How Fast Can A Wild Horse Run?

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 wild horse run? Can a wild horse gallop faster than a domesticated horse? Let’s take a look.

Wild Horses

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 of how fast can a wild 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?

How Fast Can A Wild 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.

The Mustang speed record is even more impressive when you consider their size. The average Mustang stands between 14 and 15 hands. This is smaller than the Quarter Horse and the Thoroughbred, the fastest domestic breeds.

speeds of a horse

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 the 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 the 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.

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. 

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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 for 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


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, put them in the comments below.

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