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Horse Breeds: The Most Popular Equine Types A To Z

Horses are ungulate mammals with elongated heads, muscular torsos, thick necks, long tails and short hair. Taxonomically, they belong to the family of Equidae. Horses have evolved for more than fifty million years with the first horse having originated from North America then spread into Europe and Asia.

According to the Oklahoma State University, the first horses were domesticated between 3000 and 4000 B.C mostly for meat, hair, hide, bone, milk and medicine. They eventually joined the oxen to provide transportation and other services. Apart from the North America, you’ll find horses in virtually every country of the world.

Horses are smart, exhibit unique social qualities and live in herds of between three to twenty animals led by a mature male known as a stallion. The rest are females and their young ones.

Horses and humans interact in several ways including in sporting events and police work. Humans, on the other hand, provide domesticated horses with attention, training, shelter, food and water. They give their horses names, and spend their free time taking various horse breeds quizzes. 🙂

Read on to learn about the most popular horse breeds found in the world today. They are presented below in an alphabetical order – A to Z.

1. Arabian Horse

arabian horse breed
Source: Wikimedia

The Arabian horse or Arab horse originated from the Middle East most specifically the Arabian Peninsula. It is among the oldest and most popular breeds dating back to 4,500 years ago. It is well known for its arched neck and high-carried tail.

Its most common colors include chestnut, gray and bay; with black and roan being the least common. All Arabs regardless of their coat color have a dark skin to offer them protection from the harsh desert.

The breed has an average height of between 57 and 61 inches. Naturally, the Arabians cooperate with humans, but they can become wild when treated to extreme abuse. Today, these horses are found all over the world as a result of trade and war.

They dominate the discipline of endurance horse racing due to their healthy bones and high speed. They are found in places like Brazil, Continental Europe, UK, Canada, US, Australia, and the Middle East.

2. Ardennes Horse

ardennes horse
Source: Wikimedia

The Ardennes/ Ardennais are among the oldest breeds of the draft horse that originated from France and the Ardennes area of Belgium. They date back to Ancient Rome, and although several other breeds have been added, only the Belgian breed has had an impact. For a long time, the Ardennes has been featured in wars, but today they are used for farming, draft work, driving events and meat.

In France, the Ardennes stallions stand at about 1.62 meters high with mares standing at about 1.60 m and weighing between 700 and 1000 kilograms. They have a straight and slightly convex profile with a thick and broad face.

They are also muscular with a compact body, short back, sturdy legs and robust joints. The flocks are feathered and come in coats of palomino, gray, chestnut, roan and bay. They are free-moving and easy keepers.

3. Belgian Horse

belgian horse breed
Source: Wikimedia

The Belgian horse/ Belgian draft horse/ Belgian Heavy Horse is a draft horse breed originating from Brabant region of the modern day Belgium. It is among the strongest horse breeds and stands between 66 and 68 inches.

A mature breed weighs about 900 kilograms with a relatively small and well-shaped body. The American Belgian is tall with a flaxen mane and a chestnut coat. The ones in North America are much smaller than the European ones but with a similar build.

In some areas, they are kept for meat and are used for pulling heavy weights. This breed has a high occurrence of an inherited genetic disorder called the junctional epidermolysis bullosa. The disease causes the skin of newborns to lose large areas of skin resulting in euthanasia.

They are also very prone to chronic progressive lymphedema similar to the ones in humans. The breed has been domesticated as a working animal, but lately, it has become a popular show and pleasure horse.

4. Clydesdale Horse

clydesdale horse breed
Source: Wikimedia

The Clydesdale is a breed of the draft horse originating from Clydesdale, Scotland. It was developed from the Flemish stallions imported to Scotland and then cross-bred with local mares. The first Clydesdale breed was developed in 1826 and spread throughout Northern England.

Originally, it was a smaller breed, but nowadays, it features taller breeds. They come in bay coatings and show some white markings due to the presence of sabino genes.

