Arabian horses are often rated as the most popular horse breed in the world. According to the breed standards that are published by the United States Equestrian Federation, Arabians will typically stand between 14.1 to 15.1 hands tall. That’s about 57-61 inches in height, or about 145-155 centimeters. There is an “occasional individual over or under” this height description according to the standard.
This puts the Arabian breed into the category of “light riding horses.” This makes the breed one of the smaller breeds in the world today that is classified as a horse. In comparison, heavy and draft horse breeds will usually stand at a minimum of 16 hands and can often be taller than 18 hands. At the shoulder, this could be a difference of up to 16 inches between the two horse classifications.
Although many horses have a similar height to the Arabian, visually they tend to seem taller than they actually are at first glimpse. This is because the Arabia has a distinctive head shape and has a high tail carriage. It’s one of the most recognizable breeds in the world today because of this stature, but it is also one of the oldest breeds.
From archaeological evidence uncovered in the Middle East, it is believed that horses which resemble the modern Arabian have been owned for more than 4,500 years. Many horse breeds, in fact, have a lineage which comes back to an Arabian horse as the breed was spread around the world through trade, war, or the need for breed improvements.
If someone owns a breed of riding horse, then there is a very good chance that there is an Arabian bloodline in that horse’s history at some point.
Why Are Arabian Horses Tall?
The original Arabian horses were developed to live in a hot desert climate. They were prized by the Bedouin people and other nomadic tribes because of their strength and versatility. It’s even been said that families would bring their horses inside of their tents at night to provide them with shelter or to prevent them from being stolen.
From this foundation came selective breeding efforts that would create traits that would form bonds between humans and horses. Arabians continue to be high-spirited animals that remain alert and can warn their owners of danger. Height was bred into the breed to help with wartime efforts, offer a better warning system, and be effective at deterring danger should it arrive.
Many of these traits can still be seen today with the modern Arabian horse. It may be a versatile breed, but it is also a horse that has a heightened level of sensitivity. Owners of Arabians must be able to handle their horses with consistent confidence in respect in order for the horse to offer it to their human in return.
The Myth of a Weak Arabian
What is unique about the Arabian breed is that some adult horses do not actually reach the traditional cutoff point of 14.2 hands that defines a “pony” and a “horse” since 14.1 hands qualifies as a breed standard. This fact has helped to generate a myth that the Arabian horse is not as strong as other horses since it is a relatively small and defined breed.
That myth could not be more wrong. Although Arabian horses are smaller, they also have a greater density of bone than most other horse breeds. They also have sound feed, short cannons, and a broad back that bears a surprising amount of weight. Small Arabians are noted for their ability to carry heavy riders.
The only disadvantage that may perpetuate the myth is the fact that an Arabian really isn’t a draft horse. Any lighter weight horse is going to struggle to pull the same weight that a draft horse can pull. This is the only place where the myth of an Arabian being a weak horse may actually be accurate.
The Arabian Horse is Classified as a Hot-Blooded Breed
What makes the Arabian such a unique horse, despite the fact that it may have a height disadvantage compared to some other breeds, is its ability to learn new skills quickly. Being classified as a hot-blooded horse, Arabians are able to communicate extremely well with their riders. They learn very quickly, but that can also be to the horse’s disadvantage since it can easily pick up bad habits.
Arabians will not tolerate abusive training practices. They will also not listen to trainers, handlers, or owners that they believe are inept. This means some Arabians may be given a reputation of having a behavioral issue when really the only issue is that the horse is frustrated by how it is being treated.
All Arabian Horses Have Black Skin
The Arabian breed registers horses that have coat colors which range from bay to grey, chestnut to black, and roan is also included. The roan color is not from a genetic influence, but is instead a sabino or rabicano gene that appears with roan features. No matter what the coat color may be, however, the Arabian horse has black skin unless there are white markings on the horse. It is believed this skin was developed to help the horse be able to endure the heat of the desert sun.
Some Arabian horses may have colorings that resemble buckskin, palomino, dun, or cremello. These genes are not carried by purebred Arabian horses, nor do the horses carry pinto or Appaloosa spotting patterns. Even if all other breed standards are met, including the height standard, these colors show that the horse is not actually purebred.
Do Genetic Disorders Effect the Height of Arabian Horses?
There are six genetic disorders that are currently known to affect Arabian horses. Two are fatal and two more tend to cause disabilities which will inevitably cause the horse to be put down. None of the genetic disorders are believed to affect the growth of the horse should it be able to proceed into adulthood.
This does not mean that there are zero genetic disorders that could affect the height of this breed. It’s just there haven’t been any issues linked between these health concerns and the height of the horse. Since horses have 64 chromosomes and 2.7 billion DNA base pairs, their genome is greater than a dog, but lesser than humans or bovines, and there is always the possibility of discovering something new.
How tall are Arabian horses? Although some may be undersized to the point where technically they could be classified as a pony, all of the mature horses in this breed are still classified as horses. Don’t let their size fool you. This horse is intelligent, cooperative, and will work hard for you if you’re willing to work hard for it.