20 Surprising & Fun Facts about Horses
Horses are intelligent, peaceful, and loyal animals who enjoy human company. We have domesticated them thanks to their exceptional physical and psychological characteristics, and it’s safe to say that horses have altered human history.
The oldest ancestor of the modern horse dates back 160,000 years ago, with the first horse being domesticated around 6,000 years ago.
All horse breeds today come from only 2 bloodlines – the Arabian horse and the Turkoman. The latter went extinct, but not before imbuing its genes into the next breeds of horses that would take over the world.
Today, we will discuss some outstanding and interesting facts about horses that you might not know about.
1. There Are Many Horse Breeds
How many, might you wonder? Well, the reality is that nobody knows for sure. According to Oklahoma State University’s Breeds of Livestock, there are 217 breeds available worldwide. Elwyn Hartley Edwards’s The Encyclopedia of the Horse, however, only lists around 150 recognized breeds.
The truth is either somewhere in the middle or beyond any approximation. The thing that makes counting the number of horse breeds difficult is the continuous crossbreeding that takes place.
Different breeds come with different and unique characteristics, leading people to crossbreed in an attempt to obtain even more interesting features. Today, we create new horse lineages constantly based on desirable colors, color patterns, strength, stamina, agility, resilience, overall looks, etc.
2. Horses Make Good Pets
Horses are herd creatures, meaning that they are used to following strict hierarchies. This is what makes them easy to domesticate and train, which actually benefits the horse rather than harms them, as some suggest. Training the horse gives it purpose and structure, providing it with a healthy and positive state of mind.
Most horses enjoy human company, and they’ve become experts at interacting and understanding human behavior. They are loyal, friendly, caring, and show emotional attachment towards their handlers, making them ideal for pets.
It also doesn’t hurt that horses are easy to care for and maintain since they aren’t particularly picky about their living conditions. Provide them with dry and clean bedding, regular food and water, and some physical activity and love, and they’ll become the happiest creatures on Earth.
3. Horses Are Herbivores
You can easily tell that a horse is strictly an herbivore by analyzing its physical conformation. Here are the most tale-telling signs:
- Short-fused temperament – Herbivores are always on their toes, and horses are no exceptions. They are always instinctively on guard for predators.
- Eye placement – Herbivores, unlike predators, have their eyes on the side of their head, allowing them to 360 their surroundings easier. Predators have both eyes facing forward, allowing for better distance approximations between them and the prey.
- Teeth conformation – Horses, like all herbivores, have flat incisors, useless canines, and a wide gap between the front and the back teeth. This conformation allows them to hold and cut the grass more effectively.
4. Horses Are Very Intelligent
Horses are some of the most intelligent animal species, capable of displaying an array of emotions. Studies show that horses can express fear, stress, boredom, emotional attachment, and excitement.
These are all simple emotions that allow us to understand their state of mind in certain situations. Horses can also detect a variety of human emotions by assessing humans’ facial features and ton of voice. They can even recognize objects associated with their handlers and will often get excited when seeing their handlers’ car or see their clothes from afar.
Horses are also fairly easy to train as they enjoy pleasing their handlers and learning new tricks.
5. Horses Live For Decades
A horse’s general lifespan will revolve around 20 to 25 years. Their lifespan duration will vary depending on numerous factors, including overall health, physical activity, diet, and even genetic predisposition.
Some breeds, for instance, are more prone to health problems that tend to aggravate with time. Selective breeding is another factor that could increase or decrease a horse’s lifespan. You want to get a horse whose parents have lived long, happy, and healthy lives since they may pass on more advantageous genes to their offspring.
You should always get your horse from a reputed breeder who can provide you with all the necessary paperwork. Some breeds of horses can live up to 30 years or more, provided they have the best genes and get proper care and love throughout their lifetime.
6. Horses Have Belly Buttons
The belly button is a characteristic unique to mammals. Birds and reptiles don’t have it since they come from eggs and are not born alive.
Horses also have belly buttons, although they might not be as visible as those of humans. That’s primarily because they are covered by fur. However, you will be able to see it if you look closely and remove some of the hair.
The belly button is typical for all animals that give birth to living offspring. The umbilical cord transports food and oxygen via blood, keeping the embryo alive and allowing it to develop properly. In animals, the mother will cut the umbilical with its teeth, with the remaining appendix drying out over the next hours or days.
