There are many horse breeds around the world. In fact, researchers claim that there are over 350 internationally recognized horse breeds and more than 100 pony breeds present around the word. They come in so many different shapes, colors, and sizes that one can write volumes of books on the topic.
However, regardless of the diversity – horses are one of the friendliest and lovable animals that are used for many purposes including transportation, entertainment, and even business.
In this guide, let’s take a look at the top 13 horse breeds that are a favorite amongst the equestrian circle.
1. American Quarter Horse
The Quarter Horse is the most popular horse breed in North America. It also has the largest breed registry in the world – the American Quarter Horse Association with almost three million registered equine, as of 2014.
The American horses are popular for their speed –, especially over short distances. In fact, some Quarter horses have been timed to run at 55 miles per hour. Their muscled body makes them a perfect companion for both – pleasure riding on the trails and competitions such as jumping events, rodeo, race shows, reining and cutting. The hardy breed is also used for work in ranches while their even temperament makes them a good choice for a novice rider.
The Quarter horses have a strong, muscled body with a small, refined head. They have two main body types – the Stock type: a compact horse that is mainly used for working with livestock and the Racing and Hunter type: the tall and more muscular horse that often resembles the horse of Thoroughbred breed.
When it comes to their coloring, the American Quarter horses are found in numerous colors with sorrel and chestnut being the most common. Other colors for the US breed include bay, black, brown, palomino, gray, buckskin, white, red dun, blue dun, blue roan, bay roan, cremello, and perlino.
2. Arabian Horse
As the name implies, the Arabian horse originates from the Arabian Peninsula. One of the oldest breed of horses in the world, the Arabian horse is the most distinguishable as well with its dished face, high-tail carriage, broad forehead, large eyes, and nostrils.
The Arabian breed of horses is also renowned in history. From the nomadic Bedouins to Prophet Muhammad and King Solomon all made use of this breed for battles, transportation, and even pleasure.
They are a versatile breed of horse. Their stamina, endurance levels, and balance make them the best horse breed for racing competition.
The Arabian also makes a great family horse. They have affectionate personalities that make them a suitable pet for children. They are loyal to their human owners and are quick learners. However, they can catch on bad habits fast as well so make sure you keep them with good-natured companions. They are usually cooperative too but can become anxious or nervous if treated ‘badly’ or in an abusive manner. but according to LEAH:
Arabian is beautiful on both the inside and outleah Blenchard
Through different breeding programs and import/export- the Arabian horses are available all over the world. In fact, the USA has more Arabian horses than the whole world combined where they are being used in ranches, shows, racing competition, and pleasure riding.
Bay, black, chestnut, and gray coloring is the most common in Arabian horses. However, you can find an occasional Arabian horse in white, sabino, or rabicano pattern.
3. Thoroughbred Horse
If you are an experienced rider and looking for a horse that is fast and can compete with you at events, then the Thoroughbred horse is your partner. The ‘hot-blooded’ horses are popular for their speed, agility, and spirit with some horses being clocked at 44 miles per hour. They have muscular and powerful body that makes them ideal for various equestrian sports such as racing, polo, show jumping, combined training, and foxhunting.
Since they perform with maximum exertion, the Thoroughbred is the breed that suffers from the most accidents and health issues as well. Bleeding from lungs, low fertility rate, abnormally small hearts, and internal damages are a common occurrence in this breed.
When looking at a Thoroughbred, you will notice that these horses are more elegant and graceful than any other breed. Hailing from Britain, the breed features a long neck and a well-chiseled head with widely spaced eyes. The muscles throughout the body are lean while the legs are long and evenly defined.
This breed of horse can be found in many different colors around the world. These include gray, white, bay, dark bay, roan, chestnut buckskin, perlino, black, palomino, cremello, and brown. Some thoroughbred horses also have marking of white color on their faces and legs, just below the knee. The markings are usually in the shape of star, blazes, and stockings. However, it is unlikely to find any similar marking on the body of this spirited equine.
The Morgan horse breed is one of the oldest breeds of equine to develop in the United States. It is also the most beloved and often called the ‘breed that choses u’ because of its fondness and attachment with humans. The American Morgan Horse Association also describes the Morgan horses as the ‘breed exists solely because it pleases people.’ The breed of horses is also said to be very adaptable and adjusts well to any situation.
Overall, the Morgan has a compact but athletically built body. The head is chiseled while the eyes are large and expressive. The Morgan features a large forehead and a graceful neckline, suggesting agility and strength.
