9 Different Breeds of Horses: Most Popular & Distinct

The 9 most popular horses breeds are probably familiar to you in name only, but you don’t know much more about them.

Did you know that there are over 300 different types of horses?

If you want more info on the most popular breeds and some of the more rare and interesting types of horses, you’ve come to the right place.

Let’s start off with some breeds that you hear about frequently when amongst the equestrian community.

READ MORE: Thoroughbred Vs Quarter Horse

5 Most Popular Horse Breeds

The first known ancestors of the modern horse evolved around 160,000 years ago. These ancient wild horses were quite different than the beautiful horses we see today.

Over time they continued to evolve within their environment until around 6,000 years ago when scientists believe the first horses were domesticated.

Today, all horses can trace their early genetics to breeds. These are the famous, and stunning Arabian and the Turkoman.

The Turkoman is sadly extinct. The modern breed that most resembles it is the shimmery Akhal-Teke.

American Quarter Horse

American quarter horses galloping

The American Quarter Horse is arguably the most popular horse breed in the world, even though it is mostly concentrated in North America. There is a good reason why this breed is so popular.

 

The Quarter Horse is mostly found in western riding disciplines and working on cattle ranches, but it is one of the most versatile breeds of horse.

Both beginners and professionals can get hours of enjoyment out of the Quarter horse.

Quarter Horses are agile, athletic, intelligent, and friendly horses. They enjoy work and are happy to move along at a slow pace or spring into action at a moment’s notice.

The breed developed in America when imported English Thoroughbreds were crossed with the Chicksaw horses bred by the Native Americans during the 1600s.

Quarter horses stand between 14 and 16 hands tall, with most around the 15 hand mark.

They are not the largest breed but don’t lack strength and are great for more nervous riders.

It is an attractive horse that comes in just about every color, with chestnut, bay, and palomino common. They weigh between 900 and 1,200 pounds.

Related: What is a Group of Horses Called?

Warmblood

stunning Dutch warmblood horse under a tree

The warmblood isn’t a specific breed but a type of horse. Several breeds fall into the warmblood category, enough for an article dedicated just to them.

So here, we will touch on the warmblood in general as their characteristics are similar across the breeds.

 

The warmblood horse hails from Europe, where each country has its own breed registries, some countries have more than one, such a Germany, where you find the Holstein, Hanovarian, and Oldenburg.

The Netherlands’ main warmblood breed is the Dutch Warmblood (KWPN), while France has the Selle Francais and Belgium has the Belgian Warmblood. In Ireland, you find the Irish Sports Horse.

Those are the majority warmblood breeds, but not an exhaustive list. The warmblood is a sports horse.

You find them in the major equestrian disciplines; showjumping, dressage, and eventing.

The warmblood has a good temperament but does have a sharpness that coincides with its athletic ability.

So despite their good nature, they are not necessarily the best horse for a beginner as they can have high energy levels.

Warmbloods range in height from 15 to 17.2 hands tall, with most around the 16.2 marks.

They weigh from 1,200 to 1,500 pounds and are medium-framed horses with elastic gaits and attractive heads.

They come in gray, bay, chestnut, and black, often with white socks and blazes, depending on breed standards.

It is very rare to find a skewbald or piebald warmblood, though some do exist in the KWPN studbook.

Additional Resources

Arabian

Arabian horse with white sockings

As you have already discovered, the Arabian is part of every modern horse breed, even if it is now a very small influence. It is one of the oldest horse breeds in the world.

 

The Arabian horses are hot-blooded, light horses with very refined features. They have a history that goes back to at least 3,000 BC.

As the breed is hot-blooded, the Arabian is full of life, it is loyal and hardy, despite its fragile looks.

Its spirited temperament requires an experienced horseman or horsewoman to handle, and it isn’t the best choice for a first-time horse owner.

The Arabians are not big, heavyweight horses. It stands between 14 and 16 hands tall and weighs 800 to 1,000 pounds.

They are famous for their stamina, and beautiful dished faces. You find the Arabian in bay, black, chestnut, and gray.

Thoroughbred

Thoroughbred mare and filly

Like the Quater Horse, the Thoroughbred is one of the most recognizable horse breeds in the world. The breed originates in England when there was a want for an athletic, fastest horse for racing.

 

The primary sport of the Thoroughbred is horseracing. However, they play an important part in the breeding of the warmblood, where it is used for its refining qualities. 

Off the racecourse, you will find the Thoroughbred in a variety of equestrian activities, including jumping, eventing, dressage, and even barrel racing.

It is a hot-blooded, high-energy breed this isn’t always suited to novice riders or owners.

However, there are always exceptions, and many Thoroughbreds enjoy quiet pleasure riding lives. 

The Thoroughbred stands from 15 to 17.2 hands tall, but most are below 16.2. They have light, sporty frames and weigh from 1,000 to 1,300 pounds.

READ MORE: Friesian Horse Facts

Morgan

family of Morgan horses

The Morgan is an American horse breed that originates in New England and is named after its founding breeder. It is a small, attractive breed that is one of the best breeds for novice riders and owners.

 

They are used for both riding and driving. The breed makes a wonderful trail horse because of its excellent temperament and surefootedness.

You will find Morgans is both English and western riding activities.

Morgans are often used for therapeutic riding as they have gentle, calm natures. It is not a tall horse and ranges in height from 14 to 15 hands tall.

They have a medium body size and weigh 900 to 1,100 pounds.

