At the moment, there are 350+ breeds of horses that are currently recognized around the world right now. Each of these breeds is categorized into one of four major groups.
- Light Horses. This group of horse breeds generally weigh less than 1,300 pounds. They are characterized by thinner legs and smaller bones. Arabians and Morgans are two popular breeds of light horses.
- Heavy Horses. This group of horse breeds is sometimes referred to as “Draft Horses.” They can weigh up to 3,000 pounds, but most are usually between 1,600-2,000 pounds in size. They feature muscular legs, large bones, and typically have a very mild temperament. Belgians, Shires, and Clydesdales are popular breeds of heavy horses.
- Ponies. This group of horses stands shorter than other breeds, which is usually less than 14.2 hands in height. Their proportioning and musculature are similar to other breeds, but more reflective of their smaller size. Fjords, Shetlands, and Haflingers are popular breeds of ponies.
- Feral Horses. These horses are generally semi-wild in nature, are not currently domesticated, and have behaviors that may be unpredictable. In the United States, the primary breed of horse that fits into this category is the Mustang. Przewalski horses are sometimes classified as a feral horse because of their wild, undomesticated nature.
Although these are the primary groupings that are offered for the hundreds of horse breeds that exist today, there are additional methods of classifying horses as well. One of the most popular methods is to classify all breeds of horse based on their personality.
- Warm Blooded Horses. These tend to be the most popular horses to own. They are generally mild-mannered, but like to work, race, and ride trails. They can be somewhat temperamental from time-to-time, but are generally a straight-forward animal that will tell you exactly what it is feeling. They are often used for discipline competitions such as dressage or equitation.
- Hot Blooded Horses. These horses tend to be quite energetic, but this also makes them be more nervous than other horses. They can be quite competitive with one another as well, which makes them effective for racing and athletics.
- Cold Blooded Horses. These horses typically have a mild-mannered disposition. Their work is usually agriculturally-related and they also make for great trail horses. They are heavy-bodied and large-boned.
Any horse breed may have individual animals that fit into any of these categories. The breed as a whole is given the description, however, which is why temperament groupings are usually assigned after the four major groups that are listed above.
What Are the Other Types of Horses?
There are other minor groups of horses that the 350+ different breeds are sorted into as well. These groups are often used if a specific breed does not quite fit into the standards of the major groupings that are used.
- Miniature Horses. These horses are mature animals that stand at a height of 38 inches or less. Miniature horses in the A division must stand at 34 inches or less, while horses in the B division stand between 34-38 inches. Mature horses that meet these requirements are not usually referred to as ponies, even though that would also qualify.
- Gaited Horses. Some light horse breeds are bred specifically because of the gait that the animal can achieve. Most horses are able to achieve three standard gaits: the walk, the trot, and the gallop. Some horses, such as the Tennessee Walking Horse, have additional gaits that come naturally other than the standard 3, which may cause them to be grouped into this category instead.
- Non-Equine Animals. These animals are very closely related to horses and can often interbreed with them. It includes mules, donkeys, and zebras. Mules are a cross between a donkey and a horse. A zorse is a cross between a horse and a zebra. Both of these animals are often sterile.
Then there are horses that don’t really fit into any grouping. This applies to horses that are the offspring of a domesticated horse and a Przewalski horse. Because Przewalski horses have 66 chromosomes and domesticated horses have 64 horses, their offspring has 65 chromosomes. Unlike other crossbreeding scenarios, their offspring can usually reproduce. This would indicate that any offspring in this combination would likely belong to their own grouping.
The number of horse breeds in the world today has been steadily increasing, even though they originally came from just a handful of breeds that were in the ancient world. Through selective breeding practices, we may see many more horse breeds in coming generations.