What are the most popular horse breeds?

What are the most popular horse breeds?

The Spruce / Elizabeth Head

There are around 350 horse and pony breeds, but a handful stick out as popular favorites. Five particular breeds and five general horse categories capture the hearts of horse lovers everywhere.

Each horse has unique characteristics, ranging from working and racing to leisure riding and equestrian sport. These horses are known for their adaptability and pleasant personalities. They are ideal for both pleasure riding and competition, and many are acceptable for first-time horse owners.

Here are 10 of the most popular horses.


A popular horse breed does not imply that it is low-maintenance. Horses need a significant commitment in terms of time, shelter, care, and money. If you are thinking about getting a horse, evaluate all of these things carefully.

  • American Quarter Horse

    Ken Gillespie Photography / Getty Images

    The American quarter horse is beloved by both amateur and professional equestrians worldwide for its quickness, docility, and athleticism. Originally bred during the 1600s from English and Spanish thoroughbreds crossed with local breeds such as the Native American Chickasaw horse, it has the largest breed registry in the world. On the trail and in the show arena, these horses are bright stars.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 14 hands (56 inches) to 16 hands (64 inches)

    Weight: 950 to 1,200 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Average bone structure; nicely sculpted skull; broad forehead; flat profile

  • Arabian

    ŇÄĵŵÅ Ă. Мǻŗǻƒįę / Flickr / CC by 2.0

    The Arabian horse breed registration is the world’s oldest. Its ancestors date back to 3000 B.C. In reality, the Arabian is the ancestor of every light horse breed, including Appaloosas, Morgans, and Andalusians. It is a feisty horse breed that not all novices can manage. Nonetheless, it is also a caring and faithful horse.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 14 hands (56 inches) to 16 hands (64 inches)

    Weight: 800 to 1,000 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Short back with sloping shoulders and muscular hindquarters; lean, compact body; wedge-shaped head

  • Thoroughbred

    Debra Feinman / Getty Images

    Thoroughbreds are the most popular racing horses in the United States. This breed is characterized as a “hot-blooded” horse because of its agility, speed, and energy. It’s a versatile horse that typically excels in equestrian disciplines other than racing, such as dressage and jumping. Sometimes it is merely maintained as a companion animal for pleasure riding.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 15 hands (60 inches) to 17 hands (68 inches)

    Weight: 1,000 to 1,300 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Deep chest; long, flat muscles; delicate head

  • Appaloosa

    Bob Langrish / Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

    The Nez Perce Native People invented the bright spotted Appaloosa for hunting and combat. It is said to be a cross between wild horses and the thoroughbred, American quarter horse, and Arabian. This tough, adaptable horse is ideal for herding, pleasure riding, long-distance trail riding, and other activities.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 14 hands (56 inches) to 16 hands (64 inches)

    Weight: 950 to 1,200 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: patterned coat; mottled skin; striped hooves

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  • Morgan

    catnap72 / E+ / Getty Images

    The Morgan’s power and grace have made it a popular horse breed. As the official horse breed of Vermont, the muscle of the Morgan was used for clearing and tilling New England farms during colonial times. Today, it’s a popular driving and riding horse. It’s surefooted on rugged terrain and elegant in the show ring.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 14 hands (56 inches) to 15 hands (60 inches)

    Weight: 900 to 1,100 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Small ears; expressive eyes; crested neck

  • Warmbloods

    DEA PICTURE LIBRARY / Getty Images

    The words “hot-blooded,” “warm-blooded,” and “cold-blooded” are used in equestrian circles to describe a horse’s temperament, size, and provenance. Warmbloods having European ancestry include medium-sized horses such as the American quarter horse, Hanoverian, Cleveland bay, and Canadian. They contain a touch of the spirit you get from lithe, “hot-blooded” thoroughbreds or Arabians combined with the calm demeanor of “cold-blooded” working horses. And a horse with a balanced temperament is a popular horse.

  • Ponies

    Ralf Nau / Getty Images

    Ponies are another popular horse breed. Ponies are horses that are fully grown and weigh 14.2 hands (57 inches) or less. (The tiny horse and the Icelandic horse are the two exceptions.) Popular pony breeds include the brave Shetland and the beautiful Welsh. With their short stature, they are often excellent first horses for children.

  • Grade Horses

    Paul Souders / Getty Images

    The fancy phrase for the horse world’s mutts is grade horse—a horse of no specific breeding. They differ from crossbreeds because crosses are the result of known pedigreed horses that are intentionally bred. Grade horses may not have a distinguished pedigree, but they can be just as versatile and loyal as any other horse. They also lack many of the hereditary disorders that are passed down via purebreds.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.

  • Gaited Breeds

    Ryan Courson Photography / Getty Images

    Gaited horses are horses that have been intentionally bred to have a smooth ride or an ambling gait. These horses move in a four-beat pattern at an intermediate pace. Breeds including the Tennessee walking horse, Kentucky mountain saddle horse, Icelandic horse, and Paso Fino are popular choices for older riders, those who have joint issues, and anyone else looking for a bounce-free ride.

  • Draft Breeds

    Danita Delimont / Getty Images

    Draft horses are cold-blooded, hefty horses that are used to draw big loads. They were historically utilized in combat to support the weight of heavy armored warriors. These horses have thick coats and manes that enable them to endure cold weather, and they tend to have tranquil temperaments. 1 Some well-known examples of these gentle giants are the Clydesdale, Percheron, Shire, and Belgian. Moreover, draft horse crossbreeds may make excellent first horses since they are frequently placid and kind.


  • There are around 350 distinct horse breeds in the globe.

  • Shire horses are the largest, followed by Clydesdales, Belgian Drafts, Percherons, and Dutch Drafts.

  • Although you may pay for a DNA test to determine a horse’s breed, you can also make educated assumptions based on its color, markings, build, stride, and size.

The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. To learn more about how we fact-check and keep our material accurate, dependable, and trustworthy, see our editing process.

  1. https://horse-canada.com/breeds/draft-horse/amp/

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