The best horse breeds are greatly admired for their good looks, their gentle demeanor, or their intelligence. There are hundreds of different types of horses throughout the world. The best of these are often selectively bred, perpetuating bloodlines and enhancing the desired characteristics.
Horses have been immortalized through history for their strength, form, and bravery in numerous wars fought in the history of mankind. Horses also find their place in mythology as flying horses and half-human centaurs.
Owning a horse is a unique experience in itself. You could own them for a business venture or as a necessity in ranches and farms. Call it a costly hobby or an indulgence, owning a horse is definitely a thrilling experience.
We have compiled below a list of the 20 best horse breeds in the world for you.
Arabians are one of the oldest existing breeds in the world. These horses originated in the Arabian peninsula in the Middle East. However, they can now be found across the United States, Australia, South America, United Kingdom, and Europe.
The Arabian horse is characterized by its distinctive head shape, height, and high tail. It is known for its intelligence, endurance, and grace and was extremely favored as a cavalry mount in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Thoroughbreds are extremely well known for their speed, intelligence, and spirit. They are the most popular racing horses in the United States.
Developed originally in England, thoroughbreds were mainly used for racing and jumping. The physical characteristics of thoroughbreds are slim bodies, delicate heads, short backs, and broad chests. They have short leg bones that allow for a long and easy stride.
Thoroughbreds are considered the best racing horses in the world for their outstanding agility, speed, and stamina.
Standardbreds are an American breed used primarily for harness racing. They possess incredible endurance and stamina.
Standardbreds closely resemble thoroughbreds and can easily be mistaken for the other. However, they are smaller than thoroughbreds and have longer and lower bodies. They also have heavier bones and flatter ribs.
Besides harness racing, standardbreds are also used for other equestrian activities like horse shows and pleasure riding.
One of the earliest breeds developed in the US was the Morgan. Morgans are stylish and good looking, with small ears, expressive eyes, smooth lines, and a beautifully crested neck.
Even though they are mainly used as riding horses, they can be categorized as all-purpose horses. They were previously used as farm horses and to pull buggies.
The breed is well known for its versatility and easy keep. Besides riding, these horses are also used in harness racing, like cavalry horses, for sidesaddle competitions, and trotting races.
The Friesian was originally bred in Friesland in the Netherlands.
Friesians are mostly recognized for their black coat and flowing manes and tails. Despite their size, these horses are quite nimble.
Friesians were famous as war horses throughout the Middle Ages. They were powerful, yet versatile and were perfect for carrying a knight in armor. They are quite popular in recreational sports and are used in harness racing and under saddle.
Friesians are also famous for being one of the most popular breeds of horses in films and television.
#6. American Quarter Horse
The American quarter horse is one of the most adaptable and diverse breeds in the world. They are called quarter horses because of their ability to outrun other breeds in quarter-mile races.
This native American breed is well known for its amicable disposition and natural cow-sense, making it immensely popular among American cowboys.
American quarter horses are short and stocky and pretty muscular. They have deep, broad chests and short, wide heads. They are popular as racehorses and are also used as stock horses for cattle in farms and ranches in the US.
#7. Dutch Warmblood
The Dutch warmblood horse is an incredible sport horse often used in equestrian events like dressage, jumping, driving, and more. It is athletic, reliable, and has a friendly temperament.
They have earned the name warmblood because they are a healthy mix of the calm nature of cold-blooded draft horses and are spirited like the hot-blooded Arabian horses.
Dutch warmbloods have powerful legs and prominent withers, which makes them excellent for jumping. They are also popular in hunter competitions. They make dependable recreational horses as they are easy to work with irrespective of the rider’s experience.
#8. Selle Francais
Selle Francais is a popular breed of sports horses from France.
Selle Francais means French saddle horse. It is a combination of several different horse breeds, which makes it hardy and athletic. No wonder then, this breed is prized by owners.
Selle Francais horses are elegant yet powerful. They are loyal and are quite easy to train. These horses have a deep chest, long sloping shoulders, muscular legs, and pronounced joints.
Hanoverians are one of the most successful and prominent breeds of riding horses in the world today. The origin of the breed can be traced back to the state of Lower Saxony in northern Germany.
Despite being nearly 300 years old, the Hanoverian breed still retains most of its original bone structure, sturdiness, and stamina. The breed is known for its good temperament, stunning looks, performance, and grace.
Hanoverians were originally used as carriage horses but have now found their place in Olympic equestrian competitions and other equestrian events.
Originally from Germany, this horse derives its name from Count Graf Anton Gunther von Oldenburg, a dressage rider. The breed was extremely popular as riding and carriage horses in 17th century Europe. Later they bred to be used as war horses and given to rulers and military leaders.