They are usually available in dark, solid colors – such as bay, black, and chestnut. However, some breeders have also been able to accomplish pinto shading in the Morgan, but that is an occasional occurrence.
In the olden days, the Morgan horse served various purposes that included plowing the fields and transporting families to church. Miners also used them during the California Gold Rush and the army during, and after the Civil War.
Today, you can find Morgan horses for both – pleasure riding and part of every equestrian competition including saddle shows, trotting races, jumping, dressage, and more.
They also make great family pets – especially if you have a beginner rider in the house. They are a hardy breed and do not require much maintenance from their owner’s side. Interestingly, they eat less than other breeds of horses – making them a much economical choice!
5. Tennessee Walker
The Tennessee Walker is a gaited-breed of horse that was originally developed in the southern parts of the United States for use in farms and plantations. Dating back to the 18th century, the horse has a calm disposition and even gaits.
It is specifically popular for its running walk. A running walk follows the same footfall pattern of a normal walk but much faster. Instead of the usual four to six miles per hour – the running walk can reach up to 20 and is a prized characteristic of the Walker horse.
Today, the Tennessee Walker horses are a staple in horse-show events, especially during performances in saddle-seat English style equipment. It is also a popular trail riding horse.
The horses have also made numerous appearances in TV shows and films. It played the role of ‘Silver’ – the Lone Ranger’s horse. It was also seen as the ‘Trigger, Jr’ the successor of the original ‘Trigger.’ Tennessee Walker horses are also portrayed as the mascot of University of Southern California.
At a quick glance, The Tennessee Walker horses give an impression of being very elegant but with a solid build. The horses are tall – with long necks and finely chiseled head. Eyes are large and ears – short and erect. Their shoulders and hips are long and sloping while it is also common to have hind legs that are cow-hocked or sickle-hocked.
Common colors for the Tennessee Walker include solid bay, black, and chestnut. Through various breeding programs, you can also find the Walking Horse in pinto patterns, champagne coloring, and even silver dapples.
Unfortunately, this breed of horses is also a target of soring and other abusive practices. ‘Soring’ involves the use of chemicals, objects, and pressure on the horse’s front feet and legs to cause them pain when they touch the ground. This makes them run faster and jump higher than they naturally do.
The Horse Protection Act of 1970 protects them from negligence but some horse owners continue to practice unlawful methods to make their horse perform exceptionally well during competitions.
6. Paint Horse
Popular for their distinctive coloring, the American Paint Horse is one of the fastest growing breeds with over 50,000 registrations recorded each year in its breed registry. The breed combines the characteristics of western stock horses with pinto of white or dark coat colors.
The good-natured and calm horses are popular for their social and friendly behavior with riders of all ages and experience level. They are a perfect companion for families with kids as they have a relaxed personality and are easy to handle – despite their large size. They are intelligent as well, which makes training fairly easy, especially if you are planning to take them out on competitions.
They are strong and fast and can be used in any equestrian disciple of both – Western and English. They enjoy going out on trails and can work well at ranches as well. The versatile breed is also capable of representing in most sporting competitions such as barrel racing, show jumping, dressage and reining.
What makes the Paint horse stand out from the rest of the horse breeds? It’s the unique coloring of course! The coat pattern on the Paint can occur in any combination of white and another color such as bay, black, chestnut, and palomino. The colorings vary and no two patterns are the same on the Paint horse. However, generally, the coat patterns are classified as:
- Tobianos – The most common horse pattern on Paint refers to a predominantly white or dark-colored horse with splashes of the pattern. The head is usually dark-colored with markings in the shape of star, blaze, and stripes.
- Overo – The Overo Paint horse exhibits a solid color on the back. The face is usually white with legs of dark coloring.
- Sabino – A Sabino horse is a mainly solid color with white patches of irregular edges covering the whole body. The face of a Sabino Paint horse is usually speckled with white patches while the legs are also white.
- Tovero – The horses characterized as Tovero are mainly white on the body. However, the upper head, flank, and chest area have dark spotting. The eyes of a Tovero are often of blue color.
These are just general classification and sometimes even a solid-color horse qualifies as Paint. For more information in this regard, check out the website of American Paint Horse Association.
Another American breed of horse that is known for its colorful spots is the Appaloosa. Dating back to the Naz Perce era during the Treaty Period of 1855, the Appaloosa breed was almost lost during their war in the late 1870s. Luckily, a few dedicated Appaloosa lovers started a club and a breed registry in 1938 that increased interest and development of one of the most popular horse breeds. In fact, the Appaloosa Horse has the third-largest breed registry in the world.
