Saturday, January 12, 2013

Horse Facts, Information, & Lots of Trivia

There's all sorts of facts, information, and trivia here.

From general horse facts, facts about a horse's body, pregnancy and foals, horses in the wild, how to get to know them,  history and quirky pieces of horse information, there are things here that just might surprise you.

So Let's Get Started!

Around 75 million horses are alive in the world today.

There are more than 400 separate breeds of horses in the world

Horses first evolved in the Americas but they became extinct until the Europeans reintroduced them.

It's true. Horses began to evolve on the American continent over 60 million years ago but they later died out.
Lucky for us that they were reintroduced by Spanish settlers.

The horse was reintroduced into the Western Hemisphere with the voyages of discovery by Christopher Columbus for Spain at the end of the fifteenth century.

These Spanish steeds, derived from Moorish stock, first landed in the Caribbean in November 1493. The Spanish horses acclimated rapidly and within twenty years formed the chief supply for the Spanish mainland expeditions.

Other European explorers brought horses to eastern and western parts of the New World in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. English colonists imported European horses. In the British colonies as a whole, horses were valued for riding, hunting, and racing.

In 1918, there were 27 million horses and mules in America. That date is the all time peak of the horse and mule population in America.

Equine, a term used for things dealing with horses, came from the Greek word “equus” which means quickness   
In America, the horse industry is huge:
  • 7.1 million Americans are involved in the industry as horse owners, service providers, employees and volunteers.
  •  3.6 million and 4.3 million of those participated in showing and recreation, respectively, with some overlap in cases of people who participate in both activities.
  • 941,000 people participated in racing in either a professional or volunteer capacity.
  • 1.9 million people own horses.
  • In addition to the people actually involved in the industry, tens of millions more Americans participate as spectators.
The horse industry directly produces goods and services of $25.3 billion and has a total impact of $112.1 billion on U.S. GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

Racing, showing and recreation each contribute more than 25% to the total value of goods and services produced by the industry.

The industry's contribution to the U.S. GDP is greater than the motion picture services, railroad transportation, furniture and fixtures manufacturing and tobacco product manufacturing industries. It is only slightly smaller than the apparel and other textile products manufacturing industry.

All horses, regardless of when they were actually born, are considered to have a common birthday of January 1. Even if a foal is born on December 31st he or she will have their first birthday the very next day.

Horses are measured in hands and fingers. Each hand us four inches

The scientific name for the horse is Equus caballus. Equus comes from the Greek word for ‘quickness’.

All horses (including zebras) belong to the genus equus.

Horse Categories

Horse breeds fall into four categories:

Ponies - Pony breeds are defined as being under 14.2 hands (one hand = 4 inches) or 58". Many pony breeds have developed in the wild and this has led to a natural hardiness that is not found in most horse breeds.

Coldbloods - Usually refers to the large, bulky draft horse breeds, such as the Shire, Clydesdale, Percheron and Belgian. These horses are known to be docile and insensitive,and are often called gentle giants.

Hotbloods - Usually refers to Arabians, Thoroughbreds and other horses of oriental origin. These horses are known to be energetic and sensitive, or hot.

Warmbloods - Originally a cross between a hotblood and a coldblood, resulting in a trainable, athletic horse with good size and bone and are often used as a sport horse for dressage, jumping, eventing and so on. European breeders have warmblood registries that represent particular lineage, such as Hanoverian, Holsteiner, Oldenburg, Trakehner, Dutch Warmblood and Swedish Warmblood. These European horses are highly sought after in other countries, resulting in a large exportation market.

Their Body

A small indent in a horse’s skin (usually on the neck or shoulder) is called a prophet’s mark and is considered good luck.

The average horse weighs about a half a ton, its brain is the size of a baked potato.

Some of the equine family's closest relatives are tapirs and the rhinoceros.