Due to its size, the Oldenburg is popular as a driving horse, but the breed has also found its way into dressage and show jumping. These horses have a powerful, deep body, a strong chest, and powerful limbs.
Holsteiners are very famous for their performance ability making them an excellent choice for dressage, jumping, and eventing. The Holsteiner horse is originally from the Schleswig-Holstein region of Germany. They are characterized by their arched, high-set necks and powerful hindquarters.
Being light-weight, they are considered perfect for trail riding. They are also highly suitable for working in ranches and can take to the show ring or race track with equal ease.
The Andalusian, from the Iberian Peninsula, is also known as the Pure Spanish Horse. It is one of the oldest breeds and can also be found in many cave paintings in Spain.
Compact, yet strongly built; Andalusians have long manes and tails. Its athleticism and stamina make it perfect for dressage, driving, bullfighting, and stock horses. They are also extensively used in show jumping, dressage, and driving. You can also find them in the movies, especially in the historical ones.
#13. Gypsy Vanner
The Gypsy Vanner is considered as the original carriage horse. It was specifically bred by Gypsies in Great Britain to pull Gypsy caravans.
Gypsy Vanners have a strong, muscular neck and deep, well-muscled chests. They can be small in stature but appear broad and heavy. They have long manes and tails, and thick feathers behind the hocks and knees. It is considered to be a good family horse and has also been used as a therapy animal.
Mustangs have descended from Spanish horses that were brought to America by Spanish explorers in the 16th century. The name Mustang translates to “ownerless beasts,” which is why many people think of them as wild horses.
They are characterized by their short and muscular stature. Mustangs are intelligent, hardy, strong, and can withstand hardship. They are excellent runners and do well on harsh terrain and unpredictable weather conditions.
Appaloosas are an American breed known for their distinctive spotted coat pattern. They are well known for being friendly and loyal. They are gentle, which makes them excellent for people new to horse riding.
The size range of this breed is generally between 14.2 hands and 15.2 hands. The Appaloosa horse is one of the most popular breeds in the US. They are used as stock horses for riding and several other equestrian activities. Appaloosas have also been featured in several movies.
#16. American Paint
The American Paint horse is a very popular breed with thousands of fans worldwide. They are known for their affable temperament and versatility, which makes them an excellent option for riders of all experience levels. Paints can be put to work, can be used for riding, and also participate in equestrian competitions.
Despite being small, they have strong, balanced bodies. They are powerful, quick, agile, smart, athletic, and calm. Their distinctive two-tone coloring set them apart from other breeds. They have a lot of stamina and can be easily trained.
#17. Tennessee Walker
The Tennessee Walker or Tenessee Walking Horse is a gaited horse breed known for its flashy movement and its unique four-beat gait. It was originally bred to work in plantations, but its “running-walk” made it a good choice for performing in a show ring.
The breed is also suitable for pleasure riding and trail riding. It is a tall horse breed with a long neck, well-defined head, and small ears.
Clydesdales are a Scottish horse breed of draught horses. It is a large and powerful horse, originally used for farming, draught power, and in road haulage. It is now mostly used as a carriage horse ridden around in processions and parades.
Clydesdales are intelligent, graceful, easy to ride, and equally easy to train. Most of these horses have unique white markings, extensive feathering, and are usually bathed in coloring.
The Lipizzaner horse breed was originally developed by the House of Habsburg in Austria from Arab horses. They are also known as the “horse of royalty.” The breed traces its origins back to the 16th century. Modern-day Lipizzaners are known for their ability to perform synchronized movements with their riders.
This rare light horse breed is known for its intelligence, athleticism, and cultural history.
#20. Carolina Marsh Tacky
The Carolina Marsh Tacky is native to South Carolina and is a rare horse breed. Though small, it can be a very useful horse if you plan to spend a long winter season in the woods. They are hardy and can survive the toughest conditions compared to other breeds.
They are characterized by large feet and are very mild-mannered, making them easy to keep. They are versatile animals that can be used from plowing to riding.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Breeds Are The Best For Jumping?
Jumping is a very popular equestrian sport. Almost all horses can jump, but when you are competing at a professional level, you need a horse that has accuracy, finesse, and elegance.
The best horses breeds for jumping are:
- American Quarter
- Welsh cob
- Grade horse
- Irish draughts
- Dutch warmblood
- Belgian warmblood
- Selle Francais
- German warmblood
- Irish Sport horse
Which Breeds Are The Fastest For Racing?
All horses are fast runners, but some breeds may just surprise you. A good racing horse must have a proportionate bone structure and great muscle tone. It should also have a well-balanced body. Faster horses tend to have longer strides. The fastest racing horses have speed better than other breeds. They also need to have great endurance and stamina.
