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Equine Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia

  • Phylum: Chordata

  • Class: Mammalia

  • Order: Perissodactyla

  • Family: Equidae

  • Genus: Equus

  • Species: E. ferus

  • Subspecies: E. f. caballus

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Equine Family: The equine (Equus ferus caballus), also called horse, is a domesticated one-toed hoofed mammal. It's one of the two existing subspecies of Equus ferus and relates to the taxonomic family Equidae. Throughout the last 45 to 55 million years, the horse has developed from Eohippus, a little multi-toed species, to the big, single-toed animal it is today. Horses were first domesticated by humans in 4000 BC, and their domestication was commonplace by 3000 BC. Even though certain domesticated populations survive in the wild like feral horses, horses in the subspecies caballus are tamed.

The term "genuine wild horse" refers to horses that have not been domesticated, including the endangered Przewalski's horse, a different subspecies and the last true wild horse. Equine-related ideas are described using a large, specialised vocabulary that covers everything from anatomy to life phases, locomotion, colours, size, breeds, and behaviour.

Horses have evolved to run, enabling them to flee predators swiftly. They also have a good sense of balance and a powerful fight-or-flight response. Horses have an uncommon characteristic that allows them to sleep both standing and lying down, particularly younger horses sleeping substantially more than adults. This seems to be related to their need to flee from predators in the wild. Mares, or female horses, keep their young for around 11 months, and a foal, or young horse, may stand and run immediately after birth. Between the ages of two to four, many domesticated horses start saddle or harness training. They acquire full development of the adult by the age of 5 and live for 25 to 30 years on average.

Energetic "hot bloods" with strength and agility; "cold bloods," like draught horses and certain ponies, appropriate for slow, heavy work; and "warmbloods," derived from crosses among hot blood and cold blood, frequently focusing on establishing breeds for specialised riding uses, especially in Europe. There are around 300 horse breeds in the modern world, designed for a variety of purposes.

The equine animal and humans engage in a wide range of sporting events and non-competitive recreational hobbies, as well as in professional settings like law enforcement, entertainment, agriculture, and therapy. Horses have long been employed in warfare, and as a result, a diverse range of riding and driving strategies have evolved, employing a range of equipment and control systems. Meat, bone, hair, milk, hide, and medications collected from the urine of pregnant mares are just a few of the items generated from horses. Domesticated horses receive drink, food, and shelter from humans, and also medical attention from specialists like farriers and veterinarians.

Lifespan and Life Stages

The modern domestic horse does have an average lifespan of 25 to 30 years, depending on breed, husbandry, and environment. Several animals live beyond their 40s and, on rare occasions, beyond. "Old Billy," a 19th-century horse who survived to be 62, has the oldest provable record. Sugar Puff, who was the world's longest-living pony according to Guinness World Records, expired in 2007 at the age of 56.

Regardless of a horse or pony's exact date of birth, a year is added to its age for most competition reasons on January 1 in the Northern Hemisphere as well as August 1 in the Southern Hemisphere. The only exception is endurance riding, in which the minimum age to qualify is determined by the animal's calendar age.

Horses of Varying Ages are Described Using the Following Terminology:

  • Foal: A horse that is less than a year old, regardless of sex. Suckling is a foal that is still nursing, whereas a weanling is a foal, which has been weaned. Many domesticated foals are weaned between the ages of five and seven months, while foals as young as four months could be weaned without causing bodily harm.

  • Yearling: A yearling is a horse, which is between the ages of one and two years old.

  • Colt: A colt is a four-year-old male horse. A common grammatical blunder is to refer to any young horse as a "colt," while the term refers primarily to young male horses.

  • Filly: A filly is a four-year-old female horse.

  • Mare: A four-year-old or older female horse.

  • Stallion: A four-year-old or older non-castrated male horse. A stallion is sometimes referred to as a "horse" in casual conversation.

  • Gelding: A castrated male horse of any age is known as a gelding.

These definitions might vary in equine animal racing: Colts and fillies younger than five years old are considered colts and fillies in Thoroughbred horse racing in the British Isles, for instance. Colts and fillies are defined as horses that are less than 4 years old in Australian Thoroughbred racing.

Size and Measurement

The highest point of the withers, in which the neck joins the back, is used to determine the height of horses. Unlike the neck or head, which move up and down in proportion to the horse's body, this point is utilised as it is a stable area of anatomy. Horse height is commonly expressed in hands and inches in English-speaking countries: one hand equals 4 inches (101.6 mm). The height is given as the number of full hands, a point, the number of additional inches, and the abbreviation "h" or "hh" (for "hands high") at the end.

Horse sizes vary by breed, but it is also affected by nutrition. Light riding horses typically stand between 14 and 16 hands tall (56 to 64 inches, 142 to 163 cm) and weigh between 380 and 550 kilos (840 to 1,210 lb). Larger riding horses range in size from 15.2 hands (62 inches, 157 cm) to 17 hands (68 inches, 173 cm), ranging between 500 and 600 kilos (1,100 to 1,320 lb). Heavy draught horses seem to be at least 16 hands tall (64 inches, 163 cm) and can reach up to 18 hands tall (72 inches, 183 cm). They can reach anything between 700 and 1,000 kilos (1,540 to 2,200 lb).

