Roaming in the Mongolian steppes, you may find herds of Przewalski’s horses, the one remaining species of wild horse. Other horses commonly considered wild, like mustangs, are actually feral horses - escaped domestic horses. There are also several groups of semi-feral horses, such as Dartmoor ponies, that live mostly independently but with some human intervention.
In this post, we describe different types of wild, feral, and semi-feral horses.
This endangered horse has a dun coat with a pale belly and white muzzle, a dark stripe along its spine, dark lower legs with zebra-like stripes, a dark mane and tail, and no forelock. Pronounced “Shuh-val-ski’s” horse, this short, stocky equine has a large head and thick neck.
Although these hardy horses became extinct in the wild in the 1960s, they were bred in captivity and reintroduced into Mongolia. They live in groups of mares and foals with a single dominant stallion. Younger males live in separate bachelor groups.
This prehistoric wild horse roamed in southern France and Spain and east to central Russia and is depicted in cave paintings in France and Spain. Wild tarpans died out in the 19th century, and the last captive animal died in Russia in 1909.
Ill-tempered tarpans had a long, shaggy coat. In the 20th century, the Heck brothers in Germany combined several breeds to try to recreate the tarpan’s genetic combination.
These descendants of Spanish horses brought to the Americas were often bred with other breeds, including American Quarter Horses and draft horses, leading to horses with a variety of colours and patterns, including bay, sorrel, black, and palomino. They’re generally medium-sized, hardy, and sure-footed with stocky legs.
Mustangs live in small herds in the grasslands of the western United States. Although there are far fewer mustangs than there used to be, their population increases rapidly enough that the American Bureau of Land Management is working to adopt some of them out.
These feral horses escaped from horses brought to Australia by European settlers. With different breeds including Thoroughbred, Arabian, and Australian Draught in their ancestry, they don’t have a consistent appearance.
Hardy, intelligent, athletic brumbies are well-adapted to Australian wetlands, forests, rocky ranges, and tropical grasslands. In fact, with a population of at least 400,000 animals, they’re known to damage vegetation and cause problems for cattle farming, leading to control efforts ranging from fencing to culling.
Dartmoor and Exmoor Ponies
In 2 different English moorlands roam Dartmoor and Exmoor ponies, owned by either private individuals or national park authorities. Both breeds have a thick, woolly lower coat and an oily top coat that snow slides off, plus a coarse mane and tail. Both types of ponies were used historically in mining.
Exmoor ponies are related genetically to the Przewalski’s horse and nearly went extinct in 1946. They’re rounded up annually to establish ownership and apply tags or other marks. Both Exmoor and Dartmoor ponies are down to several hundred animals grazing in the UK, with other ponies in other parts of the world.
This ancient, greyish-white horse breed lives in southern France, grazing in saltmarshes. The animals roam freely but are gathered annually for counting and branding. They’re often used on ranches or for guided rides for tourists.
Do you have a favourite out of these wild, feral, and semi-feral horses? Let us know in the comments!
You’ve heard of mules, donkeys, and zebras, but what about wacky combinations like hinnies and zonkeys? And do you have any idea how they all relate to each other? In this post, we explain the relationship between horses, donkeys, and zebras, then explore what happens when these different species are combined.
Horses, donkeys, and zebras all belong to the Equidae family, giving them certain shared characteristics. These herbivores are all herd animals and swift runners. They also walk on the tips of their toes.
Equids’ stocky, hair-covered bodies typically have a mane and forelock (a lock of hair on the forehead). They have a thick, long skull with a long nasal bone and between 40 and 42 teeth.
Pregnancy for female horses and other equids lasts 11 to 13 months. They give birth about every 2 years to a single offspring. Their typical lifespan is 25 to 35 years.
It’s possible to breed most types of equids with each other - and people have certainly tried to do so. However, the attempts are not always successful, partly due to the different species’ different numbers of chromosomes. Even if offspring do result, they’re often infertile.
The name for a cross between 2 different equids typically combines the first part of the father’s species name with the second part of the mother’s species name. For example, a cross between a male zebra and a female horse is often called a zorse. However, there are many exceptions to this rule.
The general name for a hybrid between a zebra and a horse or donkey is a zebroid. Hybrids involving zebras tend to use a male zebra, not a female.
Male donkey + female horse = mule
Male horse + female donkey = hinny
Male mule = john
Female mule = molly
Mules are traditionally used as draft or pack animals. They’re known for being strong, hardy, intelligent, and sure-footed. They look similar to horses other than having longer ears.