Here are the best breeds for racing:
- American quarter horse
- American Miniature horse
- American Paint horse
Which Breeds Are The Best For Dressage?
Dressage refers to a highly skilled form of riding typically performed in competitions and exhibitions. With so many breeds available all over the world, only a few are suited for dressage. Dressage requires the horse and the rider to be in perfect synchronization. Hence, you not only need a horse with a great walk and movement, but also one that is smart and intelligent.
Here are some of the best breeds for dressage:
- Selle Francais
- Irish Draught
- Dutch warmblood
- Danish warmblood
- German warmblood
Which Breeds Are The Calmest?
If you are an inexperienced rider, it is highly recommended that you choose a calm horse breed when you start learning horseriding.
Here are some of the calmest breeds:
What Breeds Are Hot-Blooded?
Since a horse is a mammal, it is warm-blooded, but there are hot-blooded horses. The term hot-blooded has nothing to do with the temperature of the horse but rather its temperament. Hot-blooded horses are typically the ones with high energy, used mostly for racing and high endurance.
Here are the hot-blooded breeds:
What Are Good Breeds For Beginners?
The best breeds for beginners are the ones that can be trained easily. The horses must be calm and patient with inexperienced riders.
Here are the best breeds for beginners:
- American quarter horse
- American Paint
- Kentucky Mountain Saddle horse
- Missouri Fox Trotter horse
- Icelandic horse
- Draft crossbreeds
Which Breeds Are Gaited?
Gaited horses are the ones that have been selectively bred for natural gaited tendencies.
Some of the best breeds that are gaited are:
- American Saddlebred
- Florida Cracker Horse
- Icelandic horse
- Mangalarga Marchador
- Marwari horse
- Messara horse
- Missouri Fox Trotter
- Morgan horse
- North American Single-Footing Horse
- Paso Fino
- Peruvian Paso
- Racking Horse
- Rocky Mountain Horse
- Spotted Saddle Horse
- Tennessee Walker
Which Breeds Live The Longest?
The average lifespan of a horse is between 25 and 30 years. However, with modern veterinary care, you can find several horses living well into their 30s.
Here are some breeds that have a long lifespan:
- Irish Draught
What Are Some Of The Most Popular Pony Breeds?
Some popular pony breeds are:
- American Shetland Pony
- American Walking Pony
- Anadolu Pony
- Assateague Pony
- Australian Pony
- Australian Riding Pony
- Bali Pony
- Basuto Pony
- Batak Pony
- Bosnian Pony
- British Riding Pony
- British Spotted Pony
- Burmese Pony
- Carpathian Pony
- Canadian rustic Pony
- Chincoteague Pony
- Chinese Guoxia
- Coffin Bay Pony
- Connemara Pony
- Czechoslovakian Small Riding Pony
- Dales Pony
- Danish Sport Pony
- Dartmoor Pony
- Deli Pony
- Deutsches Reitpony
- Eriskay Pony
- Esperia Pony
- Exmoor Pony
- Faroe Pony
- Fell Pony
- Flores Pony
- French Saddle Pony
- Galician Pony
- German Riding Pony
- German Classic Pony
- Gotland Pony
- Guizhou Pony
- Hackney Pony
- Highland Pony, see also Garron
- Hokkaido Pony
- Hucul Pony
- Hunter Pony
- Java Pony
- Kerry bog Pony
- Lac La Croix Indian Pony
- Landais Pony
- Lijiang Pony
- Lundy Pony
- Manipuri Pony
- Merens Pony
- Miniature Horse
- Miyako Pony
- Namaqua Pony
- Narym Pony
- New Forest Pony
- Newfoundland Pony
- Peneia Pony
- Petiso Argentino
- Pindos Pony
- Sable Island Pony
- Sandalwood Pony
- Shetland Pony
- Skogsruss, see Gotland Pony
- Skyros Pony
- Sumba and Sumbawa Pony
- Tibetan Pony
- Timor Pony
- Welsh Pony
- Western Sudan Pony
If you are a horse owner or a horse lover, you must already have a basic knowledge of the horse breeds. You may be able to identify the most popular ones by looking at the colored horses or by their stature. Different horse breeds originating from different places tend to have different characteristics and traits so that they can adapt to the regions that they live in.
Whether a horse breed is used for racing or farm work, they tend to have special qualities. Owning a horse is a special experience. However, owning a horse also means that you are going to make a big investment in terms of money, time, housing, and care.
Horses and ponies can be intelligent, loyal, and friendly making for excellent pets. If you are the fun, adventurous type, a horse is the perfect pet for you. After all, owning a horse can definitely be very impressive.