Hot, Warm And Cold Blooded Horses: What’s The Difference?

Have you ever heard someone refer to a horse as cold, hot or warm-blooded? I bet you have. And you may be wondering why a horse is referred to as cold-blooded yet it’s a mammal and we all know mammals have warm blood?

Well, it is not about their body temperature. Horses have the same body temperature of around 30 degrees centigrade or 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

So what does it mean when someone refers a horse as warm, hot or cold blooded? It’s not about the blood that runs in the horse’s veins. The classification is based on the horse’s temperament and the tasks they perform. Every horse breed belongs to one of these three types.

But to clarify more, we break each of these terms for you.

What Are Hot Blood Horses?

hot blood horse breed
Arabian Horse

Hot bloods comprise of ancient horse breeds originating from the Middle East. They were mainly bred for speed and agility. But the breeders also focused on the horses’ elegance, frame and pattern maintenance.

This resulted in light, refined, thin-skinned, and long-legged horses. Today hot blooded horses are mostly used in racing. But you will find them in the show ring and trails as well.

Their close interaction with people has made the hot blood breeds quite intelligent. They are high-spirited, hot-tempered, bold, and quick learners. They also tend to be nervous and energetic.

Ever vigilant, the hot-blooded horses react quickly to unfamiliar circumstances. That’s why they require an experienced person to handle and work on their excitable and fired-up temperament.

Additionally, hot blood horses are vulnerable to stormy weather. This is due to their Middle East origin where they are more at home in desert conditions.

For many years they were used as a symbol of power and wealth by the North African tribes. Hot bloods are among the most expensive horses.

Examples of hot breeds are the Akhal-Teke, Barb, the Thoroughbred, and the Arabians. The latter two are the best-known breeds.

When talking of hot blood horses many people just refer to the Thoroughbreds and Arabians.

Cold Blood Horses

cold blood horse breed
Clydesdale Horse

Cold bloods comprise of the tall, heavy horse breeds used in draft. Breeders selected for a breed that would be suitable for pulling wagons, carriages, and plows. The breeding effort over a long time resulted in an animal that is large, strong, muscular, and resistant.

So what kind of temperament does a cold blooded horse have? Given the nature of work they were intended to do, cold bloods had to be calm, gentle, and patient. That is why cold bloods are also called the “gentle giants”.

Cold bloods have a characteristic walk. They move slowly in longer and ‘flatter’ strides.

Medieval soldiers preferred the cold bloods because they were strong. They would carry heavy armor as well as the soldier and travel long distances.

Today, cold bloods are the most popular breeds for riding. But they are also gaining prominence competing in the show rings. They are becoming popular with pleasure and trail riders. And because of their friendly nature, cold blooded horses are easy to handle. Even children can work with them.

Typical examples of cold blood breeds are the Percheron, Ardennes, Frisian, Icelandic, Shires, Budweiser Clydesdale, or Belgian.

They were bred in harsh climates and are hardy with very heavy bone and feathering. They can handle the turbulent weather very well.

Warm Blood Horses

warmblood horse breed
Haflinger Horse

Warmbloods are a group of middle-weight horse breeds that originate in Europe.

They were bred by crossing the Arabians and Thoroughbreds with carriage or war horses. The result was a breed larger than the hot-blooded but more refined than the cold bloods. Their temperament of warm blood horses is in-between the cold and hot bloods.

Warmbloods are popular dressage horses because of their athletic ability from the “hot” blood and the temperament of the “cold” blood.

Today, warmbloods are high-quality sports horses. You will see them in many show arenas all over the world.

Typical warmblood breeds are the Irish Draught, Haflinger, Holsteiner, Hanoverian, American Warmblood, Dutch Warmblood, the Trakehner.

Frequently Asked Questions

warm blooded vs cold blooded horses Frequently Asked Questions
1. Are Friesian horses cold-blooded?

These horses have some draft horse heritage, so they can be considered coldbloods, but they are more likely to be considered warmbloods. It’s important to understand, with any horse, that its temperament and energy level are not entirely determined by heritage, though. Upbringing, diet, environment and training are also major contributors.

2. What makes the warmblood breeds good for dressage?

The combination of spirit, intelligence and curiosity, along with light-footedness and endurance make warmbloods the perfect choice for any pursuit that requires close rider/mount connection, quick thinking, stamina and agility.

3. What is the most challenging type of dressage?

Haute ecole is the very showy sort of dressage taught and displayed at Vienna’s Spanish Riding School. The horses used for this very specific form of riding are Lippizanners, which are known as Baroque horses. Baroque horses are a collection of warmblood horses that includes Lippizanners, Lusitanos, Andalusians, Kladrubers, Frederiksborgers and Friesians.

4. How would you classify a wild mustang horse?

Original mustangs were descendants of Spanish barbs, which were bred from Arabian horses, so those with that ancestry could well be classified as hotbloods. Even so, today’s wild mustangs are the result of generations of breeding that has been affected by human interference and natural selection. If you acquire a mustang from the Bureau of Land Management, you are best off to look at the animal as an individual. Do your best (through study or even DNA testing) to determine its heritage, and decide, based on your observations and verifiable information whether the animal you have should be considered coldblood, warmblood or hotblood.

5. Is it important to know whether your horse is coldblood, warmblood or hotblood?

It’s important to understand your horse’s temperament and capabilities. Knowing the animal’s heritage and observing his or her behavior can help you determine which designation is best suited. The concept of cold, warm or hot bloodedness should not be used as a constricting label. Instead, it should be thought of as a way of understanding and describing your horse.

Hot Blooded, Warm Blooded Vs Cold Blooded Horses

hot blooded, warm blooded vs cold blooded horses
Where do you think this horse belongs to? Leave your answer in the comments below…

Finally, here is a quick recap…

Horse Breeds Infographic

horse breeds infographics

Hot bloods are spirited horses with high speed and endurance. Cold bloods are heavy horses that are great for slow and heavy work. They are used for draft and agricultural work. Warmbloods are a mixed breed of the cold and hot blooded horses. If you are interested in this topic, have a look at one of these horse books.

22 thoughts on “Hot, Warm And Cold Blooded Horses: What’s The Difference?”

  1. I never knew this about horses. I really like to learn more about them and your website seems to be a great resource! Thank you!

  2. hello i have a hybrid Arabian which is half Arabian and we dont know the other half he is very small and light but seems to be a bit lazy and not hot so i am not sure if he is hot blooded or warm? i am sure he is not cold since his characteristics are nothing like a cold blooded horse?

  3. I have a 6 month old quarter colt mixed with some thoroughbred. My assumption is that he is hot blooded and there for likes warmer climate versus colder climate is this true.

    • A coldblood horse might be more efficient at retaining heat in a colder climate. Even so, your thoroughbred/quarter horse cross could be perfectly happy in a cold climate with good shelter, the right diet and possibly a blanket on very cold days.

  4. I LOVE THIS AND HORSES!!! But I also don’t really love horses. I learned in a book that horses could also bite your finger off… |(‘_’)| (-_-)So sad… IT MESSED UP MY CHILDHOOD!!!!

    • If you are feeding a horse out of hand, and the horse accidentally bites down on your finger, he won’t be able to unbite, so you could very well lose a finger. The easy way to avoid this is to never feed treats out of hand and always present your horse with a full feed bucket rather than pouring feed into the bucket while the hungry horse is trying to get the feed. My mother’s horseback riding instructor lost a finger doing just that, but she picked it up out of the feed bucket, put it in her pocket and drove straight to the hospital where it was quickly reattached!

  5. So sorry hearing that horses sometimes bite messed up your childhood. I don’t want to mess up the rest of your life, but dogs can bite and chickens can peck you.

  6. On my last day of horse riding I almost got kicked off of the horse because he was being super stubborn and didn’t follow my directions even though I was the one holding onto the reins! So now I am sorta afraid of riding horses again because that changed my thoughts about them.

    • Oh you should have gotten right back on if you weren’t hurt!
      Make sure that you have a horse that you are comfortable handling and get back on! You will miss so much,!

    • School horses and camp horses are often just fed up with people. Also, a horse may behave “stubbornly” if there is something wrong with his tack, or if he is just tired or unwell.

      Riding is an act of teamwork, and horses will very often size up a rider first thing and decide whether or not the person knows what he or she is doing. That’s why it’s always a good idea to approach a horse as an individual, spend some time with him or her and build some rapport before riding.

      It’s also wise to understand that a horse is not a vehicle. They have minds of their own, and they may very well decide not to “follow directions”. Holding the reins is no guarantee of compliance. Knowing how to connect with the horse and combine rein, voice and leg cues effectively will always yield better results.

  7. Don’t be afraid just talk to your horse give it some love, then get help by watching PatPirelli on u tube.
    I love horses but am now to old and infirm to ride or walk among them, like I said watching u tube I have learned so many things I wish I had known when I had horses. I have to mention Paintbox my 14.2. Connemara pibald pony, now she even had a sense of humor .

    • Hiroshi Hoketsu is 78 years old he is will participate in Tokyo olympics 2021′ then he’ll be 79 years old. In 2012′ he won olympic gold medal in dressage event in London olympics at that time he was 70 years old. Sports has got no age bar.

  8. breeds that originated in the Middle East. These breeds include the Akhal-Teke, Arabian horse, Barb, and the Thoroughbred. “Hot” bloods are often high -spirited, bold, and quick learners. They are bred mainly for speed and agility. Because of this “hot” blooded breeds are more refined, thin-skinned, and long legged. Today the “hot” blooded horses are mainly used in racing throughout the world. However, many of these lighter breed horses can be found in the show ring and the trails as well. If you are looking for a spirited horse with a lot of speed, look no further than the “hot” blooded breeds. “Cold” Blooded:  “Cold” blooded breeds consist of the heavy draft breeds. These breeds include Belgians, Clydesdales, Percherons, and Shires. Often “cold” blooded breeds are calm, gentle, patient, and strong. They were originally bred for strength, which was needed to pull plows or heavy carriages. Because of this, “cold” blooded breeds are often very large, strong, muscular, and slow. These horses are also referred to as the “gentle giants”. “Cold” blooded breeds remain the most popular breeds for driving. However in recent years, more and more “cold” blooded breeds are competing in the show ring and have become a popular choice for pleasure and trial riders. So if you are looking for a large, but gentle companion, you have found it in the “cold” blooded breeds.

  9. What breed of horse would be best for a year round resort in ARIZONA that could be first time ridden by ANYONE (including as young as six years old)?

    • If I were choosing riding animals for Arizona, I would go with donkeys and mules. They are built for that kind of weather and land. Contrary to popular belief they are just as trainable and versatile as a horse. For your purposes, look for mature, well trained geldings. Donkeys and mules have very long life spans, so starting with animals that are 8+ years old, settled and trained will still give you lots of good riding years.

    • My friend has always had Arabians and we live in Southern Arizona. We no longer ride but have 3 Arabian rescues. They are descended from Polish Arabians. .


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