The belly button is the scar that will remain on the abdomen for the remainder of the animal’s life.
7. Horses Have Feelings
Horses can show a variety of emotions as they can experience anger, sadness, happiness, depression, love, and hate, among others. What’s more impressive is that they can detect these emotions in other horses and humans by assessing their tonality and facial expressions.
At the same time, horses have impressive memories, allowing them to remember things that happened years back. It’s not uncommon for horses to remember someone who mistreated them in the past and shows anger and aversion towards them. The same goes with more positive feelings like love or emotional attachment.
Horses will also interact with their handlers emotionally. If you’re in a bad mood, your horse will sense that negativity and change its state of mind accordingly. This is why it’s always best to be positive and calm near your horse.
8. Horses Have Udders
All horse mares have udders, each with one teat. They will use them to feed their newborns and, in young mares, they are generally very small.
You can even milk a mare if you’re courageous enough and learn how to trick her. Mares are generally very reluctant to let humans touch the udders when they have a foal around.
9. Horses Can Run Pretty Fast
Horses can reach, on average, speeds of up to 20 to 30 mph. This will obviously vary depending on the horse’s training and, more importantly, its breed and lineage. Racehorses, for instance, come from proficient lineages, allowing them speeds of up to 40 to 44 mph.
The absolute record speed is 55 mph, a record which is unlikely to be beaten anytime soon. Some of the fastest horse breeds in the world include the Thoroughbred, the Arabian, the Quarterhorse, the Andalusian, and the Akhal-Teke, among others.
If you aim to get a speed-oriented horse, checking the horse’s breed and lineage is imperative. While training is essential for determining a horse’s speed and resilience, its genetic makeup will also make a huge difference in this sense.
10. Horses Have Many Uses
You can find as many uses for a horse as many breeds there are available. Average horse lovers will generally keep horses as pets. They ride them occasionally, groom them, and allow them to live stable and carry-free lives.
As strong, resilient, and fast animals, however, horses have a multitude of uses. These include speed racing, endurance racing, equine shows, fieldwork, training, etc. In the past, horses were also useful for cavalry attacks in war and for transporting goods and military equipment to the front.
It’s also worth noting that horse breeds are extremely versatile. Some horses are taller, stronger, or more resilient, making them more useful in certain areas than others.
11. Horses Were Used For Glue
Horses and other animals have been used for glue for thousands of years. This happened due to the high levels of collagen in their joints, hooves, and bones. Generally, it was only old, sick, or dying horses that would have that faith.
Over time, since the demand for glue kept rising, healthy and younger horses also became the target. They were especially useful for the job given their higher levels of collagen compared to the older ones.
The modern glue industry no longer uses horses or any other animal for its products. Glue now consists of specially-designed polymers that are more reliable and effective than natural collagen.
12. Some Horse Breeds Are Very Expensive
An average horse revolves around several thousand dollars, depending on its breed, overall traits, training, age, etc. Some can even go below $1,000, while others can be completely free.
The opposite side of the spectrum contains horses that could reach obscene prices. These are high-profile specimens, bred for shows and racing, with impeccable physical and psychological traits and sought-after lineages.
A well-trained racehorse from a reputed lineage can reach $50,000 or more. You should also count the horse’s trophies and awards since these will influence the price as well.
Some of the most expensive breeds include the Andalusian, the Oldenburg, the Friesian, the Arabian, and the Thoroughbred. These breeds can deliver horses at prices between $50,000 and $300,000+. There is no upper price limit.
13. Horses Can Get Angry
A horse can get angry for a variety of reasons, with mistreatment being the number one cause. This can lead to some unfortunate incidents since you can’t expect to upset a 1,000 lbs animal and not face any consequences.
Horses can become aggressive when angry, leading to bites or kicks, which could kill an adult. It’s important to tell if the horse isn’t in a good mood or shows aggression towards you or someone else. Some of the signs of aggressive behavior include ears pinned to the head’s back, a tight muzzle, or stomping its feet loudly.
The horse may also reveal its teeth, showing that it’s ready to bite. At this point, the smart move would be to give the animal space to calm down.
