Horses: What You Should Know

Horses are mammals. Most of the time we think of our domestic horses. In biology, however, horses form a genus. It includes the wild horses, the Przewalski horse, the donkeys, and the zebras. “Horses” is therefore a collective term in biology. In our everyday language, however, we usually mean the domestic horse.

All types of horses have one thing in common: they originally lived in southern Africa and Asia. They live in landscapes where there are at most few trees and feed mostly on grass. You need to find water regularly.

All horses’ feet end in a hoof. This is a hard callus, similar to our toenails or fingernails. The end of the foot is just the middle toe. Horses no longer have the remaining toes. It’s like walking on only your middle fingers and middle toes. A male is a stallion. A female is a mare. A cub is a foal.

Are there still wild horses?

The original wild horse is extinct. There are only his descendants that man has bred, namely our domestic horse. There are many different breeds of him. We know them from horse races, show jumping, or from the pony farm.

There are still some herds of wild horses. They are often called wild horses, but that’s actually wrong. They are feral domestic horses that, for example, ran away from a stable and got used to living in nature again. Because of this, they are very shy.

In nature, feral horses live in herds. Such a group usually only consists of several mares. There is also a stallion and some foals. They are flight animals. They are poor at defending themselves and are therefore always on guard. They even sleep standing up so they can escape immediately in an emergency.

The Przewalski’s horse looks quite similar to our domestic horses but is a separate species. It is also called the “Asian wild horse” or “Mongolian wild horse”. It was almost extinct. It got its name from the Russian Nikolai Mikhailovich Przewalski, who made it popular in Europe. Today there are about 2000 of his animals in zoos and some even in some nature reserves in Ukraine and Mongolia.

How do domestic horses live?

Domestic horses smell and hear very well. Her eyes are on the side of her head. So you can look almost all around without moving your head. However, because they can only see most things with one eye at a time, it is difficult for them to see how far away something is.

A mare’s pregnancy lasts almost a year from mating, depending on the breed of horse. The mare usually gives birth to a single young animal. It gets up immediately, and after a few hours, it can already follow its mother.

The cub drinks the mother’s milk for six months to a year. It is sexually mature at around four years of age, so it can then make its own young. This usually happens earlier in mares. Young stallions must first assert themselves against their rivals.

What breeds of domestic horses are there?

Domestic horses are an animal species. The man bred many different breeds. A simple identifier is a size. You measure the height of the shoulders. In technical terms, this is the height at the withers or the height at the withers. According to the German breeding law, the limit is 148 centimeters. That’s about the size of a small adult human. Above this mark are the big horses, and below that are the small horses, also called ponies.

There is also a classification based on temperament: there are cold, warm, or thoroughbreds. Your blood is always the same temperature. But they have different characteristics: Drafts tend to be heavy and calm. They are therefore very suitable as draft horses. Thoroughbreds are nervous and lean. They are the best racehorses. Warmblood characteristics fall somewhere in between.

A further subdivision is made according to the origin of the original breeding areas. Well-known are the Shetland ponies from the islands, the Belgians, the Holsteins from northern Germany, and the Andalusians from southern Spain. The Freiberger and a few others come from the Jura in Switzerland. Even the Einsiedeln monastery has its own breed of horse.

There is also a color distinction: black horses are black horses. White horses are called gray horses, if they are a bit spotted they are called dapple gray horses. Then there is also the fox, the piebald, or simply “the brown one” and many others.

How are horses bred?

Humans began capturing and breeding horses about five thousand years ago. That was in the Neolithic period. Breeding means: You always bring together a stallion and a mare with the desired characteristics for mating. In agriculture, the power of horses was important to pull the plow across the field. Riding horses should be rather fast and light. War horses were very large and heavy and were trained accordingly.

Many horse breeds were naturally adapted to a specific climate. The Shetland ponies, for example, were small and as used to heat as they were to storms. They were therefore often used as draft horses in the English coal mines. The veins were often not very high, and the climate in the pits was warm and humid.

For certain jobs, donkeys are better suited than domestic horses. They are far more sure-footed in the mountains. These two animal species have therefore been successfully crossed. This is possible because they are so close relatives: the mule, also known as the mule, was created from a horse mare and a donkey stallion.

The mule was created from a horse stallion and a donkey mare. Both breeds are less shy than domestic horses and very good-natured. They also live longer than domestic horses. However, mules and hinnies themselves can no longer father young animals.

What gaits do domestic horses know?

Horses can use their four legs in different ways to get around. We are talking about different gaits here.

A horse is slowest at a walk. It always has two feet on the ground. The order of movement is left front – right back – right front – left back. The horse is slightly faster than a human.

The next stage is called a trot. The horse always moves two feet at the same time, diagonally: So left in front and right behind, then right in front and left behind. In between, the horse is briefly in the air on all fours. When riding, this shakes quite strongly.

A horse is fastest when it gallops. The horse puts down its two hind legs very quickly one after the other, followed immediately by its two front legs. Then it flies. Actually, the gallop consists of many jumps that the horse strings together. For the rider, this gait is rounder and therefore calmer than the trot.

In the Middle Ages and even in modern times, women were not allowed to sit in the saddle like men. They sat on a side saddle or side saddle. They had both legs on the same side of the horse. There was also a special gait that the horses were trained to do: the amble. Today it is called “Tölt”. The horse alternately moves the two left legs forward, then the two right legs, and so on. That shakes far less. Horses that master this gait are called tamers.

Below you can see films of different gaits.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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