The Most Popular Horse Breeds and Types of Horses

Palomino horses cantering in a field

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There are more than 350 breeds of horses and ponies. From working and racing to casual riding and equestrian competition, each horse has its special qualities. But there are five particular breeds and five general horse categories that stand out and capture the hearts of horse lovers everywhere, thanks to their versatile abilities and good demeanors. Here are 10 of the most popular horses.

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  • 01 of 10

    American Quarter Horse

    Two American quarter horses standing in a pasture

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    Embraced by beginners and professional equestrians all around the world, the American quarter horse is famous for its agility, docility, and athleticism. Originally bred from English thoroughbreds and Native American Chickasaw horses during the 1600s, it has the largest breed registry in the world. These horses are shining stars on the trail and in the show ring.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 14 hands (56 inches) to 16 hands (64 inches)

    Weight: 950 to 1,200 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Medium-boned; finely chiseled head; wide forehead; flat profile

  • 02 of 10

    Arabian

    white Arabian horse running

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    The Arabian has the oldest horse breed registry in the world. Its lineage goes as far back as 3000 B.C. In fact, every light horse breed, including Appaloosas, Morgans, and Andalusians, can trace their ancestry back to the Arabian. It can be a rather spirited horse breed, but it's also loving and loyal.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 14 hands (56 inches) to 16 hands (64 inches)

    Weight: 800 to 1,000 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Lithe, compact body; wedge-shaped head; short back with sloping shoulders and powerful hindquarters

  • 03 of 10

    Thoroughbred

    Thoroughbred running toward a jump

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    Thoroughbreds are the most popular racing horse in North America. This breed is considered a "hot-blooded" horse, which means it's known for its agility, speed, and spirit. It's a fine multipurpose horse that often has a career in other equestrian competitions besides racing, such as dressage and jumping, or it lives its life as a companion animal.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 15 hands (60 inches) to 17 hands (68 inches)

    Weight: 1,000 to 1,300 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Deep chest; lean body; long, flat muscles

  • 04 of 10

    Appaloosa

    A spotted Appaloosa horse

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    The colorful, spotted Appaloosa was originally developed for hunting and battle by the Nez Perce Native Americans. It's believed to be a descendant of wild horses mixed with the thoroughbred, American quarter horse, and Arabian. This hardy, versatile horse is great for herding, pleasure riding, long-distance trail riding, and more.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 14 hands (56 inches) to 15 hands (60 inches)

    Weight: 950 to 1,200 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Colorful coat pattern; mottled skin; striped hooves

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  • 05 of 10

    Morgan

    A dark brown Morgan mare trotting through the snow

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    The strength and elegance of the Morgan have made it a popular horse breed. As the official horse breed of Vermont, the muscle of the Morgan was used for clearing and tilling New England farms during colonial times. Today, it's a popular driving and riding horse. It's surefooted over rough trail and dignified in the show ring.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 14 hands (56 inches) to 15 hands (60 inches)

    Weight: 900 to 1,100 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Small ears; expressive eyes; crested neck

  • 06 of 10

    Warmbloods

    warmblood horse running through a field

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    In equine circles, the terms "hot-blooded," "warm-blooded," and "cold-blooded" are used to categorize a horse's temperament, size, and origin. Medium-size horses, including the American quarter horse, Hanoverian, Cleveland bay, and Canadian, are considered warmbloods with a European heritage. They contain a touch of the temper you get from lithe, "hot-blooded" thoroughbreds or Arabians combined with the calm demeanor of "cold-blooded" working horses.

  • 07 of 10

    Ponies

    Young cowboy on a Shetland pony

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    Ponies are another popular category of horses. In most cases, a horse that's fully grown at 14.2 hands (57 inches) or less is considered a pony. (There are two exceptions: the miniature horse and the Icelandic horse.) The plucky Shetland and elegant Welsh are popular breeds of ponies. With their short stature, they are often excellent first horses for children.

  • 08 of 10

    Grade Horses

    two horses in desert pasture

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    Grade horses—horses of no particular breeding—is the fancy term for the mutts of the horse world. They differ from crossbreeds because crosses are the result of known pedigreed horses that are intentionally bred. Grade horses may not have a distinguished pedigree, but they can be just as versatile and loyal as any other horse. They also generally lack many of the genetic diseases that pass through purebreds.

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  • 09 of 10

    Gaited Breeds

    Tennessee walking horse outside

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    Gaited horses are a category that contains horses that have been selectively bred for a smooth ride or ambling gait. These horses tend to go at an intermediate speed with a four-beat movement. Breeds, including the Tennessee walking horse, Kentucky mountain saddle horse, Icelandic horse, and paso fino, are popular choices for older riders, those who have joint issues, and anyone else looking for a bounce-free ride.

  • 10 of 10

    Draft Breeds

    two horses pulling a plough in a field

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    Draft horses are cold-blooded, heavy horses known for doing work pulling heavy loads. Historically, they were also used in battle to carry the weight of heavily armored soldiers. These horses have thick coats and manes that enable them to endure cold weather, and they're not easily spooked. The Clydesdale, Percheron, Shire, and Belgian are some popular examples of these gentle giants. In addition, draft horse crossbreeds can be ideal first horses, as they're often docile and loving.