The healthy and hardy breed of horse enjoys a good lifespan of almost 30 years with no notable health condition. Besides the regular grooming that goes with all horse breeds, the Appaloosa does not require any special attention from their caretakers.
They are a calm bunch of equestrian that adapt to most situations and are always willing to please their companions. They are intelligent and easy to train, especially if you start at an early age. Appaloosas are gentle and a great option for beginner riders.
They are also versatile and can be used for pleasure riding as well as athletic competitions such as jumping and racing.
The spotted skin of the Appaloosa makes it easy to recognize from other horse breeds. The markings occur all over the body and can be either all white specks, dark, leopard spots on white body, or a blend of dark and white coloring to create a mottled appearance.
The base coloring varies and can be of any color such as red roan, blue roan, bay roan, chestnut, palomino, gray, black, brown, dark bay, buckskin, dun, and cremello. Facial patterns such as stars, blazes, and stripes are also present in an Appaloosa horse, similar to other horse breeds.
Interestingly, the coloring of the Appaloosa is not easy to distinguish during their infancy. The coloring and the pattern on the foal usually darken or lighten as they shed their baby hair while coloring also becomes more prominent as the horse gets older.
Mustang horses, popular in the Western United States are a breed of horses that were once bought to America by the Spanish government. Although they are a herd of wild and free-roaming horses, the Mustangs are actually ‘feral horses’ – a term given to horses that are descendants of the once-domesticated breed of horse.
Nevertheless, despite their ancestry, the Americans quickly adopted this breed of horses and used them for several purposes including hunting, transportation, and even fights in battles. During the past era, the Mustangs were used as bartering items as well.
Independent and full of personality, the Mustangs can be downright rebellious – especially if it is new to human company. However, once trust is established, they are fast learners and even loyal companions.
Similar to their regal temperament, the Mustangs also boast a magnificent appearance. They are a delight to look at with a high crest and a long neck that is appropriately portioned with the rest of the body. They are available in various colors including chestnut, bay, black, white, champagne, cremello, gray, dun, pinto, palomino, roan, perlino, and even spotted.
Mustangs are easy to take care of and require minimal grooming. However, they are a feisty bunch of horses and need ample of exercises – more than the most domesticated breed of horses.
The Mustang horses of today are generally used in trail and leisure riding by expert riders. Less commonly, they are also part of endurance training and show jumping competitions.
9. Andalusian Horse
The Andalusian horse or the Pure Spanish horse originally hails from the Iberian Peninsula and is named after the province of Andalusian, where it is the most famous.
The Andalusian horses have a colorful history and it is believed to be a recognized breed since the 15th century. Throughout history, it is reported to be used by the British and Spanish monarchy for a number of purposes. However, the breed is pretty new in America and it is recorded to debut here in 1962.
When speaking of their personality, the Andalusian horses are smart and brave, with even temperament. They are quite adaptable as well and can adjust quickly to any situation – regardless of its intensity. They are also responsive and obedient, which makes them very easy to train. This is probably the reason why they are a popular part of competitions including western pleasure and show jumping. Due to their heavy body and quickness, many horse experts believe that they are ideal for experienced riders and trainers only.
These horses have a unique appearance. With a medium-length head and a well-proportioned face, they are a remarkable sight. The horses are also muscular with lean and strong legs. When we talk about their coloring, they are usually found in gray and white. In fact, 80% of Andalusian horses in American are of a gray color. However, they can also be of chestnut, bay, black, palomino, dun, and dilute colors.
The Hackney Horse is a breed, developed in Great Britain. The horse, ideal for carriage driving began exporting from England to America in the late 1800s. They were also exported to Australia and the Netherlands to ease in transportation. However, as time passed, the need for carriages slowly diminishes – especially after the innovation of automobiles. Thus, today, the Hackney horse is mainly used in the show ring and can be trained easily to perform various tasks.
The horse possesses great intelligence. However, they are also high-strung and can get nervous easily. This means that they need to be handled and trained with care. In fact, it is a good idea to have individuals with experience do their training and maintenance.
The Hackney horse is renowned for its sharp appearance. They have alert eyes and ears and feature the disciplined carriage of the head and tail. The Hackney Horse is also heavily built with a muscled body. However, they have a small head and crested neck with a graceful trotter.
Hackney ponies are equally popular as carriage horses and show horses. The Hackney pony is small with a fine-arched head and a short back.