Crosses between male donkeys and female horses are more common. Hinnies are also possible but more difficult to obtain. In either case, male animals (johns) are sterile, while female animals (mollies) can occasionally reproduce.
Male zebra + female horse = zorse
Male horse + female zebra = hebra
Male zebra + female pony = zony
Hybrid zebras are typically easier to work around and ride than standard zebras, while still retaining zebras’ hardiness and disease resistance. Zorses and hebras display stripes on the parent horse’s background colour. On horses with white patches, the stripes only show up on coloured hair.
The stripes tend to be most distinct on the legs and face, with fainter stripes along the body. Other features include a stripe along the spine, an upright mane, and large ears. Male animals tend to be sterile, while females are usually, but not always, sterile as well.
Male zebra + female donkey = zonkey, zedonk, zebronkey, zebadonk …
Male donkey + female zebra = donkra
As you might expect, donkras and zonkeys (or whatever you want to call them!) have a striped pattern on donkey colouring. Like with horse-zebra hybrids, the clearest stripes are on the legs. There’s also the same tendency for male animals to be sterile and female animals to be sterile most of the time.
Do you have a favourite of the many hybrid equids? Let us know in the comments!
Can you name any Canadian horse breeds? These horses’ hardy, shaggy beauty is sure to pull at your heartstrings. In this post, learn about breeds that have developed to survive hard work and Canadian winters.
This breed originates from horses that King Louis XIV of France sent in 1665. The original horses - of several breeds, like Belgian and Dales Pony - developed to have thick, dark coats; long, wavy manes; and tough hooves. These calm, intelligent animals can pull heavy loads, carry a rider, or even perform dressage or jumps.
After thousands of Canadian horses were sent to the United States to fight in their Civil War and serve as breeding stock, the federal government started a breeding program in 1913. By 2018, the population had reached about 6000. The Canadian horse was named Canada’s national horse in 2002 and a heritage breed of Quebec in 2010.
Canadian Rustic Pony
This sturdy, athletic breed was developed in Manitoba as a cross between the Arabian horse, Welsh Mountain Pony, and Heck horse. Canadian Rustic Ponies tend to be dun, bay, buckskin, or grey, often with a stripe along their spine or zebra stripes on their legs. These kind, trainable ponies are used as pets, pleasure horses, and show horses.
Lac La Croix Indigenous Pony
This compact, powerful breed - probably the only breed developed by Indigenous people in Canada - is likely a cross of the Spanish mustang and the Canadian horse. These gentle, forest-dwelling creatures have a solid-coloured coat of any colour except for white or cream; a thick mane; small, hairy ears; and tough hooves.
The Ojibwe of northwestern Ontario and northern Minnesota used these ponies for winter transportation, then let them loose in the summer. The ponies’ population diminished to 4 mares by 1977, but the population has gradually attained 150 individuals. Today, these ponies participate in equine therapy, Indigenous heritage programs, and tourism.
The friendly Newfoundland pony has its roots in ponies that settlers brought from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. These agile equines have a thick mane and winter coat; short, furry ears; hoods to protect their eyes; and low-lying tails to allow snow to slide off. Their hair is often brown, although it can also be other colours, and sometimes changes colour depending on the season.
Sadly, many Newfoundland ponies were sent to meat plants in the 1980s. Their current population is less than 400. In 1996, this breed was declared a Newfoundland heritage animal.
Sable Island Horse
These horses are famous for living on narrow Sable Island, off the Nova Scotian coast. They have dark, shaggy coats and long manes and tails. They were once domesticated but now live in small herds.
In 1960, there was a plan to turn the Sable Island horses into dog food until many children wrote to protest to Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. There are currently about 500 Sable Island horses.
Did you learn about any new horse breeds? Let us know in the comments!
If you picture a horse, your mind probably calls up an image of an animal of a certain size with typical features like a flowing mane and perky ears. Although most horses conform to these standards, a few have wacky characteristics that make them stand out from the herd.
Join us as we explore unusual horse breeds. You may not find these types of horses at the ranch, but it’s always fascinating to learn about the diversity within the horse species, and this knowledge deepens your appreciation for these noble animals.
American Bashkir Curly
As its name suggests, this breed has distinctive curly hair. Some of these horses only have a curly mane and tail, while others display curls on their whole body. These friendly, patient horses are also notable for being hypoallergenic, making them an excellent option for people who are allergic to horses.
Akhal Teke Horse
The national horse of Turkmenistan is famous for having hair with a metallic gleam, perhaps serving as a form of camouflage. It’s a strong, fast horse with long endurance, in addition to possessing delicate features. Its roots stretch back about 3000 years, but, today, this breed is endangered.
The unusual feature of the Marwari horse is that its ears curve inward, even meeting at the tips. This equine has been bred in India since the 12th century. Besides its ears that point toward each other, it’s known for its speed, stamina, and hardiness.
What strikes the eye immediately about the Gypsy Vanner is the feathering from its knees down to its hooves. These calm, friendly, strong horses have straight manes, tails, and feathers. Romanichal people in the United Kingdom have used them to pull their vardoes, or wagons.
This dun horse from Norway has an erect cream-coloured mane with a dark stripe down the middle. Owners normally keep the mane short to emphasize the contrast between the 2 colours. Fjord horses belong to one of the oldest horse breeds on the planet and are typically used on farms.
This miniature horse is one of the smallest breeds, only reaching up to about 80 centimetres at its withers. This long-lived breed started in Argentina in the mid-1800s. These horses are strong despite their size and are used to pull carts and give rides to tiny children, besides competing in shows and acting as guide animals.
This amazing breed, of Danish origin, has spots like a Dalmatian or leopard. In fact, its genes give it what is known as a leopard complex, which mainly affects its coat pattern. These horses vary in size, being sometimes as small as a pony, and in function, being suitable for dressage, show jumping, and general riding.
Did any of these unusual horse breeds surprise you? Let us know in the comments!
Did you know that there are approximately 350 registered horse breeds, plus about 100 pony breeds? In this post, we’ll explore ways to classify horses then some of the most popular breeds.
When horse lovers mention the temperature of a horse’s blood, they’re describing its temperament, features, and bloodline. Cold-blooded horses are known for being calm and steady. Hot-blooded horses, by contrast, are energetic and excitable.
Warm-blooded horses are middle of the road in terms of weight and personality. They’re tall and powerful but not too high-strung.
You may hear about purebred, crossbreed, and grade horses. A purebred, as you would imagine, has a pure bloodline without any influence from other breeds. Crossbreeds are intentional combinations of two breeds, while grade horses are unplanned crosses.
Draft horses are your typical work horse, like the Clydesdale. These calm, cold-blooded creatures have been used for centuries to haul loads ranging from farm equipment to soldiers weighed down with heavy armour. They can briefly pull loads of over twice their weight.
With their thin legs and small bones, light horses are fast and great for any type of riding. Their weight and appearance vary, from the patchy pinto to hot-blooded Arabians.
Gaited horses, like the Tennessee Walking Horse, are light horses that move particularly smoothly. These horses used to be known as “gentleman’s horses” because wealthy men enjoyed riding them. Today, you might experience a stepping pace or fox trot if you ride one of these beauties, but the one thing that you’re unlikely to do is fall off.
Some people are confused about how ponies relate to horses. Ponies are basically small horses, always measuring less than 14.2 hands. They’re smart and stocky, with duties ranging from pulling loads to giving children their first rides.
Specific Horse Breeds
The Spanish brought splotchy American Paint Horses with them to the United States. Paint horses are good all-around horses for different types of English and Western riding.
American Quarter Horses are some of the most popular mounts for both beginner riders and professionals. These animals are both sporty and gentle. Their colour varies enormously, and some animals have white markings on their head and legs.
You can recognize an Appaloosa right away because of its distinctive spotted coat. If you look more closely, you’ll notice that it has striped hooves. This breed is hardy and an excellent choice for long-distance trail riding and herding.
Arabians are one of the oldest breeds in the world. All light horse breeds have their origin in the Arabian. These gorgeous solid-coloured horses are spirited and powerful but loyal.
Thoroughbreds are best known for their success in horse racing. With their lean bodies and long, flat muscles, they can reach speeds of over 60 kilometres per hour.
We hope you enjoyed our overview of horse breeds. Is there anything that you would like to know about horses? Let us know in the comments!
Hello, My name is Shelby Gatti, and I am the owner of Shelby Ranch. I love being able to share my passion for animals with you and your family. At Shelby Ranch you can expect a ton of family adventure from horseback riding to mechanical bull riding & axe throwing.