Last Updated on December 1, 2021
Horses share many similarities with most other mammals – a four-legged body, with a head at one end and a tail at the other! But have you ever wondered if they are the same in other ways – do horses have nipples? And if they do, what is their purpose?
The horse’s reproductive organs are part of a complex and intricate body system. Horses, like humans, have different genital organs according to the gender of the horse. But does this mean that they have nipples too, and do both male and female horses have nipples?
Let’s find out!
Do Horses Have Nipples?
Horses, like humans, are mammals. One common feature of all mammals is that they have mammary glands – the tissue which produces milk during lactation.
In some species, such as humans, the mammary glands protrude from the body. Other species, such as seals, have mammary glands which are internal organs.
Almost all mammals also have nipples as well, apart from platypus and echidnas. Again, most mammals have nipples that are external on the skin surface, but some are in a crevice or under a fold of skin.
So, as horses are a mammal, they do indeed have nipples! But there is much more to it than that – we want to know if both genders have nipples, where they are located, and what their purpose is!
Time to take an in-depth look at the nipples of a horse!
Do Male Horses Have Nipples?
They can be very hard to spot, but yes – male horses do have nipples! Most owners of male horses will never see their nipples, as they are in a very delicate and intimate area.
The nipples of a male horse are located on the sheath. The sheath is located in between the hind legs, at the point where the belly meets the legs. The sheath is the soft piece of tissue that encloses the penis of the male horse.
Most male horses are quite sensitive about this area being looked at, which is why it can be very difficult to see the nipples of a male horse! Their nipples are also very small, making them even harder to spot.
Do Female Horses Have Nipples?
Female horses have nipples, and they are located in a similar place to those on male horses.
Between the hind legs of a mare are two slightly protruding soft lumps – these are the mammary glands of the mare, also called udders. At the end of each udder is a smaller lump, about the size of a plump raisin – this is the nipple. The nipple of a mare is often referred to as the teat.
What Is The Purpose Of Horse Nipples?
In male horses, like most male mammals, the nipples appear to not have any role or function to play. This weird phenomenon occurs because of the way that the embryo develops during the first few weeks of life.
All embryos are female when they first develop. It is not until a few weeks later that they can become either male or female, and at this point, it is already predetermined that it will have nipples, regardless of gender. So, for females, the nipples will be functional, and for males, they will be useless!
The purpose of the female horse’s nipples is to deliver colostrum and milk to the foal. This is called lactation, and it is a common function of all mammals.
At the time of a foal’s birth, the mammary glands, or udders, of the mare will fill with a substance called colostrum. This is an incredibly rich and nutritious form of milk and is vital for the health and wellbeing of the foal.
Colostrum contains vital antibodies and is the main source of immunity for the newborn foal. The foal must suckle this colostrum from the mare’s teats, or nipples, within the first few hours of life.
After the foal has drunk the colostrum, the udders will continue to produce copious amounts of nutrient-rich milk. This is the only food source for the rapidly growing foal, and mare’s milk is high in fat and energy. To provide enough milk, the mare must eat much larger amounts of high-energy food, and also increase her water intake.
If the foal is unable to suckle by itself, then it is possible to milk the mare to obtain the milk. This can then be fed to the foal in a bottle or bucket.
How Many Nipples Do Horses Have?
You may have noticed that different species of mammals have different numbers of nipples. For example, cats and dogs have eight or more nipples, cows have four nipples, and humans have two. So how many nipples does a horse have?
Horses are slightly unusual in their reproductive anatomy. Normally, a mammal will have one teat for every mammary gland. Cats have eight mammary glands, so they have eight nipples. Horses have four mammary glands, but does this mean that they have four nipples?
In a weird tweak of evolution, horses have only two nipples. This is because their mammary glands are split into two pairs, one pair on the left, one on the right. Each pair of mammary glands joins together and exits through a single teat.
The reason that different mammals have different numbers of nipples all comes down to the number of babies they produce from each pregnancy. A cat or dog can have a large litter of kittens or puppies and need many teats to feed them all at once. A horse will normally only have one foal, and two nipples are more than enough to keep him well fed.
So, as we have learned, horses do have nipples. Both male and female horses have nipples, and in mares – female horses – they are also referred to as teats. The function of the teats of the mare is to deliver milk and vital colostrum to their young foal.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on the horse reproductive system. Have you ever been lucky enough to see a foal suckling on its mother’s teats? Or maybe you have even seen a horse being milked? Please add your comments below and we’ll get back to you!
Read more about How Many Stomachs Do Horses Have?
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse
care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since
she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local
stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She
has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in
various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the
patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went
on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in
the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of
horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for
educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN REVN RVN A1