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 You'll Learn Today
What Are Hot Blood Horses?
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 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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Finally, here is a quick recap…
Horse Breeds Infographic
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.