Different types and breeds of horses have been developed to solve people’s needs. Although people do not use horses to work or transport as much as they did in the past, they still use them for companionship and sports. And we keep developing horse breeds to suit our desires. Hence, there may be even more breeds in the future via selective breeding.
The Original Domestic Horses
A study in 2012 showed that modern domestic horses originated from their wild ancestors in Eurasia about 160,000 years ago. Scientists state that about 6,000 years ago, the first domestication of horses occurred in the Eurasia Steppe.
In 2017, another published study discovered that every modern horse descends from two different lines: the Turkoman horse (looks like the Akhal-Teke horse), which is now extinct, and the Arabian horse. Horses spread all over the world through gifting, war, theft, trade, and more.
People began to embark on selective breeding to produce preferred characteristics for horses to meet their requirements, such as stamina, speed, and strength. Although people took records of the lineage and traits of their horses for centuries, there were no studbooks for maintaining a formal pedigree record until around 1700. The kinds of horses and multitudes of breeds we currently know arose as a result of this effort.
The Development of Horse Breeds
Most horse breeds developed at a period when horses were the primary mode of power and transportation. The slow but strong Belgian, Percheron, or Clydesdale horse performed heavy duty pulling. The American thoroughbred horse and the standardbred were great at horse racing.
Hackney horses and Cleveland bays were for pulling buggies and carriages, while Arabians conveyed riders swiftly through the desert. To comfortably and efficiently carry riders on mountainous terrain, Kentucky mountain horses were excellent. Several other horses, such as the Andalusian and Lipizzaner, carried soldiers to war.
The Welsh pony and Shetland pony breeds performed well as working animals on farms and in mines. And for companionship and entertainment, we have the miniature horse and the tiny Falabella. These breeds are from different places around the globe, with individuals from each location developing horse breeds which solve their needs. As a result of this, there are numerous horse breeds scattered around the surface of the earth.
Major Types of Horse Breeds
There are four primary types of horse breeds:
These types of horses are sometimes known as draft horse breeds. Their weight ranges between 1,500-2000 pounds, but some can weigh almost 3,000 pounds. They have large bones, muscular legs, and are generally mild-tempered. Popular heavy horse breeds are Clydesdales, Shires, and Belgians.
These horses typically weigh below 1,300 pounds. Their bones are smaller and legs are thinner. Two common light horse breeds are Morgans and Arabians.
The horse breeds in this category are shorter than others (they stand at a height below 14.2 hands). They have a similar muscular build and proportion with others, but their size is significantly different. Among popular ponies are Haflingers, Fjords, and Shetlands.
The horse breeds in this category are a bit wild, not domesticated, and possess unpredictable behaviors. In the U.S, the mustang is the primary horse breed that falls under this group. Due to the undomesticated, wild nature of Przewalski horses, they are often classified in this category too.
While these are the major classifications for numerous horse breeds, there are other methods of categorizing horses too. Another popular method of classification is by their personality.
Warm Blooded Horses
They’re the most common types one can possess. Generally mild, they like racing, riding trails, and working. They can be occasionally temperamental, but they are typically straightforward and will let you know exactly how they feel. They’re useful for drilling competitions such as equitation or dressage.
Hot Blooded Horses
They seem to be more energetic, though it makes them more nervous than others. These kinds tend to be competitive with other horses, thus making them perfect for athletics and racing.
Cold Blooded Horses
They typically have a mild temperament. With large bones and heavy bodies, they mostly do agricultural jobs and are efficient as great trail horses.
Other Horse Types
Other secondary horse classifications sort out different breeds. These classifications are useful in cases where a particular horse breed doesn’t fit into the major categories.
They are mature horses with heights of less than 38 inches. In the first division, they stand at a height less than 34 inches, while horses in the second division are within 34 to 38 inches tall. A mature horse that meets the standard isn’t known as a pony, though it may qualify.
There are light horses bred specifically as a result of the gait they can achieve. Many horses can accomplish these three gait standards: the gallop, the trot, and the walk. Few horses, like the Tennessee walking horse, have extra gaits which occur naturally besides the standard three; this may result in grouping them into this class.
Non-equine animals such as zebras, donkeys, and mules are much related to horses, and people interbreed horses with these non-equine animals. A cross involving a zebra and a horse is called a zorse. A cross between a horse and a donkey is known as a mule. The animals are usually sterile.
Some horses do not fall into any group. These are offsprings of a Przewalski and a domesticated horse. Since there are 64 chromosomes in a domesticated horse and 66 chromosomes in a Przewalski horse, their offspring would have 65 chromosomes. Reproduction is usually possible among their offspring, unlike other crossbreeding cases. That indicates that any such combination of offsprings would belong to this group.
The Number of Horse Breeds
Calculating the exact number of horse breeds may be difficult. Many horse types either blended into other horse breeds with time or are offshoots of different horse breeds. The Encyclopedia of the Horse lists more than 150 horse breeds, which includes ancient ancestors (now extinct) of numerous breeds today.