Mammoth, a Shire horse born in 1848, was most likely the largest horse in recorded human history. He measured 21.2 ½ hands tall (86.25 inches, 219 cm) and weighed 1,524 kilos at his peak (3,360 lb). Thumbelina, a completely adult miniature horse with dwarfism, set the top record for the world's tiniest horse. She stands 17 inches tall (43 cm) and weighs 57 pounds (26 kg).


Ponies and horses have the same taxonomic classification. The height difference between a horse and a pony is widely depicted, especially for competition purposes. The distinction between horses and ponies might also include features of phenotype, such as shape and temperament, in addition to height. The traditional height criterion for a mature horse or pony is 14.2 hands (58 inches, 147 cm). A horse is normally defined as an animal with a length of 14.2 hours or more, and a pony as one with a length of fewer than 14.2 hours, however, there are several exceptions to this rule. Ponies beneath 14 hands are termed ponies in Australia (56 inches, 142 cm).

The International Federation for Equestrian Sports (IFES), the world regulatory organisation for horse sport, employs metric measurements and describes a pony like any horse that measures below 148 centimetres (58.27 in) there at withers without shoes, or maybe just above 14.2 h, and 149 centimetres (58.66 in), or perhaps just above 14.2 ½ h, wearing shoes.


Horses are made up of 64 chromosomes. In 2007, the horse genome was sequenced. It has 2.7 billion DNA base pairs, making it somewhat bigger than the dog genome however shorter than the human or bovine genomes. Researchers can access the map.

Colours and Markings

Horses have a wide range of coat colours and markings, which are characterised using specialist terminology. Before breed or sex, a horse's coat colour is frequently used to classify it. Horses of the very same hue can be identified by white markings that are inherited independently from coat colour, together with different spotting patterns.

Numerous genes which influence the colour and pattern of a horse's coat have been discovered. At least five distinct alleles influence coat colour, according to existing genetic tests, and the investigation goes on to uncover new genes associated with certain features. The Melanocortin 1 receptor gene, also called the "extension gene" or "red factor," determines the basic coat colours of chestnut and black, with the recessive form being "red" (chestnut) and the dominant form being "black." Additional genes influence the suppression of black pigment to point colouration, which leads to a bay, spotting patterns like pinto or leopard, dilution genes like palomino or dun, and also greying and the many other factors which result in several different coat colours seen in horses.

Reproduction and Development

Gestation lasts about 340 days, with a range of 320–370 days on average, and normally produces only one foal; twins are uncommon. Horses are indeed precocial species, having foals that have the capacity of standing and running as soon as they are born. In most cases, foals are born in the spring. A mare's estrous cycle lasts about 19–22 days and lasts from early spring to late autumn. During the winter, the majority of mares experience an anestrus period and so don't cycle. In between the ages of four and six months, foals are weaned from their mothers.

Horses, especially colts, are often physically proficient in reproduction at around 18 months, however, domesticated horses, particularly women, are rarely permitted to mate until the age of three. Horses are regarded as mature when they reach the age of four, while the skeleton keeps developing till they reach the age of six; maturity is also influenced by the horse's size, sex, breed, and standard of healthcare. Larger horses possess bigger bones, which take more time to generate bone tissue, as well as bigger epiphyseal plates, which take longer to transform from cartilage to bone.

Horses are normally saddled and taught to be ridden between the ages of two and four, based on their breed, maturity, and planned work. Even though Thoroughbred racehorses can be ridden as young as two years old in certain places, horses bred for sports like dressage are usually not saddled until they become three or four years old since their bones and muscles have not fully grown.


Skeletal System

The skeleton of a horse has an average of 205 bones. The absence of a collarbone in the horse's bones is notable; the horse's forelimbs are joined to the spinal column by a strong complex of tendons, muscles, and ligaments which connect the shoulder blade to the torso. The four legs and hooves of a horse are likewise unique structures.

Their leg bones are not proportioned the same as a human's. The "knee" of a horse, for instance, is mainly composed of the carpal bones that equate to the human wrist. The hock also has bones that are similar to those found in the human heel and ankle. 

The fetlock (mistakenly named the "ankle") is really the proximal sesamoid bones between the cannon bones correspond to the lower leg bones (a unique equivalent to the human metatarsal or metacarpal bones) and the proximal phalanges, which correspond to the human "knuckles."


The classic proverb "no foot, no horse" sums up the crucial role of the feet and legs. The distal phalanges, which are the equivalent of a human toe or fingertip, are encircled by cartilage as well as other specialised, blood-rich soft tissues like the laminae in the horse foot.

