of the Littered Area Affects Lying Behavior in Group-Housed Horses. Front. Vet. Sci. 4:23. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2017.00023

  2. Horse Colic Can Be a Real Pain! Kentucky Equine Research

  3. Behavioral Problems of Horses. Merck Veterinary Manual.

  4. Measuring Temperature, Pulse, & Respiration (TPR): What's Normal For My HorseRutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.