With thousands of horse breeds from around the world, we have many cold weather horse breeds as well as horses that thrive in hot climates. Let’s take a look at how different horse breeds are able to cope with extreme weather conditions!
How Are Horses Adapted To Cope With Cold Weather?
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Before horses were domesticated, they lived like wild animals in different regions all around the world. Some were in hot countries, while others managed to survive in some of the harshest weather conditions. This has led to the many different types of horses we know and love today.
Horses are generally classified as one of three types: warm-blooded, cold blooded, and hot-blooded. Cold blooded breeds are those that are adapted to live in colder climates, whereas hot-blooded horses are from warmer regions. A warmblood is normally a horse with genetic influences from both cold and hot-blooded horse breeds.
For example, it is common to cross a draft horse, which is cold blooded, with a Thoroughbred, which is hot-blooded. The result is a warmblood horse.
Cold Weather Horses Characteristics
All of the horse breeds that originate from cold and harsh climates are cold blooded breeds, and they have many characteristics in common.
Cold weather horse breeds will grow a thick, dense coat in the autumn, ready for the cold winter months. This coat often has a double layer, with a dense, thick undercoat and longer hairs which form the second layer.
This thick coat has two functions. Firstly, it can trap warm air against the body, underneath the longer hairs. This insulating layer prevents heat from being lost from the body in cold weather
Secondly, the longer hairs allow rain to run down the coat and off the body. The hairs underneath will stay dry and warm. The horse may appear saturated, but if he can shelter from direct rain then he will stay warm and dry.
Another way in which cold weather horse breeds stay warm is through their body shape and stature. These horses are normally quite stocky in build, with a wide chest and abdomen. The abdominal cavity is a major source of heat as a result of the digestive processes that occur when a horse eats, and a stocky body means a warmer horse!
Cold blooded horses are also typically able to sustain themselves on lower-quality forage. In a natural cycle, they will put on more weight in the summer when the grass is more nutritious. They will use this excess body fat during the winter to maintain their body heat.
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Which Are The Best Cold Weather Horse Breeds?
To find the best cold weather hose breeds, we need to look for breeds from cold countries. Here are some of the most famous cold weather horse breeds from around the world:
The Shetland pony is one of the hardiest pony breeds in the world and can survive in extremely cold weather. This pony is famous for its incredibly long double coat, which provides excellent insulation during the winter.
The Shetland Isles are 120 miles north of Scotland, in the North Sea. The weather there is not only cold but also very wet. This hardy and tough little pony is able to survive freezing temperatures and icy cold wind and rain, taking shelter in nooks on the hillsides.
Talking of cold countries, Iceland is one of the most extreme! The Icelandic horse is famous for its thick, dense coat, topped with an impressive mane and thick forelock. These horses thrive in the harshest of weather, including snow, hail, and icy rain.
This cold-blooded horse breed is linked to Shetland ponies and also horses from Norway and Mongolia. Viking explorers returned from expeditions with breeding stock, and these founded the Icelandic horse bloodlines.
Norwegian Fjord Horse
The Norwegian Fjord Horse is a very distinctive breed of horse, with a proud, arched neck with a characteristic upright mane. This horse breed has one of the oldest and purest bloodlines in the world, dating back over 4 thousand years. They were once used as Viking warhorses, but in modern times you are more likely to find them hauling timber or pulling a wagon.
This horse breed is not only adapted to survive in cold weather but is also very sure-footed in ice and snow. Fjord horses are all dun in color and have distinctive primitive markings including a dark dorsal stripe and zebra markings on the legs.
Summary – Cold Weather Horse Breeds
So, as we have learned, the best cold-weather horse breeds are those that originate from harsh climates in the far north. These types of horses grow a thick, dense coat that traps warm air and repels rain. Cold-blooded horse breeds are also able to sustain themselves on poor-quality forage to maintain their body weight through cold weather.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on cold weather horse breeds! Is your horse a complete wimp who needs a blanket as soon as it turns a bit chilly? Or perhaps you’re worried that your horse might not be warm enough in winter? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
How Long Can Horses Survive In Cold Weather?
How long a horse can survive in cold weather depends on many factors, such as whether they have shelter from the wind and rain, how much food they have, and the type of horse.
What Temperature Is Too Cold For Horses?
A horse with a thick winter coat and access to shelter and hay will be able to withstand temperatures down to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit for long periods of time.
How Do I Know If My Horse Is Too Cold?
To check if your horse is warm enough, place a hand on the skin under his chest - it should feel warm to the touch. If he is too cold, he may stand in a tucked up position and he might shiver.
Can Arabian Horses Live In Snow?
Arabian horses are descended from horses owned by desert tribes, and can withstand hot daytime temperatures and freezing nights. They can withstand snow, but will need adequate food and shelter to stay warm and dry.