If you're curious, a Pony is any horse under 14.2 hands high is technically a pony

Colt is the name of a male horse, 4 years old or younger

Filly is the name of a  female horse, 4 years old or younger

Foal is the name of a newborn or very young horse, male or female

Gelding is the name of a male horse older than four that has been castrated, or gelded

Mare is the name of a mature female horse, a female horse older than four years old is called a mare

Stallion is the name of a male horse older than four that has not been castrated is a stud or a stallion.

Dam  is the term given to a mare when she becomes a mother

Sire is the term given to a stallion when he becomes a father

Horses have four different gaits:
  • walk
  • trot
  • canter
  • gallop.
The fastest gait is the gallop

No two horses are identical

Horses height is measured in units known as "hands." One hand is equal to 4 inches.

The left side of a horse is called the “near side” and the right side is the “off side”

The world record for a horse galloping over a short, sprint distance is 55 miles per hour.

Horses only breathe through their noses. They do not breathe through their mouths. In fact, horses cannot breathe through their mouths.

A horse has approximately 205 bones

Adult respiratory rate is 8-16 breaths per minute

The average horse produces 10 pounds of saliva per day.

A healthy adult horse should have a pulse of between 36 and 40 beats per minute while at rest.

The heart of a horse weighs about 10 pounds

Horses can require up to 10 gallons of drinking water each day, and can drink at least 25 gallons of water a day or more.

It's possible to tell a horse’s age by its teeth

Horses are herbivores (plant eaters).

All horses are grazers

Dogs and cats drink by lapping water with their tongues while cattle and horses make use of a sucking action

Horses eat short, juicy grass, and hay. Foods like barley, corn, oats and bran are good for working horses

Horses cannot vomit

Horses have bigger eyes than any other mammal that lives on land.

Horses can see in two directions at the same time

Their sense of smell of the horse is better than that of a human

Horses tend to rely more on vision than smell.

Their field of monocular vision is almost 360 degrees with a narrower field of binocular vision in front and slightly to the sides.

Horses have a blind spot directly in front of the nose and directly behind them.

They do have much better night vision than humans.

Horses have an advanced sense of taste which allows the horse to sort through grasses and grains to find the things that the horse would most like to eat.

Horses generally will not eat plants that are poisonous, but when the horse cannot find more adequate food, the horse will eat plants that contain toxins.

A horse's gut is designed to have food flowing through it almost continually, and horses graze most of the day if allowed.

Horses have two blind spots: one directly behind and another directly in front of them

Horses can lock the muscles in their legs so they can go to sleep standing up and not fall over.

Horses lie down only about 43.5 minutes a day

A horse only needs four hours of sleep per day at 15 to 20 minute intervals.

Horses can sleep both lying down and standing up. 

Horses sleep longer in the summer than in the winter

Male horses generally have 49 teeth, while females have 36

A horses stomach should always make gurgling noises

Horses’ teeth never stop growing

Soaking hay before feeding it to a horse helps reduce respiratory problems

A fully grown horse weighing 1,000 pounds contains around 13.2 gallons of blood

Horses with coats marked by large patches and white and another colour are known as pintos. While in Britain and Ireland they are known as coloured, piebald, or skewbald

Any marking on a horse’s forehead is called a star, even when it’s a different shape. In fact, most stars resemble diamonds

The longest horse tail ever measured was 22 feet long. It belonged to an American Palomino named Chinook

The highest speed recorded for a horse's kick has been recorded at 75 mph.

Domestic horses have a lifespan of around 25 years.

A normal horse has a body temperature of between 100 and 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit

A horse’s ear can be rotated almost 360 degrees and is controlled by 13 muscles

A horse’s upper lip is prehensile. This means it’s adapted for holding objects and is very sensitive and can feel small differences in the texture of an object

A horse’s hoof will grow about a quarter of an inch each month. A hoof is similar to a fingernail. It grows constantly, and should be clipped before it becomes overgrown and causes distress to the horse.

A horse’s knee joint is the equivalent to a human wrist, and their hock joint is equivalent to the human ankle.
Contrary to some beliefs, horse are not color-blind and can in fact see colours

Horse feathers are long hairs on the back of horses’ ankles which help to keep away water from the hoof

The Arabian horse is the oldest pure breed in the world. It is also the most likely to pass along its character traits through the generations

Arabian horses are slightly different from other horses in anatomy, with one less rib, one less lumbar bone, and one or two fewer vertebrae

Horses are not naturally predisposed to jumping. When able to do so most will go round the obstacle instead

Standardbred horses generally have larger hearts than other breeds

A horse’s head shape varies widely based on breed. Arabians usually tend to be dish-faced with a concave profile; draft horses have Roman noses and a convex profile

A mule is a cross between a male donkey (a jack) and a female horse (a mare).

Mules are usually sterile.

A hinny is a cross between a male horse (a stallion) and a female donkey (a jenny).

Hinnies are usually sterile.

Mules are known for having very long ears.   

Getting To Know Them

Studies have assessed equine intelligence in the realms of problem solving, learning speed, and knowledge retention. Results show that horses excel at simple learning, but also are able to solve advanced cognitive challenges that involve categorization and concept learning.

Horses have a social hierarchy within their herds, with more dominant horses asserting themselves as the leaders. Just like humans, each horse has a different personality  

Horses make eight basic sounds: snort, squeal, greeting nicker, courtship nicker, maternal nicker, neigh, roar, and blow

Horses use facial expressions to communicate their emotions and moods. If a horse has its ears back and its nostrils flared, it may be preparing to attack

If you hold your hand out to a horse and it approaches you and blows warm air onto your hand it wants to be friends

A horse can sense its owner’s emotions and will mimics his mood. If you are in a bad mood, your horse will likely be in a bad mood also

A horse’s mood can be determined by watching their facial expressions and the positioning of their nostrils, eyes, and ears

Horses use their tails to send signals to each other horses about how they are feeling

Horses will mourn the passing of a companion

If kept alone horses will get lonely

Horses have a better sense of smell than humans

A healthy horse will be bursting with energy, displayed in its unrestricted movement

Horses will sometimes groom one another by nibbling around the neck region, in the much the same fashion that mares care for their young

Sacking out is the process of slowly introducing a horse to frightening objects in order to prevent it from spooking when it comes across them

Horses sometimes communicate vocally. The whinny means a horse is excited or agitated while a snort usually means that it senses danger

When a horse’s ears are lowered or limp, the horse is relaxed or resting

Horses will often rear up when startled, at play, or excited

Blue Horses

Perhaps one of the rarest colors of horse is the grulla (pronounced grew-ya) or grullo (grew-o), also known as the black dun, blue dun or lobo dun.

The coat color is the result of the dun gene on top of a black gene, which produces individual hairs that are a mousy gray, smoky blue or slate gray color. Grulla horses can vary quite widely, from a distinctive smoky blue to a mousy tan.

Often these horses have a dorsal stripe on their back, a dark face, dark ear tips and edging, dark mane, tail and legs and leg barring (called tiger striping)

The Spanish word "grulla" refers to a slate-gray crane.

Pregnancy, Foals and Breeding

A mare’s gestation period (pregnancy) is usually 11 months, but can sometimes be as short as 10 months or as long as 12 months

Colts may sometimes be capable of reproduction as early as 18 months. However, they are rarely allowed to breed until they are at least three years old

Most foals are born in the springtime, at night, when the herd is unlikely to be on the move and food is plentiful

Most foals are born at night

When first born, foals cannot eat grass because their legs are too long to reach the ground

Horses can run shortly after birth.

At birth, a foal’s legs are already 90 per cent of their full-grown length

Foals instinctively recognise the scent of their mothers

Newly born foals cannot reach down to eat grass because their legs are too long

It’s not possible to predict a horse’s colour when it is foal. It will experience several changes before the colour becomes fixed at about age two

A mare can give birth in as little as 15 minutes. But if someone is watching here she may stop foaling and wait until the observer leaves before she continues

Many young domestic horses are handled by people within the first few days of their lives in order to get them used to the touch, sound and smell of humans

A mare’s first milk is called colostrum. It is very rich and protects against disease in the foal

Just one hour after birth, a foal is able to stand. After just two hours, it can run

Horses in the Wild

Feral horses are the descendants of once-tame animals that have run free for generations

Wild horses (feral horses) that live in North America are called Mustangs

The Przewalski’s horse is the only truly wild horse whose ancestors were never domesticated. The last wild Przewalski’s horse was seen in Mongolia in 1968

A breed of horses called Akhal-Teke from Russia can go for days without water or food
Mature horses will kick both colts and fillies out of the herd when they reach sexual maturity, helping to prevent inbreeding

Horses and ponies feel safest in herds

In the wild, mares decide when the herd moves to another spot to find food

Mares decide when and where the herd will go while the stallions follow.

Ponies are able to survive in inhospitable climates because they conserve body heat so well

Like sheep and cattle, horses are browsers, constantly wandering as they feed

Mustangs are related to horses brought to the New World by Spanish explorers nearly 400 years ago. They are one of the few wild North American breeds

Horses and ponies always feel safest when they are in herds

There is usually only one stallion in any herd of horses

In tropical areas, horses are usually small, energetic, hardy, and capable of surviving with little food

In the wild, horses feed on grass and herbs. Combined with water, these alone are adequate for a horse’s sustenance

Horses expand more energy when they are lying down than when they stand upright

Herd bound horses become flighty and difficult to control when they are separated from the herd

In the wild, all horses eat for about 22 hours each day, and sleep for about two

For Horseshoers

A blacksmith, or farrier or horseshoer, is a person who trims and shoes horse’s hooves.

Hippo-sandals were used in the first century as a precursor to horseshoes. They were tied to the horse’s hoof with leather strings, rather than being nailed in place as is now done with horseshoes.

What was the average price for shoeing a horse in 1842 and 1920 in America? A shoeing in 1842 cost $0.5 or a load of corn. The average price for a shoeing in 1920 was $1.75

The first patent awarded for the machine manufacturing of horseshoes was to S. Decatur and W. Tatharn when they received a patent for a horseshoe making machine in 1809. The machine did not succeed in production.

There were 1,749 patents awarded for different horseshoe designs between 1822 and 1950

In 1860, the total daily iron consumption for making horseshoes was 397 tons per day. 43 tons were used in machine-made shoes and 354 tons were consumed in making horseshoes by hand.

The first successful machine to make complete horseshoes from a single piece of iron in one operation was patented in 1857. Originally the machine could make six shoes per minute. By the 1870's H. Burden and
Sons had six improved forging machines and they were capable of making six shoes per second.

The turning point for the acceptance of machine made horseshoes was when the Burden Iron Company of Troy, New York, received a contract in 1861 to supply the federal government with large quantities of horseshoes to be used in the Civil War. This was the first large scale demand for machine-manufactured horseshoes and marks the turning point for acceptance of the machine manufactured horseshoe.

The first successful horseshoe nail-making machine was patented by Thaddeus Fowler, who designed the first nail-making machine with pointed horseshoe nails. The brand name of the nails was "Vulcan".

The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals gave its endorsement in 1874 to the use of India-rubber horseshoes. They were made, lined, and worn like the rubber overshoe used by humans. The elasticity of the rubber shoe allowed the hoof to remain in its natural shape, while being protected from the abrasions of pavements. The rubber shoes were manufactured in sixteen sizes, weighed about 40% less and cost about one-third more than iron horseshoes.

Outspoken anti-horseshoe advocates in England began arguing in the 1880's that 90% of a horse's foot trouble came directly from the use of horseshoes. The movement suggested using no horseshoes at all on the more than 2.25 million horses then living in the United Kingdom. The movement died because of it's impracticality.

The US Calvary field-tested aluminum horseshoes in the 1890's. The report praised the ease of shaping, fitting and light weight but determined that the shoe would not wear long enough to be practicable for military service.

