Last Updated on March 24, 2023
It is a thing of beauty watching a horse move across open land, bringing a sense of awe and peace to the observer, so how fast can a mustang horse run? Can a wild horse gallop faster than a domesticated horse? Let’s take a look.
Wild Horses: The American Mustang
The most well-known wild horse is the Mustang. They are a part of American history, and many people today work hard to protect the Mustangs that still roam across the vast US landscapes. These horses display characteristics that are muted in the domestic horse.
Wild horses travel in herds and are more in tune with their environment than domestic horses. They are on alert for potential threats and ready to move quickly. One of the wild horse’s primary defenses against a threat is to run.
The herd has to have the ability to move quickly as a group to safety. This brings us to the question: how fast can a mustang horse run? Can they run faster than the Thoroughbred, a breed bred for speed? Or do they gallop at a rate similar to domestic breeds?
What is a Mustang?
A Mustang is a breed of feral horse found throughout the western United States. They are descendants of horses that the Spanish brought over to America hundreds of years ago.
Typically, Mustangs stand between 14-15 hands tall and weigh around 800-900 pounds. They have sturdy, muscular builds, and come in a variety of colors. There are even specific types of Mustangs based on unique genetic pools including the Spanish Mustang, Cerbat Mustang, and Kiger Mustang.
Mustangs are known to be intelligent horses and are often known for being even-tempered. They are sure-footed with excellent stamina and agility. Mustangs are used for a variety of different disciplines including trail riding, barrel racing, jumping, endurance, ranch work, eventing, and even dressage.
How Fast Can a Mustang Horse Run?
So, how fast can a Mustang horse run? It is not as easy to record the speeds of running wild horses, so records are not as common. However, of the existing records, the fastest speed by a wild Mustang stands at 54 miles per hour.
This speed matches the speed of the fastest domestic breeds. While some Mustangs are domesticated, many still live in the wild.
The Mustang speed record is even more impressive when you consider its size. The average Mustang stands between 14 and 15 hands. This is smaller than the Quarter Horse and the Thoroughbred, the fastest domestic breeds.
Horse Max Speed
All horses can move at speeds faster than a human. Even large, heavy horses, such as the draft breeds, will easily outrun a person. Certain breeds have a genetic makeup that makes them faster than others.
Their genetic makeup gives them the conformation and muscle development benefits that design them for speed. The fastest domestic horse breeds are the Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, and Arabian.
The max speed of a horse is 55 miles per hour. This is just 1 mile per hour less than the fastest wild horse speed. Impressive!
The Mustang is not often thought of when thinking of the fastest horse breeds. Maybe we need to take a closer look at this symbol of America.
What is the Fastest Horse Breed? How Fast Can a Mustang Horse Run?
Bred for speed, Thoroughbreds are considered to be the fastest breed of horse as they can maintain the highest speed over a mile distance. The Quarter horse and Arabian are also two of the fastest breeds as well after the Thoroughbred.
While Thoroughbreds can run a faster mile, Quarter horses are sprinters, known for their ability to run a quarter mile faster than any other breed. The average Thoroughbred racehorse can maintain a speed of around 40 miles per hour in a race. While Thoroughbred racing is most common, Quarter horse racing and Arabian racing also exist.
While the record for the Mustang horse’s top speed is 54 miles per hour, the typical speed of a Mustang is between 25-30 miles per hour. While they can be fast, they are typically not as fast as Thoroughbreds, Quarter horses, and Arabians.
Mustang vs Thoroughbred
Compared to the Mustang, the Thoroughbreds typically have a taller, leaner build. Thoroughbreds typically stand between 15-17 hands tall and weigh around 1,000 pounds.
Thoroughbreds have lean, athletic builds with deep chests and powerful hindquarters, and long necks. Mustangs, on the other hand, have smaller, stockier builds.
Quarter Horse vs Mustang
A Quarter horse has a more similar build to a Mustang than a Thoroughbred does. Quarter horses typically stand between 14.3 to 16 hands tall and weigh around 950 to 1,200 pounds.
Like Mustangs, Quarter horses have stocky, muscular builds. Quarter horses are also known for having deep chests and powerful hindquarters. With considerable Thoroughbred blood in their origins, Quarter horses have a knack for speed, especially when it comes to sprinting.
Arabian vs Mustang
While Arabians and Mustangs are similar in size, they have quite different builds. Arabians typically stand between 14 to 16 hands and weigh between 800 to 1,000 pounds.
Unlike Mustangs with their stocky builds, Arabians have refined builds with light bodies, arched necks, and dished facial profiles. Arabians are versatile horses often recognized for their elegant gaits and speeds.
Arabians are one of the oldest breeds and it is quite common to cross Arabians with other breeds. It is common to cross Arabians with breeds such as Saddlebreds, Dutch Harness Horses, Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds, and Morgans. You can even breed for an Arabian Mustang cross to achieve a fast, hardy horse.
Speeds of a Horse
Most horses have four gaits; they are some exceptions within certain breeds. But for simplicity, we will look at the speed horse moves in the four main gains. These are the walk, the trot, the canter, and the gallop.
The walk is a four-beat gait and the slowest horse speed. An average horse walks at a speed of 4 miles per hour. The next fastest horse gait is the trot. Horses trot between 8 and 12 miles per hour.
After the trot comes to the canter, a three-beat gait. Horses canter at speeds of 12 to 15 miles per hour. Finally, we see the gallop, the horse’s fastest speed. When a horse gallops, it looks on the surface like it is a faster version of the canter.
