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Animal Info Horses Physical Facts

About the physical facts of hores including size, racing speeds , and breed descriptions.

HORSES

PHYSICAL FACTS

There are more than 250 breeds of horses and three general sizes--heavy, light, and pony. Although the heaviest breed is England's sturdy Shire, the heaviest horse in history was a Belgian draft stallion, Brooklyn Supreme (1928-1948), which weighed 3,200 lb. and stood 6 ft. 6 in., or 19 1/2 hands (one hand equals 4 in.). Other popular heavy horses are the Percheron, Clydesdale, and Suffolk.

The smallest breed of horse is the Falabella of Argentina. It stands from 12 to 40 in. and weighs less than 150 lb. The Shetland pony, said to date back to the Ice Age, is a favorite mount for children.

Among the spirited, high-strung light horses, the aristocrats are the magnificent Arabians, the oldest purebreds of all since 800 A.D. The Thoroughbred, a comparatively new breed, is descended from Arabian stallions. Racehorses are usually Thoroughbreds or quarter horses. The first Thoroughbred imported to the U.S. from England, in 1730, was Bulle Rock.

Lipizzaners, the famous dancing horses of Vienna's Spanish Riding School, are also light horses, as are the Tennessee walking horse, the Morgan, the American trotting horse, the Appaloosa, and the beautiful golden saddlebred, often referred to as a palomino.

The vegetarian horse has an acute sense of smell and direction, good hearing, and sensitive skin, which enables it to respond to almost imperceptible tactile commands. On the average, a horse lives 20 years, but many survive to 30 or 40, and Monty, an Australian draft horse, was 52 when he died in 1970.

Other than racers, not many horses can run faster than 36 mph. In 1945 one racehorse, Big Racket, set a quarter-mile record in 20 4/5 seconds, which meant he was going 43.3 mph. Riderless, his speed would have been 55.4 mph. The Tennessee walking horse is able to step along at a steady 6 to 8 mph from dawn to dusk.

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