Horse Breeds

Information on popular breeds of horses

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All horse breeds have definitive characteristics that are passed down from generation to generation, including both physical and dispositional attributes. Certain breeds of horse are well-known for specific racing abilities; Standardbred horses, for example, have long been recognized as excellent harness racers. Tennessee Walking Horses, by contrast, are favored for their gentle disposition and patience with inexperienced riders.

An Overview of Common Western Horse Breeds

To familiarize yourself with the basics about different types of horses, refer to this list of horse breeds:

  • Appaloosa horses. These distinctive spotted horses are mainstays of show events and trail circuits. They were brought to North America in the 1500s by Spanish settlers, and emerged as a recognized breed in the Pacific Northwest of the United States in the 18th century.
  • Arabian horses. The majestic Arabian horse is considered one of the oldest breeds in the world. They are solid-colored and are well-known for endurance and stamina.
  • Clydesdale. Famous for the feathering around their hooves, Clydesdale horses are primarily used in show events, such as parades. They are tall but gentle, and their origins can be traced back to the Scottish town that bears their name.
  • Miniature horses. Mini horses are too small to be ridden, but they are affectionate, gentle pets. They were first domesticated by European royals and nobles in the 1600s, and were brought to America in the early 20th century to aid mine workers.
  • Quarter Horses. Compact but extremely strong and very muscular, Quarter Horses are a mainstay at racetracks throughout the United States, and are a very versatile athletic breed. They are extensively used in just about every horseracing discipline as well as competitive equestrian events.
  • Standardbred horses. Owing their ancestry to the legendary sire Hambletonian 10, Standardbred horses are the world's preeminent harness racers. They have powerful forequarters and hindquarters, are solid in color and are also used for pleasure riding.
  • Tennessee Walking Horses. This breed is gentle, with a unique gait that makes them perfectly suited for new riders. They are one of the most comfortable horse breeds to ride and are extremely responsive to human commands.
  • Thoroughbred horses. Spirited, speedy and extremely agile, thoroughbred horses are extensively used in competitive riding, racing and dressage events. They are lean, with long and powerful legs that allow them to reach extremely high speeds.

Less Common Horse Breeds

With over 300 recognized horse breeds in the world, there are many that are not commonly encountered. Many are found in confined quarters throughout specific regions in the world, such as the Chilean corralero, which is a mainstay of South American rodeos, and the Swiss warmblood, which is common in Switzerland but very rare in the United States.

Every breed has extremely specific conformation standards, which are used to determine the suitability of a sire or mare for breeding. Horse breed pictures will provide you with a helpful visual reference if you want to learn more about a specific type of horse.