Additional Resources:

3 More Amazing Horse Breeds to Know About

Now that you’ve had an introduction to some of the most popular horse breeds in the world, we will give you a peek at some amazing rare equines.

Cleveland Bay

cleveland bay horse with black tail, feet and mane

The Cleveland Bay is an English horse and one of the most at-risk breeds in the world. It is one of the oldest breeds to originate in England, with a history that starts long before records began.

 

Cleveland Bay horses are attractive, versatile horses that can participate in many equestrian events. It is a hardy breed, with good bone, but at the same time is not too heavy.

During one period in the past, Cleveland was a popular choice for driving carriages.

During the 18th century, the Cleveland Bay was refined with the early version of the Thoroughbred.

This refinement made the Cleveland Bay more athletic, and it was soon discovered that it was a good breed to use in the development of many warmbloods.

An interesting fact about the breed is that they are all bay in color. They never have white legs and rarely have a small star on their face.

After the World Wars, Cleveland Bay numbers were decimated. Their savior was Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, a passionate horse breeder.

The Queen purchased a stallion, who she made available at stud in the 1960s, which help revitalize the breed.

In the 1980s, the breed took another hit in numbers. They are still in a critical stage, with only around 900 in existence.

It is unfortunate, as they are a wonderful, versatile breed. Hopefully, more people will learn about them and keep this wonderful breed going.

KNOW MORE ABOUT: Buckskin Horse

Galiceño

rare Galiceño horses

Next, we will take a look at the Galiceño. It is considered the rarest breed of horse in the world, with only around 100 left. And unfortunately, of the few that are left, many are not suitable for breeding.

 

Even though the Galiceño is classed as a horse, it is small and is easily confused as a small pony. They stand only 12 to 13.2 hands tall.

Its origin is Spain and Portugal’s primitive horses, but today they mostly exist in North America and arrived with Spanish colonists.

Over the early centuries of America and Mexico’s colonization, thousands of Galiceño were imported.

However, even with a 20th-century interest in the breed, they are now critically endangered.

CHECK: Horse With Blue Eyes

Przewalski’s Horse

Przewalski’s Horse in the snow

The Przewalski’s Horse is one of the most interesting distinct breeds of horse, particularly because they look quite different than most modern types. It is a wild horse, after reintroduction, that lives in Mongolia.

 

Even though the breed went extinct in the wild and after being reintroduced, it is considered the only truly wild horse left.

They are quite unusual looking with short, stout bodies, and spiky manes. Their head shape resembles a donkey, but they have small ears.

They have thick necks and stand only 12 to 14 hands tall. They differ from the domestic horse in more ways than just looks.

The Przewalski’s horse has 33 chromosomes, while a domestic horse has 32.

They are all dun in color with black or brown legs and manes. Many also have primitive markings.

Additional Resources

Most Popular Pony Breeds

It doesn’t feel right to finish out an article about the most popular horse breeds without including some ponies.

Let’s take a look at one of the most adorable pony breeds that everyone loves.

Connemara

grey connemara horse

The Connemara is a native pony to Ireland. It is an athletic, sturdy pony, that gets its name from a remote, rugged area of County Galway.

Their precise development is difficult to pinpoint, but it is possible they are a mixture of imported Viking horses, the native Irish Hobby, and Andalusians that arrived with the Spanish Armada.

 

During the 1900s, the Arabian and Thoroughbred were added to the Connamare to refine it.

Today, the Connemara pony stands from 12 to 14.2 hands tall, but sometimes you come across an overgrown animal at 15 hands.

They come in gray (the most common), black, dun, chestnut, bay, and palomino horse. They have great temperaments and excel at jumping, eventing, and pleasure riding.

Other popular breeds of pony include Welsh ponies, the Dales Pony, Shetland and the Fell Pony.

READ MORE ABOUT: Clydesdale Horses

FAQs

We haven’t covered every horse breed here, that is impossible without a multi-volume book, so we’re sure you have a few questions.

HOW MANY HORSE BREEDS ARE THERE?

The fact is, no one is sure exactly how many horse breeds there are. However, it is generally agreed that there are at least 350 different ones.

WHAT IS THE SMALLEST HORSE BREED?

black falabella pony

The Falabella is the world’s smallest horse breed stand between 21 to 34 inches tall. It is closely followed by the miniature horse.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST HORSE BREED?

brown Shire horse

The biggest horse breeds are draft horses. There are several draft horse breeds with the Shire considered to be the largest.

Conclusion

With over 350 horse breeds, you can see that we have only touched on some of them.

Here we’ve taken a look at some of the most popular and also the rarest horses you will come across.

Do you have a favorite horse breed? Is there a breed you want to learn more about? If so let us know!

References

  • “Breeds of Livestock – Cleveland Bay Horse — Breeds of Livestock, Department of Animal Science.” Afs.okstate.edu, afs.okstate.edu/breeds/horses/clevelandbay/index.html/#:~:text=The%20Cleveland%20Bay%20horse%20is. Accessed 30 July 2021.
  • “Cleveland Bay Horse Society – Cleveland Bay Horses.” Www.clevelandbay.com, www.clevelandbay.com/about-cb-horses. Accessed 30 July 2021.
  • “Galicenos of Suwannee Horse Ranch.” Galicenos of Suwannee Horse Ranch, galiceno.org/index.html. Accessed 30 July 2021.
different types of horses running together

What are your favorite types of horses? We’d love to hear that in the comment section below!

Siun L
Siun L

Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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