Keratin, the very same component as a human fingernail, is used to make the external hoof wall and the horn of the sole. As a consequence, a horse weighing approximately 500 kilogrammes (1,100 pounds) on average moves on the same bones as a human walking on tiptoe. Certain horses possess horseshoes applied on their feet by a skilled farrier to preserve the hoof under particular conditions.

The hoof develops at a constant rate, therefore most domesticated horses' feet have to be trimmed (and horseshoes reset, if necessary) every five to eight weeks, whereas wild horses' hooves wear down and recover at a rate appropriate for their environment.


Horses have evolved to graze. There are 12 incisors at the very front of an adult horse's mouth, which are designed to bite grass or even other plants. The premolars and molars, the back teeth of the mouth, are designed for chewing. Stallions and geldings possess four additional teeth right in the back of the incisors, known as "tushes," which are a form of the canine tooth.

Certain horses, both male and female, will grow one to four extremely tiny vestigial teeth at the front of the molars, referred to as "wolf" teeth, that are usually removed since they can obstruct the bite. Whenever the horse is bridled, the bit rests directly on the horse's gums, or "bars," in an empty interdental region between the incisors and the molars.


Horses are herbivores with a digestive system that has evolved to handle a foraged meal of grasses as well as other plant material that is devoured throughout the day. As a result, they have quite a small stomach compared to humans but incredibly long intestines to ensure a consistent flow of nutrition. A 450-kilogram horse will consume 7 to 11 kilogrammes of food per day and drink 38 to 45 litres of water during typical conditions. 

Horses are not ruminants; they tend to have a single stomach, just like people, however, they can eat cellulose, which is a key element of grass. Horses are fermenters of the hindgut. Symbiotic bacteria digest cellulose in the cecum, or "water gut," where food passes before entering the large intestine. Horses may not have a gallbladder, yet they appear to handle high-fat levels in their diet regardless of their lack of one.


The horses' senses are predicated on their prey status, which requires them to be constantly alert of their surroundings. They have the widest eyeballs of any land mammal, and their eyes are lateral, indicating they seem to be on the edges of their skulls. This indicates horses have quite a sight spectrum of much more than 350 degrees, with 65 degrees of binocular vision and 285 degrees of monocular vision. Horses have a great day and night sight, however, their colour vision is dichromatic, similar to red-green colour blindness in human beings, in which certain hues, particularly red and related colours, seem like a shade of green.


Horses have a high fight-or-flight reaction since they are prey animals. When confronted with a threat, they are startled and flee, but if escape is impossible or their young are in danger, they can hold their ground and protect themselves. They are also inquisitive; when frightened, they can typically pause for a split second to determine the source of their fear, and they might not necessarily flee from anything that appears to be non-threatening. The majority of light horse riding breeds were bred for their innate attributes of speed, attentiveness, agility, and endurance, which they inherited from their wild ancestors. However, several horse breeds, notably draught horses, have been selectively bred to be docile.

Intelligence and Learning

According to studies, horses undertake a variety of cognitive tasks on a regular basis, including food acquisition and the identification of members within a social structure. They possess excellent spatial discrimination skills as well. They have quite a natural curiosity for new things and are likely to investigate them. Equine intellect has been measured in areas like learning speed, problem-solving, and memory. Horses excel at basic learning, but they also have advanced cognitive abilities such as classification and idea acquisition. Habituation, classical conditioning, desensitisation, and operant conditioning, as well as positive and negative reinforcement, can be used to teach them. According to one study, horses can tell the difference between "more or less" when the quantity is much less than four.

Sleep Patterns

Horses can sleep in a variety of positions, including standing and lying down. Horses can acquire light sleep while using a "stay device" in their legs, which allows them to doze without collapsing, like an adaptation from their wild environment. Horses sleep effectively in teams as few animals sleep whereas others stay guard, keeping an eye out for predators. Since its instincts seem to be to maintain a continual eye out for danger, a horse left alone would not sleep soundly.

Horses, with exception of humans, don't really sleep for extended periods of time, but instead, take frequent brief breaks. Horses stand for four to fifteen hours a day and lie down for anywhere from just a few minutes to a few hours. In 24 hours, total sleep time can vary from a few minutes to a couple of hours, with most of it occurring in 15-minute intervals. A domestic horse is believed to sleep for 2.9 hours a day on average.

To enter REM sleep, horses typically lie down. To achieve their REM sleep requirements, they just need to lie down for an hour or two every few days. If a horse has never been permitted to lie down, it will get sleepy after a few days and, in exceptional cases, might abruptly collapse when it falls into REM sleep even while standing still.

FAQs on Equine

1. Do Horses Laugh?

Ans. Horses will elevate their noses up in the air and twist their upper lip upward, exposing their upper teeth. As a result, they appear to be laughing hysterically. What they're doing is referred to as a Flehmen reaction.

2. What is The Maximum Speed At Which A Horse Can Run?

Ans. The world's fastest equine sprinter, the Quarter Horse, was clocked at 55 miles per hour. A Thoroughbred's quickest reported race time is 44 mph. The average speed of an equine gallop is around 27 miles per hour.