Just like other domestic animals, such as cats, dogs, and cows, there are many different breeds of horses, over 350 in all. There may be less variation between different breeds of horses than dogs, but they can vary greatly in size, temperament, and ability. Once you know what to look for, identifying different breeds of horses may become easier.
Standing approximately 17 hands high and weighing up to 1,300 pounds, the thoroughbred is a large, powerful horse. Thoroughbreds are considered a “hot-blooded” breed, meaning that they are spirited in temperament, as well as fast and agile. A thoroughbred is likely to feel right at home among horse jump roll tops as this breed is frequently used for racing and other equestrian sports.
Arabian tend to be smaller and lighter than thoroughbreds, weighing only 800 to 1,000 pounds and standing between 14 and 16 hands high. Dating back to at least 3,000 B.C., the Arabian is one of the oldest horse breeds in the world.
Arabian horses are recognizable by their wedge-shaped heads and lithe, compact bodies. Because they were bred for a desert environment, they typically have dark skin around their eyes that affords them some protection from the sun’s harmful rays.
Appaloosas are easily recognizable by their mottled skin, striped hooves, and colorful coat patterns that often feature dark spots against lighter fur on the hindquarters. The appaloosa has a little more weight on the Arabian but is approximately the same height. Appaloosas are believed to be a distant descendent of the Arabian, bred by the Nez Perce tribe for battle and hunting.
As with dogs, not all horses have an identifiable pedigree. Those that do not are called grade horses, meaning that their heritage includes more than one breed, and they were probably not bred intentionally. Grade horses nevertheless tend to be hardier and more versatile, their mixed heritage giving them a genetic advantage.