The History of Horse Naming Traditions in Different Cultures

The process of learning about the history of horse naming traditions takes you on a fascinating journey through different cultures and time periods.

From ancient Greece to the modern day, different cultures have had their unique ways of naming horses, reflecting their beliefs, values, and customs.

Join us as we explore the rich history of horse naming traditions in different cultures and the stories behind the names of these beloved animals.

Key Takeaways: 

  • Horse naming conventions vary widely from culture to culture, reflecting the different cultural and historical influences of each region. 
  • Horse names often reflect the cultural and historical significance of the horse in each culture.
  • Horse names can also reflect personal significance, with owners naming their horses after loved ones, personal heroes, or other important individuals in their lives.

Horse Naming Traditions in Different Cultures

The practice of naming horses dates back to ancient civilizations like Greece. The following horse naming traditions often reflect a culture’s values, beliefs, and history.

These traditions provide insight into the way that horses have been valued and respected in different societies.

While reading, take a look at this video that shares some charming horse names:

Ancient Greece

In ancient Greece, horses were often named after gods, goddesses, and heroes. 

For example, Pegasus, the winged horse of the god Zeus, is one of the most well-known horses from Greek mythology.

Other horses were named after heroes, such as the hero Patroclus and his horse Xanthos from Homer’s Iliad. 

This tradition of naming horses after heroes were common in ancient Greece and reflected the important role that horses played in warfare and transportation.

Ancient Egypt

In ancient Egypt, horses represented royalty and heroism and were often named after pharaohs and other powerful figures. (1)

Just like in Ancient Greece, this Egyptian tradition reflects the importance of horses in Egyptian culture and their association with power and prestige.

Horses were also named after their characteristics or physical attributes, such as “Black Beauty” or “White Lightening.”

Medieval Europe

In medieval Europe, horse naming traditions were often tied to the horse’s intended use.

Horses used by knights were given names that reflected strength and power, such as “Warrior” or “Knight.”

Horses used for hunting or other leisure activities were given more elegant and refined names, such as “Princess” or “Mare.”

Native American Cultures

In Native American cultures, horse naming traditions were often tied to the horse’s appearance or personality.

cowboy riding a horse

For example, a horse with a black coat might be given the name “Blackfoot,” while a horse with a white blaze on its forehead might be given the name “Lightning.”

Additionally, many Native American cultures believed that a horse’s name should reflect its spirit and should be given a name only after it had revealed its true nature.

For a fascinating read, check out our article on the oldest horse ever and discover the amazing lifespan of these majestic creatures.

Chinese Culture

In Chinese culture, horses have been an important part of their history and have been used for transportation, agriculture, and warfare.

Horse naming traditions in China have been influenced by a variety of factors, including their intended use, physical characteristics, and auspicious meanings.

For example, horses used in warfare may be named after famous generals or battles, while horses used for transportation or agriculture may be named after their speed or stamina.

Japanese Culture

In Japanese culture, horses were considered to be sacred animals and were closely associated with the Shinto religion.

Horse naming traditions in Japan often reflect this spiritual significance, with horses being given names that reflect their noble and pure nature.

For example, horses may be named after flowers or other natural elements, such as “Sakura” (cherry blossom) or “Tsuki” (moon).

Islamic Culture

Horses were an important part of Islamic culture, used for transportation, warfare, and sport.

Horse naming traditions in Islamic culture often reflects the horse’s strength and beauty, with names such as “Sahara” (desert) or “Sahil” (coast).

Additionally, horses have been named after famous historical figures or characters from Islamic mythology, such as “Saladin” or “Zulfiqar.”

Western Culture

In modern Western culture, horse naming traditions can vary widely, but often reflect the horse’s physical characteristics, breed, or personality.

Some people may also choose names that reflect their favorite literary, mythological, or historical figures.

Modern racehorses often have one-of-a-kind names that are based on specific naming rules of the Jockey Club, which has guidelines and approves racehorse names. (2)

These rules include specifics about things like the number of letters or different horses’ names being too similar.

And if you’re interested in the world of show jumping, don’t miss our article on famous show jumping horses!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do different cultures determine the names of horses?

walking grey Arabian horse

Different cultures have their own unique ways of determining the names of horses that reflect cultural and historical influences, personal significance, and other factors.

2. Do all cultures give horses a name?

Not all cultures give horses a name. Some cultures use other ways to identify horses, like branding or tattoos.

3. Are there any common themes among horse naming traditions in different cultures?

rider on a horse with bits but are horse bits cruel

Common themes include the horse’s intended use, physical characteristics, personality, and auspicious meanings.


The history of horse naming traditions is a rich and diverse tapestry of cultures and time periods.

Horse naming traditions have evolved over time, reflecting the changing beliefs, values, and customs of the cultures that practice them.

From ancient Greece to the modern day, different cultures have their unique ways of naming horses, reflecting their beliefs, values, and customs.

The names chosen for horses have often reflected their intended use, physical characteristics, personality, and even spiritual or religious beliefs.

Horse naming traditions offer a glimpse into the role horses have played in different cultures throughout history.

It is fascinating to see how different societies have valued and respected these animals.

lady holding the spotted horse


1. Garstang Administration. Horses in Ancient Egypt [Internet]. Garstang Museum of Archaeology. 2018. Available from:

2. Ludden J. The Science of Naming a Racehorse [Internet]. NPR. 2005. Available from:


Ari is passionate about horses and loves sharing his experience with his readers. Find him on FACEBOOK.
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