No other animal has seen more dramatic developments in the creation and extinction of breeds in the last hundred and 50 years than the horse. There are two obvious reasons for this
- the invention of the combustion engine and the motor vehicle with motorised vehicles becoming the most popular form of transport and domestic freight haulage.
- The increasing popularity of all sports.
Shortly after the introduction of the motorised vehicle there began a massive decline in all breeds of horses. Horses could only use the writing offer pulling small carriages for transport decline in numbers. Even more dramatic was the drop in the number of heavy horses being used for farm machinery or heavy carriages. Indeed many breeds became extinct or very close to it prior to organisations being set up to ensure their preservation.
Whilst technology has played a role in the diminished use of the horse, it has also played a role in the development of new breeds. Greater ease in transporting breeding stock – plus the invention of freezing sperm samples has greatly increased the variety of bloodlines available to horse breeders.
For sports, always popular have seen increasing popularity in the last hundred years. Not only has horse sport popularity increased but so has the level of competitiveness and breeders have been driven to create horses with higher and higher levels of strength, jumping ability, endurance and bravery. Breeders have crossed horses with different positive attributes to try and create breeds with the best points from all of the genetic influencing contributors.
Horse breeding has thus taken a very different direction than dog breeding. In the main, dogs are bred to a standard. Very rarely are bred for a purpose, except in the case of where animals are bred for working competitions such as sheep herding, dogsled racing etc. Horse breeding, on the other hand, has been almost entirely focused on creating horses with greater physical attributes than their parents. Breeding a horse to a standard remains important in being able to define the actual breed at the horse can claim to be. That said, I can assure you any rider winning a major Showjumping championship is more interested in the physical qualities of their horse and what breed it is for it’s genetic make up.
As was being sorted by breed, horses may be sorted by all manner of different criteria. Size, for example, can be used to categorise horses, sizes being pony standard and heavy. Some breeds come in all three sizes whilst others come in a single of these sizes. Horses can also be categorised by colour, for example, I horse may be classed as a bay horse, or a paint horse and horses from different breeds and fall within this category.
Below we have gathered a number of the most popular breeds both now and historically both your pleasure and seek and research the breed that might best suit what you’re looking for in a horse. Or spreads don’t just vary in size, they vary in temperament physical abilities, longevity, jumping ability, endurance… And the price.
One definition of horse breed is “a stock of animals or plants within a species having a distinctive appearance and typically having been developed by deliberate selection.” There are several hundred horse breeds in the world today, many with abundant, and some rare. Many breeds throughout the centuries have become extinct, though their bloodlines may live on through contributions to other breeds.
The horse is classified scientifically as follows:
- Phylum- Chordata
- Class- Mammalia
- Order- Perissadactyla
- Family- Equidae
- Specie- Equus caballus
The species can then be further sub-categorized by the classification of breed. Horses differ in characteristics due to thousands of years of selective breeding by human beings. Humans breed horses to increase the characteristics they find to be desirable such as size, strength, stamina, soundness, colour and gait. When a group of horses can be distinguished by one or more of these characteristics and the characteristics are consistently passed to offspring, then it can be said that they are a specific breed.
Throughout the centuries, humans have formed breed societies and breed registries, which are always aimed at the promotion, preservation and development of the breed which they represent. In general, to be a “purebred,” a horse must be recognized and registered through the breed society. These societies have been the largest contributors to the development of breeds, as they set the selective standards which the animals must meet to be considered an acceptable specimen of the breed.
Types of Horse Breeds
There are many different breeds of horse in the world today. It is estimated that there are over three hundred. These breeds are broken down into three major groups: the heavy draft horses, light horses, and ponies.
Draft horse breeds are those that are heavier in frame and bone and are more suited to heavy draft type work such as farming and pulling heavy loads. They differ in conformation from the light horse and in temperament. They are generally quite docile and gentle which makes them reliable for their purpose. They usually have heavy bone structure and short legs in relation to the rest of the body. They tend to be very round and muscular with large heads and hooves. Another very common characteristic is feathering on the lower legs which is long hair extending from the cannon bone down around its pastern and fetlocks. There are approximately 30 breeds of draft horse including the famous Clydesdale, the Shire, the Suffolk Punch, the Breton and the Irish Draft, just to name a few.
Light horses are the most common type of breed, the most suitable for riding and the most popular to own. They have well-defined withers and backs which are much narrower than their heavy cousins, making them a more comfortable mount. They have been bred to be fast, athletic and full of stamina, all of which are historically desirable characteristics. This was especially true when horses were the main mode of transportation. They are not only suitable riding horses but are used extensively under harness.
Ponies are the third type of breed. They are much smaller in size than the light and heavy horse types. In order to be considered a pony, the equine must be under 14.2 hands tall. They also differ significantly in conformation. Generally speaking, they have a stockier build with a short round back and rounded withers. They have shorter legs with short, thick cannon bones enabling them to carry heavy loads relative to their size. They also have much more hair than other horses and tend to grow long, thick manes and tails. Their winter coats tend to be very dense. They generally have a docile temperament making them a favourite children’s mount for centuries. Many ponies have a bad reputation for poor temperament. If or when that is found, it is usually the result of mistreatment by the owners; they sometimes are treated more like large dogs than horses. It can’t be forgotten that no matter how small, they are horses.
In addition to the size types, there are also blood types by which breeds can be categorized. There are three blood types: hot, cold and warm. The hot-blooded types are those that are fine-boned and fiery in temperament such as the Arab and the Akhal- Teke. These horses originated in desert climates and are extremely heat resistant. They generally have very thin coats and skin.
Coldblooded horses originated in Europe and are represented by the heavy draft breeds such as the Shire. They are quite large and docile.
The warmbloods are a mixture of the hot and cold bloods, and are represented by breeds such as the Danish Warmblood and the Trakehner.
So have a read, we hope this list is both useful to you for your own interest and helps you in the choosing of a new horse