Quarter Horse vs Thoroughbred (What Are The Differences?)

The American Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred are two horse breeds that are well-known racing horses that can look very similar to the untrained eye, but they do have differences.

Quarter Horse vs Thoroughbred

Thoroughbreds have a leaner and taller physique compared to Quarter horses and are mostly used for long-distance races, usually a mile or more.

American Quarter Horses, on the other hand, have a stockier, bulkier physique, and are best for short distances, usually a quarter of mile races, as they are excellent sprinters.

Keep reading to find out more about Quarter Horse vs Thoroughbred.

Quarter Horse And Thoroughbred Comparison Overview:

Quarter HorseThoroughbred
AppearanceSlightly shorter, broad chest, a short head, chunky, muscularSlightly taller, very toned, lean, and athletic
Height56 to 64 inches tall62 to 68 inches tall
Weight1200 pounds800 to 1200 pounds
Speed55 mph40 mph
PersonalityOften mellow, calm, and collectedHot-blooded
Suitable for beginners?YesNo
OriginsUnited StatesEngland
Lifespan25 – 35 years25 – 35 years
Exercise1+ hours per day2+ hours per day
Suitable with other pets?YesNo

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1. Appearance And Size

When it comes to appearance and size, these two horse breeds look very similar. But when you take a closer look, you will see that there are some differences that can help you distinguish between the two.  

Quarter Horse vs Thoroughbred

A Thoroughbred is usually about 62 to 68 inches tall and weighs roughly 800 to 1200 pounds. They also have a very toned, lean, and athletic appearance in general.

American Quarter Horses

On the other hand, an American Quarter Horse weighs roughly 1200 pounds on average and is slightly shorter, standing with an average height of 56 to 64 inches. The development of quarter horses usually results in a broad chest, a short head, and a chunky, muscular appearance. 

Despite their lean and slim build, Thoroughbreds usually look stronger. The Quarter horse breed appears shorter, wider, muscular, and overall, bigger. They are also amazing sprinters. 

Both these racing horses are very popular in the United States. Mostly, they are found in shades such as black, gray, and brown. On the other hand, Quarter horses tend to come in a wider range of colors. Both these horses have solid-colored fur with white markings on the face and below the knees.

2. Speed And Racing 

Thoroughbreds and Quarter horses are both commonly used for racing, and they are very popular in race tracks all over the world. A question that many horse enthusiasts have when it comes to Thoroughbred vs Quarter horse is which one is faster? 

Generally, Thoroughbreds have an average top speed of 40 mph, while Quarter horses can run as fast as 55 mph. However, it really depends on the situation and the kind of race that is taking place. Both of these racing horses perform differently in various categories. 

For instance, Quarter horses have a more consistent speed. So, if they start the race well and gain speed from the start, there is a very good chance that they will emerge victorious. But if they have a bad start, it is very difficult for them to gain momentum later on and catch up. For this very reason, an American Quarter Horse is a popular breed for short-distance races.

Meanwhile, Thoroughbreds are the opposite. They are capable of gaining momentum and increasing their speed continually as the race progresses. Even if a Thoroughbred had a bad start, there is a high possibility that they will be able to speed up and catch up quickly. 

Another difference is in the way they race. In Thoroughbred racing, the horses run out of the gate, but they have a “run-up”, which is the distance before timing begins. This run-up distance gives the horses a chance to gain some speed before the timing actually begins. 

On the other hand, in Quarter horse racing, timing begins as soon as the horses shoot out of the gate. This means that the horse, as well as jockey teams, need to be ready to sprint as soon as the gates open, and the timer starts. 

3. Difference In Personality

When it comes to personality, both horses are warm-blooded breeds, which means that they have been bred for mostly riding and racing. They are usually energetic and nervous compared to other horse breeds, but a Quarter horse is definitely much more friendly. 

Quarter horses are great even for beginners because of how trainable and approachable they are. They are often mellow, calm, and collected, and can adapt easily to new environments, new horse owners, and trainers. Even if they may take some time to settle, they never engage in violent behavior unless they are triggered. They are known to be loving and mostly gentle. 

On the other hand, Thoroughbred breed horses are known to be extremely hot-blooded, which is why they are not recommended for anyone who is not an expert. They take time to adapt to new surroundings and new owners and can be very wary of strangers. 

You will have to be patient and consistent if you want to gain their trust and build a loving relationship with them before they trust you enough to let you ride them. Only ride Thoroughbreds if you have had plenty of experience with other breeds. 

4. Breed Origins 

While the American Quarter Horse, as suggested by the name, originates from the United States, Thoroughbred horses have their origins in England.

Quarter Horse Origins

Quarter Horse

In fact, Quarter horses are native horses and have been around since the 17th century, making them one of the oldest breeds in the US. In the 1600s, Quarter horses emerged as a result of cross-breeding between a Spanish horse and an English horse.

It is said that the English horses used were Thoroughbreds, which means that Quarter horses have Thoroughbred blood.

Thoroughbred Origins

Grey Thoroughbred Horse

Thoroughbred horses were bred for their agility, speed, and athleticism. They are a result of cross-breeding between native mares of England and the stallions imported from Barb, Turkoman, and Arabian horse breeds. These horses first emerged in America when the colonists settled.

5. Lifespan

Both the Thoroughbred and the Quarter Horse if well cared for can live anywhere between 25 to 35 years.

6. Uses

The American Quarter Horse is an extremely versatile breed, making it the perfect choice for a variety of tasks. It can be used as a working horse, family pet, or show animal; they are very comfortable on the trail and farm alike. As of today this type of horse does exceptionally well in events such as rodeo competitions like barrel racing and sprinting races.

Thoroughbreds are bred for a variety of purposes, including horse racing and other equine sports. They can also be used as driving or riding horses – even if they were former racehorses who had retired from the sport.

Thoroughbreds are primarily bred for horse racing events and show-jumping competitions that include dressage, which is a French term meaning training.

The breed is also used as trail horses, pleasure driving horses, or in general to ride on top of them! Former racehorse Thoroughbreds that have been “off-the-track” (retired) typically become either working pot ponies or pack animals pulling carriages–but sometimes they’re just plain old pets too!

7. Price

Quarter Horses

Quarter horses are a popular horse breed with the average cost ranging from $2,500 to as much as $100,000!

The price is determined by age and bloodlines. Stallions and show horses can go for up to 100k – but they also come in many different colors which makes them more appealing than other breeds.


The average Thoroughbred price on the other hand can range from $3,000 to up to $200,000 depending on the age and bloodlines.

The number one thing that you should look into is of course the pedigree. A horse with good breeding will be more expensive – but it may also yield better results in horse racing if sold to a professional stable or trainer.

Final Thoughts

While Thoroughbreds and Quarter horses may look very similar at first glance, they do have important differences that distinguish them from each other not only in the race tracks but in the way they are approached and trained. 

Their difference in build gives them unique advantages that make them such amazing racing horses across the globe. While a Quarter horse may be known for its sprinting abilities and excellent for short distance races, Thoroughbreds are more agile and can gain speed quickly, making them an excellent choice for long-distance races such as mile races.

To conclude, the Quarter horse and the Thoroughbred have distinctive differences that may be noticeable only for those who have had years of experience with horses.