As a professional pet sitter, I get the honor and the privilege to not only care for dogs and cats, but for horses too! I’ve cared for horses in all different colors, shapes, sizes and breeds. I decided to do a little research to see how many different horse breeds there are and according to Horse & Rider.com, there are over 400 horse breeds! With such a variety of breeds, I was curious to find out what some of the top breeds are, and here is what I found:
The Quarter Horse
The Quarter Horse originated in the United States sometime during the 17th century. The name is derived from their ability to outrun other horse breeds in races of a quarter mile or less. Some have been clocked at speeds up to 44 mph! This is what makes them an easy choice for rodeo events such as barrel racing and calf roping. And they come in a variety of colors, including chestnut, bay, black, brown and gray. Their muscular build and powerful hindquarters make them well-suited for activities such as cutting and reining. They also have a decent lifespan of 25-30 years though they can often live longer. Quarter horses are generally considered to be pretty laid back. They are level-headed, stable, intelligent and adaptable, which makes them a great choice for a family horse.
Arabian horses are one of the oldest and most recognizable breeds of horses in the world. They are believed to have originated in the Arabian Peninsula over 4500 years ago. They are known for their distinctive head shape, which features a concave profile and large nostrils. Generally smaller in size compared to other breeds, they stand about 14 to 15 hands tall, have a fine, dense coat, and come in a range of colors. These horses are highly valued for their endurance and stamina, which makes them excellent long-distance runners, and a top choice for endurance riding, racing and dressage. They are also known for their intelligence, loyalty, and strong bonds with their owners. And let's not forget the famous movie, “The Black Stallion” which featured real life champion black stallion Cass Ole who had won over 50 championships and reinforced my own passion/borderline obsession with horses!
Thoroughbreds originated in England in the 17th century. They are known for their athleticism, agility and speed and are mainly used for horse racing, equestrian sports and show jumping. They stand between 15 and 17 hands tall and weigh around 1,000 pounds and have a lean body with long, slim legs and a muscular neck. These horses can reach speeds of around 40 miles per hour. Even though they are powerful, muscular horses, they’re able to move with grace and agility.
When grooming a thoroughbred, it’s important to be extra gentle because this horse has thinner skin than many other breeds. So a thoroughbred might be more sensitive and annoyed by grooming, especially if you hit any sore spots. One of the most famous Thoroughbreds in history is Secretariat, also known as Big Red. Secretariat was a champion American racehorse and was the ninth winner of the American Triple Crown, setting and still holding the fastest time record in all three races.
Clydesdales are one of the most famous cold-blooded horses in America. Originally from Scotland, this breed is tall and muscular and are known for their distinctive feathering on their legs. They are one of the largest breeds of horses, standing around 16 to 18 hands (64 to 72 inches) tall and weighing up to 2,000 pounds. Clydesdales are typically Bay in color, with a white glaze on their face and white stockings on their legs. They have a gentle and calm temperament which makes them excellent for working with people, children, and other animals. They were originally used as workhorses on farms, hauling heavy loads and plowing fields. They can pull more than twice their weight! They were also used in the logging industry, pulling logs out of forests. In the early 20th century, Clydesdales were used to pull beer wagons for the Budweiser beer company, and they have since become a symbol of the company. Who doesn't know and love the iconic Budweiser Clydesdales?
The Gypsy Vanner is a horse breed that originated in the United Kingdom and Ireland. It is also known as the Irish cob or the Tinker Horse. A relatively large breed of horse, they typically stand between 13 and 16 hands high, and have a distinctive muscular build with a thick mane and tail and feathering on their lower legs. The Gypsy Vanner is known for its striking coat colors and patterns, which can include black and white, brown and white, chestnut and white, or many others. They have a gentle, friendly temperament, and they are often used as therapy horses and are great with families and children. A well-known stallion who was imported into America in 1998 was The Gypsy King. He’s been highly photographed, and you’ve likely seen him in calendars, in magazines, and in articles about the breed. He was the sire to 94 foals and was the inspiration for a Breyer model horse that shares his name.
The Morgan horse is among the most popular horse breeds. Known as "the horse that chooses you," it's an exceptionally cooperative breed with an eagerness to please its humans. Adaptable to virtually any situation and use, the Morgan is generally easy to keep. Equestrians of all levels, including children, are typically able to handle a Morgan horse. They are a bit smaller than many other full-size horse breeds, and horses average from 14 hands to 15 hands. Morgans tend to weigh between 900 and 1,000 pounds.
The founding stallion of the breed was a horse named Figure, owned by Justin Morgan in the late 1700s. No one knows for certain what Figure’s pedigree was, but it's generally accepted that it was the offspring of horses with Arabian, thoroughbred, and perhaps Welsh Cob or Friesian bloodlines.
Appaloosas are known for their beautiful spots and are a distinctly American breed developed by the Nez Perce people. The horses were originally called "Palouse horses" by settlers......in reference to the Palouse River that ran through what was once Nez Perce country. Appaloosas are often used in Western movies and television series. Examples include Cojo Rojo in the Marlon Brando film "The Appaloosa," Zip Cochise ridden by John Wayne in the film "El Dorado," and Cowboy, the mount of Matt Damon in "True Grit." You can’t always predict a grown Appaloosa's color at birth. Many horse breeds change colors as they grow up, and Appaloosa foals don’t always show classic leopard complex (the genetic mutation that causes their distinctive spots) characteristics when they’re born. And not all spotted horses are Appaloosas. Mustangs, Paint Horses and Knabstruppers are their own breed, but can have spotted coats as well.
Shetland ponies are one of the most popular pony breeds in the world. They make for wonderful pets, companions, and riding ponies. Their small size, incredible strength, and generous coat and mane have fascinated horse lovers for centuries. Today, they continue to be a favorite for children and adults all around the world. The average height of Shetland ponies is about 40 - 46 inches and they reach a weight of about 400 pounds. They have very compact bodies with thick neck and short legs. They are one of the strongest pony breeds in the world and can pull up to twice its weight. If you can't get enough cuteness of the Shetland, you can follow Teddy the Shetland on YouTube or Instagram who has over 172,000 followers!
I just scratched the surface of popular horse breeds! There are so many other amazing breeds that have their own characteristics and function. Even if you aren't a "horse person" you can't deny that horses are majestic, powerful, somewhat magical creatures who can evoke a lot of emotion in us. Why do you think horses are used in so many popular therapy modalities? Because they are so healing and can help to bring a sense of calm and peace to one's soul. So next time you are out with your friends, and cracking open a Budweiser, don't forget to pay homage to the Clydesdale or any other amazing horse that you can think of.
Blog post written by Mary Augustine
Owner/operator of Pets & Plants