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Quick Reference Handbook of Popular Horse Breeds

Quick Reference Handbook of Popular Horse Breeds

Horses have been domesticated for over 6000 years. In this time there have been numerous new breeds, each with noticeable unique characteristics and purposes. Early on, horses were kept as a food source, and as humanity became more mobile they were also used as pack animals. Below you can find a few of the more popular horse breeds with details such as size, color, history, and other useful facts.


  • Height: 16 hands (average)
  • Weight: 1000+ pounds
  • Common Colors: bay, chestnut, black, gray, seal brown.
  • Notable Physical Characteristics: well-chiseled head, long neck, deep chest, lean body, long legs, short back, high withers.

Thoroughbred horses are often linked to racing with their ancestry dating back to 18th century Britain. Running horses were commonly bred in Britain during this time, and eventually horse racing became a professional sport for aristocrats. Thoroughbreds are loved as a racing horse as they are strong, fast, and able to carry their weight for long periods of time.


  • Height: 14-16 hands
  • Weight: Up to 1300 pounds.
  • Common Colors: Chestnut, bay, black, gray, etc.
  • Notable Physical Characteristics: Very muscular, strong hindquarters.

Unlike Thoroughbred horses which are strong at running longer distances, quarterhorses are known for their ability to sprint short distances, a quarter mile or less. The compact body of this breed also allows it to be great in rodeos and horse shows.


  • Height: 14.2-15.2 hands
  • Weight: 1000 pounds on average
  • Common Colors: bay, chestnut, brown
  • Notable Physical Characteristics: deep and muscular bodies, straight and clean-boned legs, arched neck.

All present-day Morgan horses have descended from the single horse "Justin Morgan," named after his owner during the late 18th century in Springfield, Massachusetts. Although this horse was smaller than the colonial workhorses at the time, he consistently outperformed them in all feats of work. Justin Morgan became a legend of his time and was used to breed many offspring.


  • Height:14.2-15.2 hands
  • Weight: 800-1000 pounds.
  • Common Colors: grey, roan, chestnut, bay.
  • Notable Physical Characteristics: teacup muzzle, large nostrils, arched neck, short and strong back, high tail carriage, broad chest.

Arabian horses are one of the oldest domesticated horse breeds and date back to the Middle East over 5000 years ago. They were originally bred by a desert tribe in the Arabian Peninsula, the Bedouins, and were used during war since they have great endurance. In the movie The Black Stallion the horse named Cass Ole is an Arabian stallion.

American Paint Horse

  • Height: 16 hands
  • Weight: 1100 pounds
  • Common Colors: A combination of white and either brown, black, bay, chestnut, sorrel, or roan.
  • Notable Physical Characteristics: Very muscular, low center of gravity, strong hindquarters.

This beautiful American classic is often represented as the horse for Cowboys and seen in many works of fiction to be their personal favorites. Paint horses are versatile animals: they can reach speeds of 55 MPH, but they are also known for their calm temperament and are frequently used around children and during shows.

American Appaloosa Horse

  • Height: 14-16 hands.
  • Weight: 950-1200 pounds.
  • Common Colors: Known for unique leopard spotting coat pattern, mix of browns and white.
  • Notable Physical Characteristics: leopard spotted coat, mottled skin, narrow body, striped hooves.

Appaloosa horses have been seen in a variety of disciplines: jumping, shows, for families, racing, etc. They're calm and friendly which make them easy to work with and good for beginners. Cave paintings in France dating back to 18,000 BC have shown spotted horses – possibly ancestors to modern Appaloosa breeds. In America, Appaloosa horses date back to the late 1800s around Washington and Idaho, although there are conflicting reports of how they made their way to America from the Eastern hemisphere.

American Saddlebred

  • Height: 15-16 hands
  • Weight: 1000-1200 pounds.
  • Common Colors: Can be any color.
  • Notable Physical Characteristics: Curved spine, straight profile, arched necks, high-spirited.

The American Saddlebred is known as the ultimate show horse and is popular for its elegant high-stepping walk. Since Saddlebreds are so proper and well-natured, they have been used in anything from war to starring in movies. Some famous Saddlebreds are Mr. Ed the 'talking horse' and Silver from The Lone Ranger. During the 1700s, Pacer horses were bred with imported Thoroughbreds to become "The American Horse," and by the time of the American Revolution they were recognized as their own definite type.

These horses are some of the most common and popular breeds and cover a wide variety of uses, histories, and unique traits. For more information, please see the links below to learn more about specific breeds or general horse information.


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