How many breeds of horses are there? How are they categorized?


The 397 breeds of horses are classified into different categories according to very specific criteria. Thus a breed can be found in several categories. The morphology of each horse is carefully combed, but also the color of its coat, the spots and their arrangement, as well as its height at the withers. These are all criteria for classifying or categorizing it.

Determine the breed of a horse

Determining the breed of a horse is complex for a neophyte because it is necessary to first know the criteria of the breed such as:

  • Size,
  • The overall morphology of the equine thanks to a geometric approach : it can be inscribed in an elongated rectangle (vertically or horizontally), in a square, etc. A horse can be convex, saddle, concave …
  • The specific shape of the head: every detail counts (eyes, muzzle, ganache, nostrils, etc.),
  • The type of neckline,
  • The back line,
  • Hips,
  • The line of the shoulders,
  • The thickness of the limbs and the body,
  • Silhouette.

Second, it is necessary to study:

All these characteristics can be appreciated by observing the horse from different angles, stationary and then moving to study its gaits (step, trot, gallop).

Horse size

The height at the withers makes it possible to distinguish the horse from pony. The latter has a height at the withers less than 1.40 m. Among horses, 15% are draft horses also called heavy horses, the others being saddle horses including sport horses. The three categories of horses are therefore:

A distinction is made according to whether, in its class, the equine is small, normal or large, the specific terms being respectively hypometric, eumetric, hypermetric. For example, the Shetland is a hypermetric pony.

All horses and ponies combined, there are precisely in the world 397 breeds of horses. In France, are recognized and managed for example:

  • Eleven breeds of ponies, including Landais, Pottock as well as Anglo-Saxons such as Shetland, Dartmoor, Connemara from Ireland and New-Forest.
  • Ten breeds of draft horses including the Boulonnais, the Comtois, the Breton, the Auxois or the Poitevin.

Among the horse breeds best known to the general public, we can name these French breeds : Corsica, Auvergne, Castillonnais, Camargue, French Trotter, Anglo-Arab, Anglo-Norman, Selle français. From foreign races one finds among others the English Thoroughbred, the Barbe, the Paint Horse or the Lusitanien.

Classification of horses according to their coat

The morphology of a horse is decisive in knowing which breed it belongs to. But we also classify horses by category according to their coat. Are taken into account:

  • The color: Chestnut, Isabelle, Zain, Fauve, Mouse gray, Roan, Black, Albino, Palomino, White, Magpie,
  • The spots and their distribution on the coat: for example a horse is miserable if it has only white nostrils while it belongs to the Moorish cap category when its head is darker than its body.

Similarly, balzanes (white spots on the feet and legs) are just as important to categorize a horse, according to their amplitude, their position …

Classification of horses according to their use

In addition to its category, the horse can be classified according to its use. This therefore includes horses:

  • Saddle,
  • Race,
  • Sport,
  • Endurance,
  • For fun,
  • TREC (Competition Equestrian Trekking Technique),
  • Working,
  • Coupling,
  • Hiking,
  • Dressage,
  • Show jumping competition or show jumping,
  • Complete Horse Riding Competition.

A draft horse can be at the same time a working, driving and leisure horse, a saddle horse can be touring, driving, dressage, TREC and CCE. A pony can have many uses such as recreation, hiking, show jumping and TREC.

Whatever its breed and the categories in which it is classified, each equine must be identified by a 15-digit number.

These rules for categorizing and classifying horses are far from exhaustive. This noble animal hides so many mysteries that an encyclopedia is hardly enough to discover it …

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