Typically, horses live to about 33 years old. However, many live much longer, and a number of horses have reached 50 years or more. Unfortunately, it's not easy to pinpoint the oldest or longest-lived horse.
Many pure or part bred horses have registration papers that record when they were born and others may have passports or other identifying paperwork. But, over a horse’s lifetime, these records can be lost or may be exchanged with the wrong horse. Permanent identification makes this less likely, but it does happen.
Determining a horse's age by the condition of their teeth is imprecise. While it does give you an approximate age, the method has some downfalls, especially when trying to learn the age of a very old horse. What's more, it's quite possible that the oldest horse is not well-known because its owner hasn't publicized its age.
On average, ponies outlive larger breeds; as a result, many of the claims of "oldest horse" relate to verified stories of ponies in their 50s or 60s. While the records are probably incomplete, these are some of the oldest known ponies:
- Dr. Bob Wright was a veterinary scientist specializing in horses for the Ontario Ministry of Food and Agriculture. In one article on the topic, he listed a 66-year-old pony from Wales, a 54-year-old pony stallion from France, a draft horse who lived to be 52, and a mare from Missouri who was 53.
- For years, a Shetland from Virginia named Ted E. Bear was commonly cited as the oldest pony in the United States. In 2000, according to Farm Show Magazine, he was 58 years old.
- Sugar Puff, a Shetland-Exmoor gelding, was cited as the oldest living pony in the Guinness Book of World Records at age 56 before he died in 2007.
According to the Daily Mail, Shayne, an Irish-Draught cross gelding, was acknowledged in 2012 as the oldest horse in the world by officials at the Guinness Book of World Records. Shayne may not have been the actual oldest, but he was the oldest to be verified by Guinness with the help of veterinarians. Yet, in 1962, when the horse was born, horse passports were only issued for purebreds, so records are likely incomplete. Shayne was euthanized in 2013 at the age of 51 after his legs gave way and he was unable to function.
Shayne is only one of several horses known to have outlived the usual equine lifespan by many years, according to Oldest.org. Some of these include:
- Prospect Point, age 38 (oldest thoroughbred)
- Magic, age 46 (Polish Arabian; age determined in 2015, but the horse may still be living)
- Orchid, age 49/50 (Thoroughbred Arabian-Cross, died in 2015)
- Badger, age 51 (Arab-Welsh Cross, died in 2004)
Long before Guinness, there was a horse named Old Billy. Born in 1760, the English horse lived until 1822 when his age was verified to be 62. His skull is on display at the Manchester Museum in the United Kingdom where he continues to be celebrated as the oldest known horse.
Additional longevity records from Guinness include:
- Al Jabal, a purebred Arab, was the oldest horse to win on the flat at age 19. He was born in 1983 and died in 2004, living to be 21 years old, which is considerable for a race horse.
- The oldest horse twins, Taff and Griff, were born in 1982 and owned by the Veteran Horse Society in the Welsh county of North Pembrokeshire. The last public report of the pony duo was in 2016, so the then 34-year-old Taff and Griff may well still be alive.
Longevity on the Rise
With veterinarians' increasing knowledge of equine care and medicine, as well as the rise of social media and better record-keeping, it's likely that the world will see the standing records broken in the future. Several horses are on their way to beating Shayne's record.