20 fun and interesting facts about horses

March 12th, 2024

The horse is one of the most beautiful, athletic, and versatile species, known for its strength, stamina, and elegance. With more than 300 breeds in existence today, horses come in an assortment of shapes and sizes, and can perform a variety of duties, from racing to show-jumping, trail riding, and farming.

Below we get to know the Equus caballus species better, as we list 20 interesting and fun facts about horses, with a special emphasis on the beloved Thoroughbred breed synonymous with horse racing.

Interesting and fun facts about horses

1. The earliest ancestor of the horse is estimated to have lived around 50 million years ago and was a dog-sized, hoofed animal called Eohippus, or Hyracotherium. Scientists also estimate that horses were first domesticated 6,000 years ago in modern-day Ukraine and West Kazakhstan. 

2. Almost all modern horses descend from the ancient Middle Eastern lines of the Arabian and the now-extinct Turkoman horses. All purebred Thoroughbreds can be traced back to three foundation sires: the Darley Arabian, Godolphin Arabian, and the Byerly Turk, all of which came to England in the 17th and 18th centuries.

3. All horses fit into one of five categories: hot-blooded, warm-blooded, cold-blooded/draft, pony, and miniature. Thoroughbreds fall into the hot-blooded category, along with the Arabian, while warm-blooded types, like Appaloosas, are crosses between hot-blooded and cold-blooded/pony type breeds.

4. Horses have 205 bones (one fewer than humans), with the exception of Arabian horses, who are born with one fewer lumbar vertebra, rib, and tail bone.

5: The average horse requires at least one gallon of fresh water per 100 pounds of body weight per day. That figure can increase up to 30 gallons in one day for horses in hotter climates or on race days.

6: Horses also produce up to 10 gallons of saliva per day.

7. No land mammal has larger eyes than a horse, which has nearly 360-degree vision. A horse's blind spots are directly in front and behind it.

8. The space occupied by a horse's teeth is greater than the space taken up by its brain, which weighs around 22 ounces.

9. There are 10 different muscles in a horse's ear, which can be rotated nearly 180 degrees and move independently of the other ear.

10. At 12 feet, 6 inches, the longest tail measured on a horse belonged to the mare JJS Summer Breeze, owned by Crystal and Casey Socha of Augusta, Kansas.

11. The oldest horse to ever live was Old Billy (1760-1822), an 18th-century barge horse from England. His breed is unknown, but he was likely a Shire, or British draft horse. His 62 years of age equate to approximately 165 human years. The world's oldest living pony was Sugar Puff, who was 56 when he died in 2007 in Sussex, United Kingdom.

12. A Shire horse named Sampson, born in 1846 in Bedfordshire, England, is the world's tallest horse on record, at 21.25 hands. He also weighed a record 3,360 pounds.

13. Measuring just 17 inches and weighing 57 pounds, miniature sorrel brown mare Thumbelina is listed as the smallest horse in the Guinness World Records book. She was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 2001 and lived until 2008.

14. A 17-year-old Thoroughbred named Lukas correctly identified 19 numbers in the span of one minute, which marked a Guinness world record and also earned him the distinction as the world's smartest horse. Lukas was assisted by his owner and trainer Karen Murdock when he accomplished the feat in 2010.

15. The highest jump recorded by a horse was 8 feet, 1.25 inches, achieved by the chestnut Thoroughbred Huaso and his rider, Captain Alberto Larraguibel Morales, in Vina del Mar, Chile, in 1949.

16. All Thoroughbred racehorses share the same birthday of Jan. 1 in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, Aug. 1 is the universal birthday for the breed. Before 1858, May 1 was the official birthday since the date coincided with the start of the racing season.

17. While Thoroughbreds are known for both their speed and stamina, Quarter Horses are the fastest breed at short distances and can run up to 55 mph at a quarter-mile. The Thoroughbred Winning Brew set a record for a two-furlong sprint when she clocked a speed of 43.97 mph in the short dash at Penn National Race Course as a two-year-old filly in 2008.

18. Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus is the most expensive horse on record, as he was purchased for $70 million by Coolmore Stud in Ireland in 2000. The Mr. Prospector son was sold for $4 million as a yearling to Fusao Sekiguchi and earned $1,994,400 for his career. His progeny include Grade 1 winners Bandini and Roman Ruler, and he's the grandsire of 2011 Belmont S. (G1) winner Ruler On Ice.

19. On June 9, 2002, at age 19, Al Jabal, a purebred Arabian ridden by Brian Boulton and owned by Andrea Boulton, became the oldest horse to win a race when he crossed the wire first in The Three Horseshoes Handicap Stakes, a six-furlong event at Barbury Castle, Wiltshire, UK.

20. In the U.S., The Jockey Club oversees the naming of Thoroughbreds and provides a unique set of rules to abide by. For one, names can not exceed 18 characters, including spaces, nor can they consist entirely of numbers. Monikers ending with horse-related terms, like "stallion," "mare," or "colt," are forbidden, and certain famous racehorse names are permanently protected and can never be duplicated, such as Secretariat or Seabiscuit.