Do Horses Have Udders? Surprising Facts
Horses, being mammals, have udders. That is the biological bag where the milk is stored. That’s what foals eat after they’re born. They suckle on the mare’s teats for precious milk. In this article, we’ll have a private talk on the udders of mares, their teats, milk production, whether you can milk them or not, and more.
Theoretically, you should be able to milk mares just like cows, goats, and sheep. But it remains to be seen if that’s true or not!
Where is the Udder Located?
Just like in cows and other lactating mammals, mares have udders on their abdomen but they’re not as large as those of cows. Still, if you look close enough, you’ll notice the internal milk bag from which the teats are hanging. That’s where the foals will suckle milk from after they’re born.
More specifically, the horse udders are placed just between the mare’s hind legs, where the stallion’s penis would be. That’s true for horses, sheep, goats, cows, and most other mammals. If the mare has never been pregnant, the udder will be smaller and almost unnoticeable. You’ll only be able to see the teats sticking out.
How Many Teats Do Horses Have?
Mares have two teats sticking out of the two udders behind the hind legs. So, at most two foals can suckle on them at a time. Cows have double the number of teats, so more cattle can suckle on them simultaneously.
But usually, cows give birth to more babies than horses. Evolution took care of this tiny detail, as well. More teats would be useless for horses, so they only have two.
Do Horses Produce Milk?
In short, yes. Female horses, called mares, secrete milk during lactation and after birth to feed their babies, known as foals. Mare milk is very rich in vitamin C, whey protein, and polyunsaturated fatty. It means the foals quickly develop a sturdy immune system and become independent quicker.
This is clear once you observe the development of foals. Only a few hours after being birthed by the mare, the foals will start walking on their own and start suckling on their mother’s teats.
After a few weeks, the milk will have given them enough strength to wander around without a problem. They’ll have successfully passed from milk to regular horse feed now.
Can You Milk a Horse?
Technically, you can milk a mare, but the process is much more difficult than milking a cow. In fact, cows, goats, and sheep are the only mammals that allow humans to milk them without much fighting back. Unexpected attacks from cattle still happen from time to time.
Horses are even more difficult to milk. Some would say it’s impossible after trying once. From my documentation, it’s clear that you need to trick the mare into believing a foal is suckling on its teats.
So, bring a foal and let it suckle on its teats for a bit, then take away the foal and quickly start milking the mare’s teats. Lastly, pray that the mare doesn’t notice the difference and lets you milk it.
If she does, then you’re in a world of trouble. Horses aren’t made for milking, and they haven’t adapted to this behavior from humans. Cows, goats, and sheep are all domestic animals that have accustomed to the milking process. Genetically, we’ve bred them for this, so their reaction to humans milking them is mild.
Do Horses Lactate When Not Pregnant?
No, they don’t. In the vast majority of cases, mares only lactate when pregnant. That’s how their biology works. When foals are born, they need to suckle on their mother’s teats to feed, so the mare’s body produces milk naturally. Outside of pregnancy, though, mares will not produce milk.
Still, this doesn’t mean anomalies don’t exist. Some mares lactate outside of pregnancy, but the scientific community has no explanation for this. It could be a hormonal problem that no one has a clear explanation for this phenomenon.
Some scientists argue that mares suffering from Cushing’s disease may produce extra hormones which are directly responsible for milk production.
At the same time, maiden mares could start producing milk in the last 30 days of gestation. That’s a pretty common phenomenon. However, it’s not exactly common, as most maiden mares will only start producing milk in the last hours before birth.
Today, we’ve discovered that horses have two udders and two teats. Mares will only start lactating and producing milk during pregnancy and before birth. Milk is the foals’ only feeding source during those first few days after birth. As for milking mares, you need to do it stealthily and make sure the mare doesn’t realize what you’re doing.
Many people drink horse milk for its health benefits. In fact, some populations in Asia and Russia have been doing it for more than 2,500 years. However, they don’t drink it raw, but they ferment it into a drink called kumis. Either way, the milking process is still a hassle!