Last Updated on November 6, 2021
There really is no greater sight than a group of horses roaming across the wilderness! These magnificent creatures look truly mythical, with their flowing manes and elegant movements. But what’s a group of horses called, and how do they interact with each other?
If you’ve ever seen horses in the wild, you’ll have noticed that they stick together in a group. Our domesticated horses mimic this behavior in the paddock and barn, developing close bonds and relationships. Let’s find out everything we need to know about groups of horses!
What’s A Group Of Horses Called?
As with everything horse-related, there isn’t a straightforward answer to this! There are several names for groups of horses, depending on the type of horse and the situation they are kept in. Here are the most common names you will hear to describe a group of horses:
Herd Of Horses
The most common term you will hear used to describe a group of horses is a herd. This is normally used to refer to a group of horses living in their wild and natural state. A herd of horses will have a unique and fascinating group dynamic, without any outside interference from humans.
Team Of Horses
Horses are often called a team when they work together as a group in team activities. For example, this could be used to refer to a team of horses pulling a plow or dray. Horses are also called a team when they compete as a group in competitive events.
Stud Of Horses
A stud of horses is the name for a group of horses who are kept solely for breeding purposes.
Rag Of Horses
A rag of horses is the name for a group of young male horses, known as colts.
String Of Horses
A string of horses is a group of horses belonging to or used by one person or organization. For example, a string of horses from a racing yard or showjumping trainer.
Harras Of Horses
Harras is an old word that was used to describe a group of horses. The term harras is not widely used in modern times, however, you may still hear it in use on ranches in the US.
Stable Of Horses
A stable of horses is a group of horses kept in the same stableyard or barn. This name may be linked to a certain rider, trainer, or owner.
Troop Of Horses
A troop of horses is a group that serves in the military or as horse guards. In the UK, the Queen’s Birthday Parade includes a ritual called ‘Trooping the Colour’, where two hundred mounted officers march to Buckingham Palace accompanied by a marching band and hundreds of foot soldiers.
How Big Is A Herd Of Horses?
In a wild or feral state, herds of horses will roam across wide areas of land. It is not uncommon for two or more herds to co-exist in the same area or territory, but they will rarely cross paths or interact with each other.
A herd of wild horses is normally made up of one or two stallions. The herd will also have a group of mares and their young offspring.
The size of a herd of horses varies widely, according to their physical terrain and social dynamics. There are normally around 8 mares per stallion, plus their offspring. This means that a herd could be made up of around 20 horses.
Horse Group Dynamics Explained
The way a herd of horses interacts is fascinating! They have a complicated social structure, with each horse playing a different role. Let’s take a look at how the dynamics of a herd of wild horses works:
The entire male horse, or stallion, is the protector and guardian of the herd. They also have a key role in reproduction, impregnating the mares during the breeding season.
The stallion has to constantly battle to keep his place within the herd. During the breeding season, he will face threats from other stallions wishing to take his place. If he gets ousted from the herd, he will seek to take over a new herd or join a bachelor group.
Most stallions remain part of a herd for about two years. In some cases, they can last for over ten years as herd protectors and guardians.
The Alpha Mare
The alpha mare is the leader of the herd. It is unusual for the alpha mare to be replaced, and she will remain with the herd throughout her life.
She is normally an older mare, with a lot of experience and dominant nature. The alpha mare is not always the strongest or biggest female in the herd, but she will be the one who makes decisions and keeps the herd in check.
In a domesticated situation, you will find that one mare will quickly become the alpha mare in your paddock. She will dictate when and where the other horses graze, sleep and relax.
As there are only one or two stallions in each herd of horses, colt foals are not permitted to stay in the herd once they become old enough to survive on their own. They will leave the herd and form a group of horses made up entirely of males. This is called a bachelor herd.
Young female horses are not always ousted from the herd, and some will stay in the same herd as their dam. This is not always a problem, as it is likely that the stallion will be replaced at some point so she will not be impregnated by her sire.
More commonly, fillies will leave their birth herd and join another herd of horses. They may also join up with an entire male from the bachelor herd, forming an entirely new herd of horses.
So, as we’ve learned, the name for a group of horses living naturally in the wild is a herd. Groups of domesticated horses can also be referred to as teams, studs, rags, as well as several other names. In the wild, a herd of horses has a complicated and intricate social structure, with herd dynamics changing constantly.
We’d love to hear about your experiences – have you ever seen a herd of horses running free in the wild? Perhaps you’ve got a cute name for the group of horses in your yard? Add a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
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 four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE