Horses are fascinating and majestic animals that have been part of human history for thousands of years. They have been used for transportation, warfare, agriculture, sports, and companionship. But how much do you really know about these amazing creatures? Here are 20 interesting facts about horses that you might not have heard before.
1. Horses can sleep standing up or lying down. They have a special system of tendons and ligaments in their legs that allow them to lock their joints and remain upright without much effort. However, they still need to lie down for a few hours every day to enter deep sleep and rest their muscles.
2. Horses have the largest eyes of any land mammal. Their eyes are located on the sides of their heads, which gives them a wide field of vision of about 350 degrees. They can see almost everything around them, except for a small blind spot right in front of their nose and behind their tail.
3. Horses have an excellent sense of hearing. They can rotate their ears up to 180 degrees and focus on specific sounds. They can also communicate with each other through various vocalizations, such as neighs, whinnies, snorts, and nickers.
4. Horses have a complex and sensitive digestive system. They are herbivores that graze on grasses and other plants for most of the day. They have a single stomach, but a long intestine that can process large amounts of fiber. They also have a cecum, which is a pouch-like organ that contains bacteria that help break down cellulose.
5. Horses cannot vomit or burp. This means that they are prone to colic, which is a potentially fatal condition that causes abdominal pain and discomfort. Colic can be caused by many factors, such as gas buildup, intestinal blockage, parasites, ulcers, or stress.
6. Horses have an average lifespan of 25 to 30 years, but some can live much longer. The oldest horse ever recorded was Old Billy, who lived to be 62 years old. He was a barge horse in England who worked on the canals until he was 40.
7. Horses have unique markings on their coats that help identify them. The most common ones are stars (white spots on the forehead), stripes (white lines down the nose), snips (white patches between the nostrils), and blazes (wide white stripes down the face). They also have different patterns of spots or patches on their bodies, such as roan (mixed white and colored hairs), pinto (large white and colored areas), and appaloosa (small spots over a lighter background).
8. Horses have different gaits or ways of moving. The most basic ones are walk (four-beat), trot (two-beat), canter (three-beat), and gallop (four-beat). Some horses can also perform special gaits, such as the pace (two-beat lateral), the rack (four-beat lateral), the amble (four-beat diagonal), and the tölt (four-beat diagonal with no suspension).
9. Horses are highly social animals that form strong bonds with each other. They live in groups called herds, which usually consist of one stallion (male), several mares (females), and their offspring. They establish a hierarchy within the herd based on age, sex, and personality. They groom each other, play together, and protect each other from predators.
10. Horses are very intelligent and can learn many things through training and experience. They can recognize human faces and voices, follow commands, solve problems, and remember events. They can also express emotions such as happiness, sadness, fear, anger, and curiosity.
11. Horses are measured in hands, which is an ancient unit of length equal to four inches. The average height of a horse is 15 hands (60 inches) at the withers (the highest point of the shoulder). The tallest horse ever recorded was Sampson, who stood 21.2 hands (86 inches) tall.
12. Horses have hooves that are made of keratin, the same material as human nails and hair. The hooves grow continuously and need to be trimmed regularly to prevent cracking or splitting. Some horses wear shoes made of metal or plastic to protect their hooves from wear and tear or to improve their traction.
13. Horses have teeth that also grow continuously throughout their lives. They have 12 incisors (front teeth) for biting off grasses and other plants, 12 premolars and 12 molars (back teeth) for grinding food, and four canine teeth (tusks) for fighting or tearing flesh (only in some males). They also have a gap between their incisors and premolars called the interdental space, where the bit (a metal or leather device used for steering) is placed.
14. Horses have a mane and a tail that are made of long hairs. The mane grows from the top of the neck and the tail grows from the base of the spine. The mane and tail help protect the horse from insects, sunburn, and cold. They also serve as a means of communication, as the horse can raise, lower, or swish them to express its mood or intentions.
15. Horses have sweat glands all over their bodies that help them regulate their body temperature. They can sweat up to 10 gallons of water per day when they are working hard or in hot weather. They also have a thick coat of hair that insulates them from the cold and changes color according to the season.
16. Horses have a heart that weighs about 10 pounds and pumps about 75 gallons of blood per minute. They have a resting heart rate of about 40 beats per minute, but it can increase up to 200 beats per minute during intense exercise. They also have a large lung capacity that allows them to breathe about 15 times per minute at rest and up to 150 times per minute during exertion.
17. Horses have a gestation period of about 11 months, which is one of the longest among mammals. They usually give birth to a single foal (baby) that weighs about 10% of its mother’s weight and can stand and nurse within an hour. The foal stays with its mother for at least six months, until it is weaned.
18. Horses have more than 200 breeds that vary in size, shape, color, and purpose. Some of the most popular ones are Arabian (one of the oldest and most versatile breeds), Thoroughbred (bred for racing and sport), Quarter Horse (the most common breed in America), Clydesdale (a large and heavy draft horse), and Shetland Pony (a small and hardy breed for children).
19. Horses have been domesticated for about 6,000 years and have played a vital role in human history and culture. They have been used for transportation, warfare, agriculture, sports, and companionship. They have also inspired many myths, legends, art, literature, and movies.
20. Horses are one of the most beloved animals in the world and have millions of fans and admirers. They are admired for their beauty, grace, strength, speed, intelligence, and personality. They are also known for their loyalty, courage, and friendship.