However, as the horse enters the gallop, it changes its stride pattern. The gallop is a four-beat gait, where at one point in each stride, there is a moment of suspension with all feet off the ground. An average horse runs at a speed between 25 and 30 miles per hour.
How Fast Can a Horse Sprint?
The Quarter Horse is an expert sprinter. It is the fastest horse in the world over a short distance. A study by Michigan State University, in 2006 made a comparison of the Quarter Horse, the Thoroughbred, and the Arabian.
The study result shows the Quarter Horse is faster over the sprint distance than the other two breeds. It also found that the Quarter horse continually increases its speed throughout the race. In comparison, the Thoroughbred and the Arabian reached their top speed in the middle of the race and slowed in the last third.
A Quarter horse can reach a speed of 55 miles per hour, while the Thoroughbred top speed averages close to 40 miles per hour. The Quarter Horse gets its name from the quarter-mile sprint race it runs in around 20 seconds.
The Guinness Book Of World Records states that the fastest-ever Thoroughbred is the filly, Winning Brew. Winning Brew reached a speed of 43.97 miles per hour. The fastest win in the Kentucky Derby is 38 miles per hour, set by Secretariat in 1973.
Wild Horse Travel Distance
Wild horses travel great distances every day. In search of food and water, a herd can cover between 10 and 20 miles each day. This amount of travel is not possible for a domestic horse that cannot go beyond the size of its pasture.
A study on how far Australia’s feral horses travel each day found that they covered around 9 miles daily. They studied two groups of feral horses, one in central Queensland and one in central Australia. The horses in central Australia had to travel longer distances than the Queensland group in search of food.
This left them many miles from their water sources. In some instances, the horses spent 12 hours walking between their food and water source. Interestingly, these horses often went just over two days without any water.
The conclusion found that Australia’s feral horses have adapted to survive long periods without water in semi-arid conditions.
For some cool facts about wild horses and to see them run, take a look at this video
Conclusion: How Fast Can a Mustang Horse Run?
Wild horses clearly have excellent abilities to run quickly. Their speed can match the fastest domestic breeds, despite them having a smaller average size. We hope that you have learned a little something about how fast can a wild horse run, as well as max horse speeds.
Though unlikely to ever happen, a match race between the Mustang and the Quarter Horse would create an intriguing study. If you have any questions about horse speed, or how fast can a Mustang horse run, put them in the comments below.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a wild horse called in Australia?
A brumby is a feral horse found in Australia. They tend to live in isolated areas and are sometimes confused with domestic horses because of their appearance. Today they are most commonly found in the Australian Alps region, Northern Territory and Queensland.
Brumby is the descendant of the first horses that arrived in Australia on the ships from England together with the convicts and first settlers. Only seven horses arrived with the first fleet in 1788 but they adapted very well to the new environment and their numbers quickly start to grow. Today, Australia has more than 400,000 feral horses and over a million feral donkeys. Feral horses have become an important conservation problem and a significant burden on rural communities.
Is a mustang the fastest horse?
Mustangs are horses that are typically medium-sized and agile, with a quick and sharp pace. Mustangs can run or gallop at speeds of 25 to 30 mph (40 to 48 km/h) in average, although the fastest mustang speed over a short distance, that has been recorded, is said to be 55 mph (88 km/h), which is indeed very fast.
However, this still doesn’t make them the fastest horse breed. Thoroughbreds hold the title of the fastest breed of horses. These are bred for speed, and lots of winning racehorses are Thoroughbreds.
What does a wild horse look like?
They look like domesticated horses but have stronger legs and are often more sturdy. They can be black, white, grey, bay color, or reddish-brown. Same to domesticated horses, wild horses are herbivores or plant eaters. They feed on grass, leaves, and tree bark.
Wild horses live in herds called bands. A band consists of a breeding pair and their offspring, including calves and yearlings. Bands are led by a dominant stallion or mare. The wild horse is very social and will form close bonds with other horses. Wild horses may be quite aggressive toward other horses but can be very gentle and friendly with the horses of their herd. They like to nuzzle, lick, and rub each other.
What is the name of a wild horse?
Mustangs are often mistakenly believed to be wild horses, but since they descended from once-domesticated animals, they are technically feral horses. The original mustangs were Spanish Colonial horses, but many other breeds and types of horses have contributed to the modern mustang, resulting in varying phenotypes known today.
The only truly wild horses found in the world today are Przewalski’s horses and even those can only be found in reintroduction sites in Mongolia, China, and Kazakhstan.
When did the Przewalski’s horse became extinct in the wild?
Primarily from interbreeding with other domesticated horses, Przewalski’s horse was declared extinct by the late 20th century (around 1960). Today, there are only about 1,900 Przewalski’s horses left, living either in captivity or in the wild at different reintroduction sites.
What do we know about Przewalski’s horse? Przewalski’s horses have 66 chromosomes, not 64 like domestic horses. Despite this difference in genes, they can mate with domestic horses and produce hybrid offspring with 65 chromosomes. Their offspring is also fertile and capable of breeding, which is quite uncommon in the equine world.
Michael Dehaan is a passionate horse owner, horse rider, and lover of all things equine. He has been around horses since he was a child, and has grown to become an expert in the field. He has owned and ridden a variety of horses of different breeds, and has trained many to compete in shows and competitions. He is an experienced horseman, having worked with and competed many horses, including his own. He is an active member of the equestrian community, participating in events and teaching riding lessons.