Kingdom Animalia Phylum Chordata Subphylum Vertebrata Class Mammalia Order Perissodactyla Family Equidae Species Equus caballus
Original populations were once found in the steppe zone from Poland to Mongolia. Now domesticated, horses occur throughout the world and in feral populations in some areas.
nearctic (native ); palearctic (native ); oriental (native ); ethiopian (native ); neotropical (native ); australian (native ).
Most horses today are domesticated, but there are some feral populations that live in diverse habitats. Along the coastline of France and Spain, the Outer Bank Islands of North Carolina, the Great Basin of the western U.S., and in different areas of Australia for example.
savanna or grassland ; forest .
300 to 2000 kg
(660 to 4400 lbs)
Horses have been so strongly bred by humans that there is extensive variability in their size and weight. The general body pattern is that of long limbs, barrel shaped body, and a long neck supporting a large head. Vision and hearing are key senses for these animals, as suggested by their large eyes and ears. Coloration is also hightly variable due to breeding, and individuals range from pure white, tan, brown or black to patches of oranges and browns on white. The tail is relatively short but has long hairs coming off it that frequently reach the ground. The tail is often used as an "extra hand" to swat insects. There is also long hair along the neck and forehead (the mane and forelock).
Some key physical features:
endothermic ; bilateral symmetry .
Horses are seasonal breeders, but during the breeding season come into estrus monthly until impregnated. Birth, usually of one foal occurs after an 11 month gestation period. In about 15-25 minutes the foal is able to follow its mother around, and it stays close to her side for the first few days of life. Weaning occurs after approximately 7 months, but if the female doesn't become pregnant yearlings have been observed to occasionally nurse off their mothers.
Key reproductive features:
gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual .
Horses have a harem social system, where one dominant male has a group of several females and their offspring. There is current debate as to whether both male and female juveniles leave the natal group, or if only males leave. Upon leaving, females join another herd, while males join a bachelor herd. When mature, males are solitary and attempt to take over a harem or steal females.
Horses are natural grazers of grasslands, but often have domestic diets with grain and hay. Horses graze while walking slowly, pulling off a mouthful every few steps.
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Domestic horses are arguably the most important animal that has been domesticated. Long been used as a means of transportation, pleasure, work, and even war horses have been involved in much of human history.
Domestic horse breeds are numerous and plentiful. Feral populations are mostly small in number and threatened by human encroachment. The one true wild horse Przewalski's horse is considered extinct in the wild by some, and at best is alive only through captive breeding programs.