Unless you’ve been around horses for quite some time, you’ll probably get very confused when it comes to the various terms that we use to talk about horses. From Mare to Filly and Stallion to Gelding, what exactly do these terms mean? In this post, we’re going to answer all of your questions about horse genders and help you understand every term.
Why are there so many terms?
First, let’s start with a bit of trivia; why are there so many terms for horses?
Like any hobby or job that’s been around for a long time, the industry tends to develop its own jargon when referring to things.
These terms are usually made up because of a practical reason. For example, referring to horses by their gender or age is important, and it was decided at some point in the past that it would be great to have different words for every potential situation.
When a newcomer starts learning about horses, these terms can get really confusing at first. However, once you learn what each term means, you’ll realize why we have so many different terms for horses. Many of these terms have been used for centuries and they’re still going, so there’s definitely a good reason why the jargon has stuck around for so long.
What is a male horse called?
What is a Colt horse?
A colt is an uncastrated male horse that is under the age of four. Colts are often used for breeding just after they reach a year old. However, most circles will wait until the colt is at least three or four until they start breeding them.
Colts that are under a year old can also be referred to as a foal. Foal is a term that is used to describe all baby horses. It’s similar to how we often use the word “baby” to describe a child. We don’t always have to follow it with the gender. As such, you may occasionally see young female horses being referred to as a foal too.
What is a Stallion horse?
Stallion is perhaps one of the more well-known terms for a horse. A stallion is a male horse over the age of four that has not been castrated. Because of this, they tend to be used for breeding.
Stallions are typically very difficult to handle. They can be fairly aggressive to other horses if they’re not managed correctly, but they tend to avoid bothering humans.
Trainers and frequent faces are generally safe. Most trainers will only have stallions if they plan to continue breeding them. If they don’t, they will likely be castrated to make them much easier to handle.
What is a Stud horse?
A stud is a male horse that is used for breeding. This is generally considered an interchangeable term with stallion.
What is a Sire horse?
A sire is a stallion that has fathered a foal. The term is often used to refer to the father of a horse. However, the term stallion may still be used when referring to the horse and not its family members. This is akin to calling someone a father when their child is mentioned, but otherwise, the father is simply referred to as a man.
What is a Gelding horse?
A gelding is a male horse that has been castrated. This means that they can no longer be used for breeding. A gelding is generally much more calm and relaxed than a stallion. As such, they’re usually much easier to work with.
A colt may be gelded between the age of 6 and 12 months. As long as the horse’s testicles have descended, they can be properly castrated.
However, if a male horse is improperly castrated or has never had its testicles descend, then it may be referred to as a rig. This usually means that the horse appears to have no testicles, but one or two may still be present. This means it still produces testosterone, meaning it will act like a stallion.
What is a female horse called?
What is a Filly horse?
A filly is a female horse that is younger than four years. However, there are some circles that will consider a horse a filly until they have reached the age of five.
As explained above, a filly may also be called a foal if they are under a year old. If you need to refer to a horse that is younger than a year, you can refer to them as a foal regardless of gender or if you’re not sure if they are a filly or colt.
A filly can usually be used for breeding shortly before they become a mare. However, they can be sexually mature by 18 months, but most people wouldn’t breed a horse that young. Typically, they’ll wait until the filly is around three or four years old.
What is a Mare horse?
A mare is a female horse that is older than four years. Much like with a filly, some circles may consider a mare to be a female horse over the age of five.
Unlike stallions, a mare is generally quite relaxed and fairly easy to handle in comparison. However, mares are rarely spayed, so they are still considered to be harder to work with than geldings. Mares are known to be moody at times, but this won’t apply to all mares. Their personalities can vary drastically and some mares are known to be extremely calm and laid-back.
What is a Broodmare horse?
A broodmare horse is a female horse that is used for breeding. Some people may still refer to the horse as a mare.
In most cases, a broodmare will be able to have one foal every year. They typically maintain their status as a broodmare between the ages of 4 and 16. However, some mares may continue to breed past this age as well.
What is a Dam horse?
A dam is the female counterpart to a sire. It’s a word used to describe the mother of a horse.
You may have noticed that there’s actually no term to describe a spayed mare. This is because mares are rarely spayed, so there isn’t an agreed term that everyone uses. As such, most people will still refer to the horse as a mare.
Other horse terms to know
There are also a handful of other useful terms to know when it comes to horses.
In simple terms, a pony is simply a small horse that is under the height of 14.2 hands high. This is roughly 4.73 feet or 144 cm.
It’s worth keeping in mind that ponies aren’t baby horses. While they are the same species as horses, ponies tend to be shorter and their build is slightly different. Most people wouldn’t be able to tell the physical differences between a pony and a regular horse. However, ponies are known to be very stubborn and aggressive.
Yearling, Suckling and Weanling
A yearling is typically a horse that is between the ages of one and two. This is a gender-neutral term and it doesn’t matter if the horse is a gelding, colt, or filly.
This term is used because horses around this age tend to undergo many growth-related changes. While they’re still too young for breeding or riding, it’s often useful to refer to a horse as a yearling.
A foal that is being nursed will usually be referred to as a suckling.
When they have been weaned from their mothers, they are then referred to as weanlings. Once they reach a year old, they will be called a yearling.
It’s also common to mix these terms with colt and filly. For example, a colt weanling or filly yearling.
Are female or male horses faster?
Unlike humans, there are fewer differences between male and female horses. While a colt is generally around 10% heavier than a filly, they have similar heights. In fact, the performance gap between colts and fillies is just 1 percent. This is much smaller than the differences between male and female humans which is 11 percent.
In the world of horses, there are great examples of male and female racehorses that have competed at the highest level.
Most races will have a slightly higher percentage of male horses, but there are occasionally races that only have horses from a single gender. A male-only race is known as a Secretariat Race whereas the female-only race is known as a Ruffian Race.
One reason why there may be fewer female racehorses is that they are usually taken out to breed after a major win. This usually means they have great genes and strong genetics for racing. Since it takes around a year for a female horse to be pregnant, they simply don’t have the same amount of time as male horses to race.
So although there are some slight differences in male and female horses, they can both be trained to an exceptional level and will perform close to the same.