According to a genetic study,1 horses were first domesticated about 6,000 years ago.2 The first domestic horses were in Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, though they quickly spread throughout Europe and Asia. These horses were used for a variety of purposes, including meat, milk, and of course, riding.
Today, horses are still used across the world for various tasks. They’re often used for racing, farm work, meat, pulling loads, and more. Across the world, there are about 400 different horse breeds of all sizes, conformations, and colors. While all horses are majestic in their own right, some are more beautiful than others. The following 15 breeds represent the most elegant and incredible of all horse breeds, and each is a marvel to behold.
The 15 Most Beautiful Horse Breeds
1. Akhal-Teke Horse
The Akhal-Teke is one of the oldest of all domesticated horse breeds. They were first bred for speed and endurance, creating a sleek and exotic-looking horse. These horses are fine-boned with shiny coats that gleam in the sun. They’re a very rare breed, originating in the deserts of Turkmenistan, with just over 6,000 specimens on the planet. They’re known as the “Golden Horses” because of the metallic sheen of their coats and common golden colors.
2. Appaloosa Horse
Appaloosas are instantly recognizable for their striking appearance. These horses are spotted with white and dark patches that appear in patterns such as blanket, leopard, snowflake, and marble. They’re known for their gentle and friendly disposition, which makes them a great horse for riders of any level.
3. Arabian Horse
When it comes to iconic horse breeds, few can boast the illustrious reputation of Arabian horses. They’re considered to be some of the best endurance horses on the planet, and their genetics have been included in just about every racehorse breed that exists. They’re also incredibly majestic creatures with a noble attitude and distinctive features that make them one of the most easily recognizable horse breeds.
4. Friesian Horse
Friesian horses are all black, standing tall at 15–17 hands. They have muscular bodies and elegant gaits that make them seem extremely dignified. Though the breed nearly went extinct on several occasions, they’re growing in popularity today, which is helping the breed to grow in numbers as well.
5. Gypsy Horse
Gypsy horses have coats that are somewhat similar to a pinto, though these horses are built much differently. Also known as the Galineers Cob or Gypsy Vanner, the Gypsy Horse comes from Ireland and Great Britain. They’re rather small horses, yet built very sturdily. Often, Gypsy horses are piebald or skewbald.
6. Haflinger Horse
Developed in Austria and northern Italy, the Haflinger is a small but beautiful horse that was created through the mixing of several breeds, including Tyrolean ponies and Arabian horses. These horses stand 13–15 hands tall with a refined head, deep chest, and sloped shoulders. They’re well-muscled animals with rhythmic gaits. The body of a Haflinger is chestnut, but the mane and tail are flaxen, creating a beautiful and unique juxtaposition.
7. Knabstrupper Horse
If you’ve never heard of a Knabstrupper, you’re not alone. It’s a Danish breed that comes in two sizes. Some are pony-sized, standing less than 14.2 hands tall, though most specimens are 15.2–16 hands in height. This breed has a genetic mechanism known as the leopard complex, which causes them to have a spotted coat. Not all Knabstruppers are spotted though. They can be solid-colored, completely spotted, or anything in between. They look sort of like the Dalmatians of the horse world.
8. Marwari Horse
This rare breed comes from the Marwar region of India and can easily be identified by their unique ears that turn inwards. The breed was created by mixing Arabian horses and ponies that were native to the region. Employed as calvary horses for centuries, the breed’s loyalty and bravery on the battlefield are well-known.
9. Norwegian Fjord Horse
Strong but compact, the Norwegian Fjord is an agile breed from the mountainous regions of Norway. They’re all dun-colored, though there are five recognized shade variations within the breed standard. They’ve been used for hundreds of years in Norway as farm horses, and they’re one of the oldest horse breeds in the world.
10. