9 Fastest Horse Breeds

Some horses are bred for agricultural work. Other horses are bred to be riding horses or sporting horses. Then there are the fastest horse breeds that are developed for pure speed.

Any breed can produce a horse that is extremely fast. The fastest horse breeds, however, produce consistently quick and powerful horses that have the personality to race hard. Some of these breeds excel at short distances, while others are more of a long-distance endurance breed.

#1. Thoroughbred

This horse breed is best known for its ability to race mid-length distances. Developed in the 17th century, Thoroughbreds are a combination of Barb, Turkoman, and Arabian bloodlines. More than 100,000 foals in this breed are registered globally every year, making it one of the most popular breeds in the world today.

Thoroughbreds get their speed thanks to their overall build. They are an athletic horse that is slim, tall, and powerful in the legs and hindquarters.

Their temperament is extremely hot-blooded, which also makes them suited for racing. This also causes the horses to be extremely competitive, often performing at a maximum rate of exertion. It is a trait that has caused higher accident rates while racing compared to other breeds, as well as racing-related health issues, such has bleeding from the lungs. 

#2. Quarter Horse

If you’re looking at sprinting speeds, then this is the fastest horse breed in the world right now. The name of the horse reflects the fact that it is so fast over the quarter-mile distance. Some horses within this breed have been clocked at speeds which exceed 55 miles per hour over this distance.

The American Quarter Horse is considered to be the most popular breed in the world today. It has the largest breed registry, with nearly 3 million horses registered. What makes them excel at racing is their compact size and muscular build. This allows the breed to be able to perform fast maneuver with an intricacy that other breeds cannot match.

You’ll find Quarter Horses involved in many rodeo events in addition to traditional racing events. As a breed, they also excel in many sporting disciplines, such as driving.

#3. Arabian

Arabian horses do enter traditional racing events, but they excel in endurance events compared to the other horse breeds in the world today. When a racing distance is 50 miles or more, there is a good chance that an Arabian is going to win the race, even though they have a comparatively slower pace compared to other breeds.

What makes this breed excel for speed is their stamina. Instead of sprinting out hard, they can maintain an even speed for longer time periods.

Unlike other fast horse breeds, Arabians are generally quite friendly and even-tempered. This is likely due to their extensive history with humanity. There is evidence to suggest that Arabians may have been domesticated in the Middle East as far back as 4,500 years ago. Because of their adaptation to the desert environment, their stamina as a breed and overall alertness allows them to excel in long-distance events. 

Arabians are also used to improve other horse breeds on a frequent basis. Most modern riding horse breeds have Arabian bloodlines in them at some point.

#4. Standardbred

This is the fastest horse breed if you’re looking for a trotter. Developed specifically for harness racing, the breed is an American horse, but traces its bloodlines to 18th century England. It is a horse that has a good disposition and a willingness to learn, which makes it popular for horse shows, pleasure riding, and other forms of equestrian competition.

What gives this breed its speed is the power that is in their shoulders and hindquarters. Their legs are solid and refined, while their overall size is somewhat smaller than the average horse. A Standardbred can be between 14-17 hands and weigh as little as 800 pounds.

Their overall quality in trotting has led breeders to use the Standardbred to improve other harness racing breeds around the world. Their willingness to work and flexibility also makes them a good work horse for agricultural purposes. Communities which avoid mechanization will use Standardbreds for field work and as buggy horses. 

#5. Appaloosa

Many people know this horse breed because of its unique and colorful spotted coat, but it is also one of the fastest horse breeds in the world. Historically, this horse was used by Native and First Nations tribes as a war horse or for hunting purposes, which helped to refine the breed into a strong, compact, and durable horse.

After the Nez Perce War in 1877, this breed fell into such decline that it almost became extinct. It was finally preserved in 1938 with the establishment of a breed registry. It still has a partially open stud book, allowing Arabian, Quarter Horse, and Thoroughbred bloodlines into the breed in order to continue improving it.

The speed of the horse is partially attributed to its gait. It is strong and consistent, with good length, and has been used to improve other gaited breeds in the past. The mottled coat and unique appearance makes it a difficult bloodline to incorporate, however, so using Appaloosas for general improvements is rarely done.

#6. Andalusian

Sometimes called a Pure Spanish Horse, this breed has had a specific conformation in place since at least the 15th century. These horses are intelligent, strongly built, and have thick manes and tails that provide a striking appearance. They are known more for their stamina and athleticism rather than having purse speed. You’ll find many Andalusians used in show jumping and dressage, as well as some long-distance events.

A majority of the speed that this breed comes from the massive chest and well-defined withers. The neck of this horse is broad and long, with a profile that is generally straight. Their movement is elevated and extended, which gives the breed an agility that is not generally found in other breeds. They learn difficult moves quickly, including turns on the haunches, and this is considered the breed’s greatest strength.

#7. American Miniature Horse

Although this breed is small, it is still strong, agile, and intelligent. The breed is believed to have been developed for mining purposes in the late 19th century, which gave the breed a certain strength that isn’t found in other miniature breeds. The American Miniature Horse Association was formed in 1978 to help promote true miniatures and to standardize the breed.

As a breed, this is a well-balanced horse that gives the illusion of a full-sized horse. 

These horses are not going to be able to compete with an Arabian or a Thoroughbred, but they do have more speed compared to breeds that are closer counterparts. There are two types of American Miniature Horses: refined and draft. The refined type tends to be faster, while the draft type tends to be stronger and more willing to work.

#8. Akhal-Teke

This horse breed is best known for its unique coat, which seems to have a metallic sheen to it when seen from a distance. The speed of this breed, however, should not be under-estimated. This is a horse that is tall, lanky, and strong despite having features that are considered to be somewhat delicate.

The breed originates from Turkmenistan and was used for transportation across the desert landscapes. This has led the horse to become one of the most durable in the world, with an endurance rate and athleticism that is difficult to surpass for long-distance events.

This breed is highly intelligent as well, which makes it suitable for show jumping and some dressage events as well.

#9. Black Forest

Although this breed is found almost exclusively in Southern Germany, it has a breeding history that dates back nearly 600 years. It was originally developed to be a draft horse, so when mechanization took over in agricultural work, the breed nearly became extinct. There were only 160 of these horses left in the early 1980s.

Today there are about 1,000 of these horses that are known to exist. Their dark coloring and thick, lighter main gives them a very distinctive look. 

They are a strong riding horse, but where they get their speed is in the carriage discipline. You won’t find this horse in many equestrian sporting events, though there are some that perform well in dressage. This horse works best in team events that involve brute strength.

When working in teams, these are some of the fastest horses in the world that can transport heavy goods from one point to another. Black Forest horses are smaller than other draft horses, but still have a coldblooded temperament that makes them friendly and approachable. 

The fastest horse breeds come from many different backgrounds. Some breeds focus on pure speed over a specific distance. Others focus on endurance or trotting. Any horse has the potential to be fast, but if you own a horse from one of these breeds, you have a better chance to own one of the fastest horses in the world.