Horse breeds

There are hundreds of different horse breeds around the world, ranging from thoroughbreds and Arabs to British native breeds and warmblood sport horses to modern “wild” equines, like the US mustang and Australian brumby.

What is the oldest horse breed?

One of the most ancient horse breeds still in existence is Przewalski’s horse. Originally native to the steppes of Central Asia, it is named after the Russian geographer and explorer Nikołaj Przewalski. This equid became extinct in the wild, before being initially reintroduced to its native habitat in the 1990s. It has 33 chromosome pairs, compared to 32 for the domestic horse, and it is believed that their ancestral lineages split from a common ancestor between 38,000 and 160,000 years ago.

Horse breeds for racing

The thoroughbred, which is the primary horse breed used for racing around the world, was founded in England in the 17th and 18th centuries, when English mares were bred to three imported stallions of Barb, Turkomen, and Arab lines. The General Stud Book, the first official register of horses, was established in 1791, only listing horses that could be traced to those three stallions and to 43 “Royal mares” imported under the reign of James I.

Other breeds used for racing include Arabians, which are both raced on the track and over long distances in a sport called endurance riding, the Standardbred, which is an American horse breed often used in harness racing, and the Quarter Horse, another American breed of horse that excels at sprinting short distances.

British horse breeds

There are numerous horse and pony breeds native to Britain. These range from the diminutive Shetland pony, right up to the massive and majestic Shire horse, with many others ranging in size in between. As well as the Shetland, Scotland boasts the Clydesdale horse and the Highland pony, who is among The Queen’s favourite breeds. There are four distinct breed “sections” within the Welsh Pony & Cob Studbook from the Welsh Mountain Pony through to the Welsh Cob. England’s offerings range from the Cleveland Bay and Suffolk Horse, through to the Fell, Dales, New Forest, Exmoor and Dartmoor ponies. There is also the popular and athletic Connemara pony and Irish Draught horses from Ireland.

More popular horse breeds