What is The Most Common Horse Breed

Most people have a breed of horse they prefer over any other. Judging which one is more common than another can be difficult, as different regions have different popularity levels. This is a fact: in the United States, fewer breeding programs are in operation, which means fewer animals receive a registration.

According to 2014 data that has been released by all major equine associations, the most common breed of horse is currently the American Quarter Horse. From 2002-2006, More than 160,000 Quarter Horses were registered each year. In 2014, about 85,000 Quarter Horses were registered.

Here are some other breed registration numbers from the same years.

Paint Horses: About 50,000 horses were registered each year between 2002-2006, while total registrations in 2014 were only about 10,000 horses.

Thoroughbreds: From 2002-2006, about 40,000 horses were registered each year. In 2014, about 30,000 horses were registered.

Standardbreds: About 10,000 horses each year were registered between 2002-2006, while in 2014, around 7,500 horses were registered.

Arabian horses are often listed as one of the world’s most common horses and it frequently tops the list of favorite breeds. There are about 1 million registered Arabian horses around the world right now, yet that number is less than 50% of the total population of Quarter Horses in the United States.

According to FAO Statistics, 2.64 million of the estimated 10.15 million registered horses in the United States were Quarter Horses. When global population numbers are included, the estimated population total for the breed is approximately 3.2 million individuals.

Why Are Quarter Horses So Popular?

In the United States, the modern American Quarter Horse is often thought of as a ranch horse. That is because settlers who began to move westward in the 19th century in the U.S. discovered that the horse had a unique “cow sense.” Riders could manage their herds quite easily because the horses instinctively knew what needed to be done.

The Quarter Horse, however, was originally developed along the East Coast of the United States to be a race horse. The name of the breed is a reflection of the horse’s speed over that specific distance. Some Quarter Horses have been observed at this distance reaching peak speeds that exceed 50 miles per hour. 

Quarter Horses were developed through a combination of important Spanish, Celtic, and local stock horses in the original U.S. colonies beginning in the 17th century. Settlers originally bred horses to help them deal with the harsh conditions of colonial life, but soon focused on the racing potential of this horse as conditions grew easier to manage.

In the 18th century, Thoroughbreds were introduced into the breed to improve their speed and status. The new Quarter Horses would then race the one-quarter mile distance, often along the main street of a town.

Since then, Quarter Horses have been used to improve a number of different horse breeds. Even Thoroughbreds have been influenced by the Quarter Horse, a breed which they helped to establish more than two centuries ago.

Why Are Quarter Horses the Best?

Quarter Horses are very popular because they are so versatile. They can excel in numerous disciplines and many horses are able to cross between disciplines and compete at world-class levels. There are more than 11,000 breed registry approved events in the United States for Quarter Horses every year. 

The most popular event is the All-American Futurity, which is held at Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico. Horses which qualify for this race will compete for $1 million. 

At the same time, the Quarter Horse is very social and enjoys numerous recreational activities. Trail riding, Western pleasure riding, and ranch work are just as common within the breed as athletics. 

Quarter Horses are also one of the more sensible and intelligent breeds in the world today. Most horses within this breed do their best for their riders and tend to be easy keepers. They keep going even when they get tired or hot, which is when many horses tend to call it a day. Quarter Horses stay calm, are usually not reactive, and are highly dependable.

Profile of the American Quarter Horse

Quarter Horses tend to have a straight profile that is complemented by a strong body with visual muscularity. The chest is powerful and broad, though the head is somewhat smaller than average, but with good refinement.

There are two different body types seen within the modern breed. The hunter/racer and the stock type horse have similar visual aesthetics, but the hunter and racing type tends to be somewhat taller and have more-defined muscularity. Some of the hunter and racing horses within the breed have been known to reach 17 hands high. 

Most Quarter Horses stand at 16 hands high or below, however, and some mares can be around 14 hands and technically be classified as a pony. The smaller adults within this breed are still referred to as horses.

Another reason why the Quarter Horse is so popular is because their coat can come in almost every color. The most common coat seen within the breed is sorrel, which is a combination of red and brown. Other breeds refer to the color as “chestnut.” Black, brown, bay, gray, and dun are also relatively common. Buckskin, palomino, grullo, cremello, perlino, and roan horses are also recognized by the breed registry.

Spotted horses have begun to be accepted within the breed registry as well, although in the past they were excluded. If an American Quarter Horse has a spotted coat, a DNA test is ordered to verify the parentage of the horse. If both parents are registered horses, then the offspring qualifies for registry as well, no matter what the color of the coat happens to be.

Health Concerns with the Quarter Horse

Quarter Horses are relatively healthy, but there are some genetic diseases which must be managed within the breed. Malignant hyperthermia, which can be triggered by stress or being overworked, is specifically associated with the Quarter Horse lineage. Symptoms of this disease include a high fever, a rapid heartbeat, and rigidity of the muscles. High blood potassium is a common complication of the condition.

Even general anesthesia can be a trigger for this condition. Without treatment, 3 out of 4 horses will experience life-threatening complications once this condition is triggered. Testing is possible to determine if a horse is susceptible to this condition.

Additional health concerns include PSSM, lethal white syndrome, HERDA, and HYPP. Horses that test positive for these conditions may be excluded from the registry.

The most common horse breed in the world today is the Quarter Horse. Although several other breeds are also popular and others have a longer pedigree to follow, in terms of pure population numbers, no other breed comes close to the Quarter Horse.