14. Horses Are Very Social
Horses are social by nature, a trait that’s the direct result of living in dangerous environments. As herbivores, wild horses are always on their toes for predators, which, in time, has led them to become more sociable.
Horses live in herds because the herds protect them. The foals will grow surrounded by adults, and the horses will protect and warn each other when predators are nearby. This social behavior is also visible in domesticated horses.
If your horse trusts you and considers you as part of the herd, you will be able to tell. The horse will feel comfortable around you, graze grass, and even take short naps, knowing that you will watch for predators for them.
15. Horses Sleep Standing Up
All horses will sleep standing up during the day. This is an instinctive behavior coming from living in the wild for thousands of generations. All animals are vulnerable when sleeping, which is even truer for herbivores like horses. They need to be constantly en guarde for predators that could take them by surprise.
Sleeping while standing will only consist of short naps, several seconds or minutes each. This is enough for the horse’s brain to reset, providing the animal with much-needed rest.
All horses, however, will sleep lying down at night for around 4-5 hours. This is REM sleep, and it’s absolutely necessary to provide the horse with a hard reset.
16. Horses Cannot Breathe Through Their Mouths
Horses are only able to breathe via their noses and will actually hold their breaths in some cases, like when jumping over obstacles. Their breathing behavior is called respiratory-locomotor coupling, and it’s rather abnormal in the animal kingdom.
Many animals will also breathe through their mouths in certain situations, making horses stand out from the crowd. This can lead to some interesting problems, like allergies, snake bites, or insect bites can lead to inflammation in the nostrils. This can impede the free flow of air, affecting the horse and even posing life-threatening risks.
17. Horses Don’t Laugh
Horses, like many other animals, don’t laugh because they can’t. Evolution had no laughing plans for them since laughing serves no purpose for a horse. The horse will, however, express enjoyment and excitement, but never through laughter. Instead, you might see your horse running around when excited or bouncing on its front feet.
That ‘smile’ that horses do when showing their teeth and curling their upper lip isn’t evidence of an actual smile or laugh. They do that to catch scent particles and direct them towards their olfactory glands. In other words, it helps them smell better.
18. Horses Have Very Good Eyesight
Horses have actually exceptional sight. Thanks to their enhanced eye composition, they can see better than humans during the day and night.
The horse’s eye contains more rods than that of humans, as well as a reflective membrane, bringing more light to the photoreceptors. This allows them to see better during cloudy weather and during nighttime, with limited light sources.
It also helps that horses have a 350 degrees vision thanks to having their eyes located on the side of the head.
19. Horses Produce Lots of Saliva
Horses will produce a lot of salivae when eating. Their saliva plays the same role as in humans, which is moistening the food and allowing ease of passage through the esophagus.
Unlike humans, however, horses only produce saliva when chewing food. This is an interesting difference since our salivary glands produce saliva 24/7, whether we’re eating or not.
There are also some conditions related to excessive production of saliva in horses. Hypersalivation is one of them. This is the result of the horse ingesting a fungus called Rhizoctonia Leguminicola, responsible for producing slaframine.
Other conditions that may trigger hypersalivation include vesicular stomatitis and mechanical or chemical mouth irritation.
20. Horses Drink a Lot of Water
A healthy horse will drink between 5 and 10 gallons of water, but this is just scratching the tip of the iceberg. Just as with humans, the horse’s water needs will vary drastically depending on several factors.
These include the horse’s size, dieting, physical activity, and climate. A horse belonging to a big and powerful breed, living in a hot climate and engaging in regular strenuous activities, may drink 20 or 30 gallons of water daily.
It’s critical to assess your horse’s water intake and needs accurately to avoid health problems along the way. Remember, horses can live around 20 to 25 days without food, but they can’t go more than 3-6 days without water. Sometimes not even that.
Horses are highly evolved, intelligent, and peaceful animals that enjoy human companionship. They are always willing to please, making them easy to train, show a great memory, and display and understand a wide range of emotions.
If you’re looking to get a pet horse, you have numerous breeds to choose from, depending on what you’re looking for. Just make sure you provide your horse with proper food, plenty of freshwater, warm and dry bedding, and regular physical activity and human interaction.
Do all these things, and your horse will become part of your family for decades to come.