These horses are mostly seen in dark colors such as brown, black, chestnut, and bay. Spotted variety of the horse is also seen in many areas.
The Hackney horse is not a hardy breed of horse. They require constant grooming to keep its beautiful appearance intact. They also enjoy the attention they get so if you are planning to keep a Hackney horse – make sure you have a lot of stamina to stay on your feet for the magnificent equine.
11. Cleveland Bay
The Cleveland Bay is a breed of horse that originates from England. It is the oldest breed of horse. In fact, its history dates back to the 17th century where the members of the royal family used it for transportation. It is even used today to pull carriages in the royal procession.
The Cleveland Bay is an intelligent breed of horses and possesses a sensible temperament as well. They are friendly and loyal to their owners – once they understand them better. However, it is important that the caretaker of the Cleveland Bay is patient and consistent initially. This would help them gain the trust of the horse to ensure long-term companionship.
When it comes to their physique, Cleveland Bay horses are well-muscled with legs that are strong. However, their legs are short when you compare them to their bodies. They have a large head and a slightly convex profile. They are hardy and don’t require much maintenance from their caregivers, besides the usual grooming. They are long-lived as well and enjoy an average lifespan of more than 25 years.
Unfortunately, they are a rare breed and suffer from a great risk of extinction. As of 2016, it is anticipated that around 550 Cleveland purebred horses exist in the world, of which about 220 mares of breeding age are left.
As the name suggests, the Cleveland Bays are always bay in color with no white markings except an occasional white star. They are a versatile breed of horses and are mainly used for fox hunting and driving today.
12. Belgian Draft Horse
Belgian Draft Horse originates from the Brabant region of modern Belgium. It is the strongest horse from the heavy breed of horses and measures between 16.2 and 17 hands tall.
Interestingly, the breed holds the record for the world’s tallest and largest horse. The world’s tallest horse is a Belgian Draft Horse by the name of Big Jake. Born in 2000, he stands at 20.2 ¾ hands. The world’s largest Belgian Draft Horse is Brooklyn Supreme. She weighed 3,200 lbs. with a length of 19.2 hands.
Early Belgian horses were usually available in bay coloring. However, chestnut, sorrel, the roan color was occasionally spotted in Belgian horses too. But since the 1920s, American breeders have experimented with breeding and made sorrel and roan colors the most common for Belgian horses in the USA. In fact, the most prized color of the Belgian Draft horse is the chestnut-colored horse with white mane and tail along with a white stripe on the face and four socks on the feet.
The Belgian horses are renowned for their kind and warm personalities. They are easy to handle and can be trained without much effort. They are also loyal to their caretakers and are always willing to please them.
The horses are used for various purposes including plowing, draft work, logging, carriage driving, hitches, and even for drawing sleighs. Additionally, its riding is also gaining popularity and many people enjoy trail rides with this beautiful equine.
13. Friesian Horse
The Friesian horse originates from Friesland in the Netherlands. They are an ancient breed with documents signifying their presence before the year 1200. They have been part of various battles, where even the knights used them for their nobility and size.
The Friesians are large-sized horses with an overall powerful body structure. They are mostly available in various shades of black color. However, chestnut Friesian horses are not uncommon and are called the Fire Friesian. They also have long, thick mane and tail – often resembling a feather. The same type of hair can be found around their hooves – and are left untrimmed to show. Unfortunately, the extra hair around their hooves can make them vulnerable to infections. Thus, it is important that Friesians are provided with a clean and careful environment.
Despite their backgrounds and majestic appearance, the Friesians have a calm personality. They are playful and mischievous too. Above all, they are truly loyal to their caretakers and develop a strong bond with them.
The Friesians are a versatile breed of horses and can be used for various sports. They work great as riding and harness horses as well.
The beautiful horses saw a difficult period during the end of the 19th century when they were near extinction. It is said that only three horses were left in Friesland during the year of 1913. Luckily, during World War 2, the farmers were encouraged to initiate different breeding programs due to a shortage of fuels. This led them to revive the magnificent breed of horses, which makes up around 7% of the total horse breed in the Netherlands.
These were just some of the horse breed that is fantasized by equine lovers all over the world. Which one is your favorite? Do let us know in the comments below!
Hi, I am Waqar and active in the horse world since 2012. I have MSc (Hons) in Agriculture from the University of Agriculture Faisalabad. I love to solve equine health care issues and note down in the form of research papers.
I have written hundreds of equine health care, accessories, names, and history-related blogs. My equine related work is watering a lot of horse-related magazines and blogs.