In 1897 Sears, Roebuck & Company catalog offered generic horseshoes and horseshoe nails in its hardware section. The price for 100 pounds of shoes cost $3.75, and 25 pounds of nails cost $4.25

Professor William Hunting in his 1898 work, The Art of Horse-Shoeing: A Manual For Farriers has suggested weights for shoes based upon the horses use. The suggested weights for: race horses, hacks and hunters, carriage horses, omnibus horses and draft horses varied:

Race horses: 2 to 4 ounces.
Hacks and hunters: 15 to 18 ounces
Carriage horses 20 to 30 ounces
Omnibus horses 3 to 4 pounds
Draft horses 4 to 5 pounds

Did You Also Know?

The first horse lived around 50 million years ago and was called Hyracotherium. It had four hoofed toes on the front feet, three hoofed toes on the back feet and was about as big as a fox.

Horses were domesticated by at least 2000bc and there is evidence that they could have been domesticated as early as 4,500bc

Both the ancient Romans and Asians looked upon their horses as great warriors. Although the Romans prized large horses in battle for their strength, Asians preferred smaller, more nimble and sure-footed ones

On the Greek Island of Hydra, horses and ponies are the only legal for of transportation

Horses have been found in cave paintings that date back to around 15000 B.C.

Asian nomads probably domesticated the first horses some 5,000 years ago, and the animals remained essential to many human societies until the advent of the engine

The first veterinarian text written that included a section on the horse's foot was written by De Arte Veterinaria in 430 BC by Simon of Athens.  
Chariot racing was the first Olympic sport in 680 B.C.

Julias Caesar rode a horse with three toes. The condition results from a rare genetic mutation that can affect the front of rare hooves

Alexander the Great’s horse was named Bucephalus. Alexander received the wild horse as a boy and was able to tame it

The Roman emperor Caligula made his horse, Incitatus, a priest of Rome. The horse had nearly 20 servants, a jewelled collar, and was often feed oats dripped in gold

The Greeks used horses for the first ever Pony Express

The Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria, was founded in 1572. It is one of a handful of schools that still teaches classical dressage

Upon his death Napoleon's war horse was presented to the Royal United Service Institution. Its hooves were made into snuff boxes

The first recorded horse-jumping competitions were held in Dublin, Ireland by the Royal Dublin Society in 1864

So how long is a furlong? Well, 1/8 mile or 220 yards

The sole survivor of Custer's Last Stand was a buckskin named Comanche.

Comanche had twelve wounds and spent a year in slings before becoming fully recovered. The US Cavalry headquarters allowed Comanche complete freedom for the rest of his life at Fort Riley, Kansas.

Comanche was officially retired and it was ordered that no one would ever ride him again. He was called "the Second Commanding Officer" of the 7th Cavalry. His only duties were to be lead in the front of official parades occasionally. It is said he developed a fondness for beer in his later years, and was such a pet at the fort that he was often indulged in this habit.

Comanche lived to the age of 29, and when he died his body was mounted and put on display at the University of Kansas, where it stands to this day.

So everyone knows Silver was the Lone Ranger's horse, but what was the name of Tonto's horse? Tonto's horse was a paint named Scout.

The largest number of horses ever assembled for a US movie was the 8,000 horses that were used in the movie War and Peace.

From the middle ages to the 1930s, wealthy women were expected to ride side saddle because it was through improper for them to sit with their legs astride

How old was the oldest horse? So far, the oldest recorded horse on record was Old Billy who lived in England to a ripe old age of 62. Old Billy from Lancashire, England, was born in 1760 and died in 1822 at age 62. I repeated myself because I have a hard time believing it, even though its true.

A 42-year-old Australian brood mare was the oldest horse ever to give birth

The smallest pony ever recorded is called Sugar Dumpling. She weighed only 30 pounds and stood just 20 inches tall

The oldest pony on record died in France aged 54

The Palamino horse we know as the talking Mr. Ed was in fact an American Saddlebred.

Mr. Ed, the talking equine star of the 1960s television series, was a golden palomino. He learned an enormous amount of tricks for his role, including answering a telephone, opening doors, writing notes with a pencil, and unplugging a light. Apparently, Mr. Ed would occasionally have a fit of temper, as befitting his star status, and would stand stock still, wheezing and refusing to move.

After elephants, draught horses are the world’s strongest land animals

The world record for a horse galloping over a short, sprint distance is 55 mph.

The record for the highest jump made by a horse is held by a horse named Huaso who jumped 8 feet, 1 and 1/4 inches on February 5th, 1949 in Vina del Mar, Chile. He was ridden by Captain Alberto Larraguibel.

The record for the longest jump over water is held by a horse named Something who jumped 27 feet, 6 and 3/4 inches on April 25, 1975 in Johannesburg, South Africa. He was ridden by Andre Ferreira.

Depending on the sporting event, a horse’s mane can be worn in many ways, from naturally down to roached to various kinds of braids

Untrained young horses can be brought cheaply, even those with top bloodlines. Once a horse is trained, however, its price can easily triple

Riding a horse burns between 148 and 690 calories each hour, depending on the gait of the horse and the weight of the rider.

Some fox hunters ride horses called field hunters that are specially trained for the pursuit

Dressage is the art of training a horse to perform precise movements. It requires an equal amount of skill and concentration from horse and rider

When horses are teamed during riding sports, such as in a group of four, either of the two foremost horses is called the leader

There is an archaic British law which states that an Englishman may not sell a horse to a Scotsman

The Society of Horseman’s Word was a club in Scotland in the 1800s. Elder members were believed to have supernatural abilities to understand and control horses

The Battle of Komarow on August 31, 1920, was the last major cavalry battle

On April 7, 1933, the Clysedale horse became the Anheuser-Busch brewery symbol

A German horse, Meteor, won show-jumping medals at three consecutive Olympic Games, in 1952, 1956 and 1960 

It is illegal to open an umbrella near a horse in New York City

New Jersey’s state animal is the horse

Ribbons were once braided into horses’ tails to keep the animals safe from witches

The bows used on string instruments are often made from the tail hair of horses

In Canada, drinking before or while riding a horse is punishable as a DUI. A horse and carriage is classified in the same category as a car, while horseback riding is the same as bicycle riding.

In statues of a horse and rider, if the horse has both front legs in the air, the rider was killed in batle; if the horse has one leg raised, the rider died as a result of wounds received in battle; if all four legs are on the ground the rider died of natural causes

In Rosario, Argentina, horses are required to wear hats in warm weather

The national sport of Afghanistan is Buzkashi, a game in which riders on horseback attempt to capture a goat carcass

A zedonk is the offspring of a zebra and a donkey
Hippotherapy is the use of horses and horseback riding in physical, occupational, speech and psychological therapy

Hippophobia and equinophobia both refer to the fear of horses

Hippocrates translates to ‘horse master’

Horses like classical music.

The oldest pony ever recorded was named Teddy E. Bear. He lived to be 55 and was owned by Kathy Pennington of Virginia Beach, VA. He was still alive in 1998.

The tallest horse ever recorded was the English gelding Sampson (also known as Mammoth). He was born in 1946 and by the time he was four-years-old stood seven feet two inches tall.

The World's Largest Horse was a purebred Belgian stallion named Brooklyn Supreme. He stood 19.2hh (6'6") at his withers. He weighed over 3,200 pounds and is entered in the Guiness Book of World Records. He was foaled in 1928 and died in 1948. He lived in Iowa, USA.    

After reading all of this, you probably won't get fooled when folks ask you a question of two about horses.

But then again, be careful. Remember, what runs all around a paddock but doesn't move - is a fence.

The side of a horse has the most hair is in fact the outside.

And yes, just in case some wise guy asks what kind of horse can jump higher than a house? Remember to tell 'em that all kinds of horses do -- since houses can't jump!

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