At first the Clydesdale horse was used for haulage and agriculture, but currently, the Budweiser Clydesdales are used as drum horses in Britain. They stand between 64 and 72 inches and weigh about 910 kilograms, although mature males are much bigger.

The horses feature a slightly convex or straight facial shape with a wide muzzle and broad forehead. They are muscular and strong with an arched neck, clopped shoulder and high withers. They have powerful gaits and lifted hooves exuding energy and power.

As with the Belgian horses, they have also been identified to be at high risk for chronic progressive lymphedema.

5. Dutch Warmblood

dutch warmblood breed
Source: Flickr by LylithLusitana

A Dutch Warmblood is a type of warm-blooded horse developed through a breeding program that started in the 1960s in Netherlands. This breed is among the most successful horse breeds bred in the post-war Europe. Most Dutch Warmbloods have white marking and come in gray, chestnut, bay, brown and black coatings.

The breed features long legs but with a smooth topline and expressive head. The Dutch Warmblood is built uphill in a rectangular frame. The exact outline of this breed varies depending on the pedigree. They are suitable for dressage and show jumping, but in North America, the breed is a popular choice for hunter ring. They are strong and live long due to their stringent breeding requirements and elite mares.

6. Exmoor Pony

The Exmoor pony is the oldest of the British native pony breeds that have roamed the open moors of south England, for centuries. They are believed to be descendants of the horses that walked into Britain before it was even an island.

Two features unique to this breed are the hooded upper brows to protect them from rain and wind, as well as the snow-chute- a group of short hairs on the upper part of the tail designed to channel rain down the horse’s body.

Exmoors are usually brown with broad foreheads, large pronounced eyes and small ears. Their ribs are well sprung and their bodies are deep. Their legs are short with well-developed bones and joint support. Their height ranges from 11.3 to 12.3 hands for stallions and 11.2 to 12.2 hands for mares. They weigh an average 750 to 850 pounds and their general appearance is that of strength and balance.

7. Friesian Horse

friesian horse breed
Source: Wikimedia

The Friesian/ Frizian are a type of horse breed originating from Friesland, Netherlands. Their conformation resembles that of a light draught horse, although this breed is more graceful and nimble.

All through the middle ages, they were in high demand because they were used to carry the knight in armor during times of war. They almost became extinct, but have since grown in number and popularity. They excel in under saddle and harness activities. Lately, they are being introduced to the field of dressage.

They are often recognized by their black coat, although some are chestnut in color. They rarely have white markings. The horse has a great conformation with a powerful bone structure. They feature long arched necks and well-chiseled Spanish heads with short ears. They have strong, sloping shoulders with compact, muscular bodies and low-set thick tails. Their limbs are short and strong while their hair is long and silky.

Today you’ll find two distinct types, the sports horse, and the baroque type. Both types are popular. They stand at an average height of 15.3 but may vary at the mares, withers or geldings.

8. Fjord Horse

fjord horse breed
Source: Pixabay

The Fjord horse/ Norwegian Fjord horses are a small but strong type of horses from the mountainous parts of Western Norway. They are a nimble breed of light draught horse breeds and are dun in color with five different variations in shades.

They stand among the world’s oldest breed and have worked as farm horses for many years due to their incredible strength. They excel in both under saddle and harness.

White markings are rare. The hooves are often dark, but some can be light brown especially on light-colored horses. The dominant color is dun because the breed is believed to be homozygous. The horses have some significant amount of light hairs on the outside edges of the mane and the tail.

Today, they are popular at the Norwegian riding and therapeutic institutions suitable for disabled people and children sporting activities.

9. Gypsy Vanner Horse

The Gypsy Vanner, also known as the Gypsy Cob, is a breed of domestic horse from Great Britain. It is a small, heavily- built horse of cob and it is often skewbald or piebald. It is predominantly associated with the Romani and Irish travellers. The Gypsy Vanner comes in many colors, splash solid and tobiano.

Their distinguishing feature is the abundance of feathers from behind their knees, as well as a long free-flowing mane and tail. They stand at 14 to 15 hands and pose a temperament that is both engaging and friendly.

Originally bred to pull the Gypsy Wagon, these breed is now being used in many disciplines. You’ll see them pulling carriages and being ridden in the dressage ring. Overall, they are wonderful family horses and are popular therapy breeds due to their gracious nature.

10. Haflinger Horse

haflinger horse breed
Source: Pixabay

The Haflinger or the Avelignese is a type of horse breed found in northern Italy and Austria. In the late 19th century, the breed was small with distinctive gaits and a chestnut color. Their current conformation and appearance stems from an infusion of various European and the Arabian breeds.

The Haflinger was mainly used in mountainous terrains due to their hardcore nature. They are still in use in German and Austrian armies.

The breed is mainly chestnut in color, but it comes in other shades including light gold. The tail and mane are flaxen or white, and their height has increased to an average of 55 inches. It features a refined head and light poll with a medium neck. It has pronounced withers, broad chest, and slopping shoulders.

The back is muscular, and the legs are clean with flat wide knees. The canter and trot are elastic and show a clear definition of ligaments and tendons. They are used in harness tasks, light draft and various under-saddle activities such as therapeutic riding, dressage and endurance riding among others.

11. Icelandic Horse

horse breeds
Source: Unsplash

The Icelandic Horse is a descendant of the horses brought to Iceland by settlers over 11 centuries ago. In the early 1900s, these horses were used for travel and transportation purposes. In the 1940s, their role was coming to an end, but they have now been rediscovered and are used widely as sport and family horses.

The Iceland can be described as a rather small but sturdy breed. They weigh between 330 and 380 kilograms and stand an average of 14 to 15 hands. The breed comes in many coat colors, including dun, black, grey, pinto, roan, palomino and chestnut.

They have well-developed heads, with wide foreheads and straight profiles. Their necks are short and muscular while their chest is broad and deep. The legs are short and strong, and the mane and tail are filled with coarse hair. This breed is known to be hardy and an easy keeper.

12. Jutland Horse

The Jutland horse gets its name from the Danish peninsula of Jutland. This breed has been around since the middle-aged. The Jutland, as we know it today, was formed around 1850 when Shire and Suffolk horses were infused with Danish horses.

These horses have a medium sized compact body with short sturdy legs and strong quarters. Their legs are heavily feathered. They have gentle, expressive eyes, thick strong necks and long ears. Their shoulders are muscular, and their chest is deep and broad.

The overall impression one gets from looking at them is that of a strong, sturdy animal. They weigh between 650 to 800kgs and stand at an average of 15 to 16 hands. Some Jutlands are brown, but the majority are chestnut in color. This breed is docile and kind and is usually sued in agriculture and shows.

13. Knabstrupper Horse

knabstrupper horse
Source: Globetrotting

The Knabstrupper/ Knabstrup is a Danish horse breed that measures between 62 and 64 inches. There are also pony-sized breeds of below 60 inches. They have an unusual collection of coat colors that range from solid to full leopard spotted hues and various variants in between. Still, some are born with solid colors of chestnut and bay. The spots result from a genetic mechanism known as Leopard complex.

It was first developed in 1312 in Denmark where a solid-colored stallion and a chestnut mare with leopard complex markings were bred to produce a colt with dramatic spots. Later, the mare and her offspring were each bred with many other horses producing the Knabstrupper as a breed.

The horse does well in show jumping, dressage, circus, carriage and general riding. They are a brand in many European countries, Australia, Czech Republic and the United States.

14. Lusitano

lusitano horse
Source: Stallionsnow.com

The Lusitano Horse is a type of horse breed found in Portugal. This breed is very similar to the Andalusian horses of Spain. The two breeds are thought to have a common origin, but the Lusitano has resulted in a more rounded profile much like the Iberian horse while the Andalusian has developed a more oriental profile.

