Equus caballushorse

Geographic Range

Original populations were once found in the steppe zone from Poland to Mongolia. Now domesticated, horses occur throughout the world and in feral populations in some areas.

Habitat

Most horses today are domesticated, but there are some feral populations that live in diverse habitats. Along the coastline of France and Spain, the barrier islands of Virginia and North Carolina, the Great Basin of the western United States, and in different areas of Australia, for example.

Physical Description

Horses have been so strongly bred by humans that there is extensive variability in their size and weight. The general body pattern is that of long limbs, barrel shaped body, and a long neck supporting a large head. Vision and hearing are key senses for these animals, as suggested by their large eyes and ears. Coloration is also hightly variable due to breeding, and individuals range from pure white, tan, brown or black to patches of oranges and browns on white. The tail is relatively short but has long hairs coming off it that frequently reach the ground. The tail is often used as an "extra hand" to swat insects. There is also long hair along the neck and forehead (the mane and forelock).

  • Range mass
    300 to 2000 kg
    660.79 to 4405.29 lb

Reproduction

Horses are seasonal breeders, but during the breeding season come into estrus monthly until impregnated. Birth, usually of one foal occurs after an 11 month gestation period. In about 15-25 minutes the foal is able to follow its mother around, and it stays close to her side for the first few days of life. Weaning occurs after approximately 7 months, but if the female doesn't become pregnant yearlings have been observed to occasionally nurse off their mothers.

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Average number of offspring
    1
    AnAge
  • Average gestation period
    337 days
    AnAge
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    914 days
    AnAge
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    973 days
    AnAge

Lifespan/Longevity

Behavior

Horses have a harem social system, where one dominant male has a group of several females and their offspring. There is current debate as to whether both male and female juveniles leave the natal group, or if only males leave. Upon leaving, females join another herd, while males join a bachelor herd. When mature, males are solitary and attempt to take over a harem or steal females.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Horses are natural grazers of grasslands, but often have domestic diets with grain and hay. Horses graze while walking slowly, pulling off a mouthful every few steps.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Domestic horses are arguably the most important animal that has been domesticated. Long been used as a means of transportation, pleasure, work, and even war horses have been involved in much of human history.

Conservation Status

Domestic horse breeds are numerous and plentiful. Feral populations are mostly small in number and threatened by human encroachment. The one true wild horse Przewalski's horse is considered extinct in the wild by some, and at best is alive only through captive breeding programs.

US ESA -Endangered, IUCN - Extinct?

  • IUCN Red List [Link]
    Not Evaluated

Contributors

Anna Bess Sorin (author), Biology Dept., University of Memphis.

Glossary

Australian

Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map

Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

introduced

referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5? N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

References

Nowak, R.M. and J.L.Paradiso. 1983. Walker's Mammals of the World 4th Ed. Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore.