A horse is a large mammal that is one of 10 species within the Equus genus.
Horses have been domesticated to serve a variety of human needs, especially transportation of people and cargo via wagon or cart, plowing, riding (for pleasure, competition or transportation) and more.
In many cultures, horses are also slaughtered and used as a source of food (the practices surrounding slaughter and the medications fed to horses before they are sold to slaughter are often brought into question).
Horses were also used in warfare extensively by armies until the mid-20th century. These were referred to as cavalry units.
Evidence of equine domestication stems from Central Asia as far back as 4,000 BCE. Wild species, however, continue to survive today. A wild horse is defined as one whose ancestors have never been domesticated and still exist today, mainly in the United States and Canada (where they are called “Mustangs”), Australia (called “brumbies”) and New Zealand (“Kaimanawa horses”).
Important terminology and distinctions
- Hands. Denote the measutrement o f a horse’s height. One hand equals 4 inches. A horse is measured at the highest height of its back, about where the saddle sits, called the weathers. Horse height typically ranges from 5-20 hands, or more. 15.2 hands means 15 hands and 2 inches.
- Horses and ponies. The difference between a horse and a pony is determined by height (although some breeds are typically a horse and others are typically a pony). Ponies are 14.2 hands or smaller, a horse is anything above. Often, a horse that measures 14.3, especially if it is a breed that is typically a pony, the horse may be called a “hony.”
- Types of gaits: The walk, a four beat gait. The trot or jog, where two feet are on the ground at the time, and the legs move in diagonal pairs (the pace is a variation, in which legs on the same side of the body move at the same time, also a two-peat movement). The canter or lope is a three beat gait. The gallop is a four-beat gait.