Their most distinguishing traits are a long head with a convex profile, narrowing to a curved nose, large conspicuous eyes inclined to an almond shape, a powerful neck with a tiny hairline giving off the impression of being upright, a short body with strong shoulders, a deep rib cage, clean legs with strong bone support- the hind legs sited perfectly under the axis, as well as agile movement with a smooth, comfortable ride.

15. Marwari Horse

marwari horse
Source: Wikimedia

The Marwari /Malani is one of the rarest types of horse breeds from the Marwari region of India. It comes in all equine colors. The breed is similar to Kathiawari breed and is known for its hardiness. It is between 58 and 62 inches tall although horses originating from different parts of India tend to have different heights.

The common colors are skewbald, piebald, white, palomino, chestnut, gray and bay. White horses are bred for religious reasons, but the gray ones are kept for their high value.

They have a straight facial profile with medium-sized ears that curve inwards. They can rotate their ears to 180 degrees. Other features include broad angular shoulders, deep chest, pronounced neck, sloping croup, long back, slender legs and small but well-built hooves.

They are easy keepers but can also have an unpredictable temperament. The breed is suited for sport, shows, horse safaris and ceremonial and religious purposes.

16. Morgan Horse

morgan horse
Source: Can-Do Morgans

The Morgan horse is among the earliest horse breeds bred in the US. It was used a general riding animal and was also used for harness sporting during the American civil war. It has influenced many American breeds and was exported to other countries in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The breed features refined and compact breeds with chestnut, black or bay color coatings. It is known for its versatility and is used in many Western and English events.

The Morgan horse has strong legs, a straight or slightly convex profile, an expressive head and a broad forehead. The eyes are prominent while the tail is attached high and gracefully straight. The back is short with strongly-built muscle hindquarters.

They stand between 57 and 62 inches. They excel in endurance riding, dressage, western pleasure, show jumping among other things. They have a gentle disposition and steady movement hence they are used in therapeutic riding programs.

17. New Forest Pony

The New Forest pony is a native pony breed from the isles of Britain. The breed is indigenous to New Forest in southern England, where horses have lived since the last ice age.

New Forest Ponies stand at an average 12.2 to 14.4 hands and come in many solid colors including brown, bay and grey. Other common shades include chestnut, black and roan. They are well built with a slightly sloping shoulder which gives them a straight profile, making them perfect for riding and driving.

They have a shortish neck and prominent head and most have great feet with strong hindquarters. They also have a calm temperament making them ideal for most pony lovers and also one of the best horse breeds for a first time owner.

18. Oldenburg Horse

oldenburg horse breed
Source: Wikimedia

The Oldenburg is a type of warm-blooded horse breed from the western part of Lower Saxony. It was developed on a mare base of an all-purpose carriage, though today they call it the Alt-Oldenburger. The horses are tall with good gaits and hopping abilities. They are known for their liberal pedigree requirements and are mostly kept for private use.

The appearance of an individual Oldenburg varies, and you are safer describing any warmblood by its actual parentage. The horse is known for producing the most modern types of riding horses characterized by long legs and expressive heads. They are built uphill with long, moderately sloped pelvis and long necks. They stand between 64 and 70 inches.

19. Paint Horse

The Paint horse is a breed that combines the characteristics of a pinto with white and dark colors and a Western stock horse. Its evolution can be traced back to the expedition of the Spanish Hernando, who travelled with one of the horses described as a pinto with white markings on his feet. The other was a dark roan horse with white patches on its body. These were the forebears of the Paint Horses.

The Paint Horses have a distinct body with a broad chest and strong, muscular hindquarters. Their coat is a combination of white with an array of other colors common to most equines. Their markings look like splotches of paint over the horse’s body but are actually divided into three categories: overo, tovero and tobiano – the three coat patterns required to be a Paint Horse.

20. Rocky Mountain Horse

rocky mountain horse
Source: Desktopdress

The Rocky Mountain Horse is a type of horse breed developed in Kentucky, U.S.A. It originated from the Appalachian Mountains and not the Rocky Mountains. A stallion named Old Tobe was used to produce the modern day Rocky Mountain Horses in the mid-20th century. The breed is known for its chocolate color coating and flaxen tail and mane.

Originally, it was a multi-functional riding and driving animal, but today it is popular in working cattle and trail riding. The average height is between 58 and 64 inches. They are known for their hardiness and ability to withstand extreme winters in mountain areas. They are also praised for their close similarity to humans.

21. Shire Horse

shire horse breed
Source: Aboutmanchester.co.uk

The Shire Horse has its roots in Britain. It is a breed of draught horse that’s usually gray, bay or black in color. It is a tall breed and has held the world record for being the largest and tallest horse for many years.

The breed has a great capacity for pulling weight and has been used to deliver ale to clients. It has also been used for commercial promotion, riding and forestry. In the UK, the stallions are at least 68 inches when mature. The geldings are 64 inches.

Its average weight is about 11000 kilograms. Its head is lean and long with large eyes set on the neck. The shoulder is deep and wide, the chest is broad, while the back is muscular and short with long and wide hindquarters.

They have minimal featherings on the legs and have beautiful, silky and straight hair. The shire horses have an easy-going temperament but have a high risk of suffering from chronic progressive lymphedema.

22. Tennessee Walking Horse

tennessee walking horse
Source: Wikimedia

The Tennessee Walking Horse/ Tennessee Walker is a breed of the gaited horse originally developed in the Southern United States for use in plantations and farms. It is known for its unique four-beat running and flashy movement.

The modern breed is described as elegant, refined and solidly built. It features a long neck, a well-defined head, and small ears. Its average height is between 59 and 68 inches and weighs about 540 kilograms.

The back is short with a strong coupling while the hips and shoulders are long and sloppy. The hindquarters are moderately thick and come in all solid colors and pinto patterns. The common colors include chestnut, black and bay. The designs include tobiano, sabino and avero.

The horse excels in trail riding activities both in Western and English regions. They are common in movies, TV shows and street performances.

23. Vladimir Heavy Draft

The Vladimir Heavy Draft is a horse which originated from Vladimir, in the former USSR. It is a sturdy horse of medium size with an all-round draft. It was developed in the Vladimir province in the 20th century. Today, it is found everywhere in the world. It is a quick maturing horse is popular for draft work.

The Vladimir Draft Horse has a large, long head, with a straight nose. Its ears are pricked forward and its neck is long and strong with powerful shoulders. The back, even though, very broad, can be weak. The abdomen is tucked up and the croup is long with a distinct slope. The legs are short, while the hooves are round, broad and strong. The chest is more developed and is very broad.

It comes in a variety of colors, but its most common colors are black and chestnut. These horses stand between 15 and 16 hands and weigh an average of 1600 pounds.

24. Westphalian

westphalian horse
Source: Wikimedia

The Westphalian is a warmblood horse bred in the region of Westphalia in western Germany. It is closely affiliated with the stud farm of Warendorf. Since the second world war, this horse has been bred to the same standards as other German warmbloods, and they are particularly suitable for pleasure riding and competitive dressage.

The Westphalian does not discriminate on color, however, some shades such as chestnut, black, grey and bay are rare. The best way to identify a Westphalian horse is by a brand on their left hip – a shield containing letter “W” which the horses receive when they are awarded at foal shows.

Final Words

You haven’t found a horse breed you were looking for? Let us know in the comments below or buy one of these great books about horse breeds.

Nicky Ellis
Nicky has been an editor at Horses & Foals since 2017. Horses have been in her life from her earliest memories, and she learned to ride a horse when she was 5. She is a mom of three who spends all her free time with her family and friends, her mare Joy, or just sipping her favorite cup of tea.

1 thought on “Horse Breeds: The Most Popular Equine Types A To Z

  1. With so many different kinds of horses out there to choose from I am happy to see that you broke this all down for me to learn from. The Arabian is clearly the most popular and probably the first one I would take a look at.

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