Horses have been a very helpful animal throughout human history, and are still crucial to life in many areas of the world, as well as being much loved pets for others. We’re showing our appreciation of this magnificent animal by exploring some of the more specialised areas of their anatomy and the less well known, interesting facts that go with it!
Things ingested by horses can only go one way through the digestive system, meaning that horses are unable to vomit, burp or breathe in through their mouths. They have a sphincter between the stomach and oesophagus that is very strong and very tight – and it only gets tighter the fuller the horses stomach becomes, due to the build-up of pressure against it.
Horses eyes, being on the side of their head, allow for almost a 360° view of their surroundings. They are also able to focus each eye independently from the other (called monocular vision), meaning they can look at two different objects at once! Their eyes are also the largest of any other land mammal, at eight times larger than the human eye.
A horse's teeth are very large – as a young adult, they can measure between 11 - 13cm (4.5 - 5inches). The bottom row of teeth reaches almost all of the way to the base of their skull, and the top row takes up a fair amount of space upwards, too. For an idea of their combined spacial dominance, more room in a horse's skull is taken up by its teeth than by its brain! Due to the grinding motion that horses use to chew up their food, their teeth grow throughout the majority of their lives.
Ever wondered why humans put shoes on horses?
The hoof is made from keratin (the same material as a human’s fingernails), so it naturally wears away and re-grows. Horses in the wild don’t walk as much as domesticated horses, and normally on softer, less abrasive ground, so they wear away the hoof at a speed that counters the time it takes to re-grow. Adding horseshoes to working horses helps reduce the hoof's wear and tear.
Some working horses also need additional traction to complete their jobs safely and to the best of their abilities – if they are working on snow, hard rocks or slippery pavements, the horseshoes help to ground their footing.
Finally, horses can suffer from uneven weight distribution due to limb deviations, creating what is known as a toe in or toed out effect – eventually causing pain, discomfort and strains on their joints. By placing a shoe under the centre of gravity of each of the horse's limbs, and sometimes lateral support shoes on the outside of the hoof too, the pressure can be distributed evenly. Shoes can also help remedy the effects of birth defects and illness.
Horse related AnatomyStuff resources:
Further reading / sources:
Anatomy facts about horses
General horse facts
The purpose of horseshoes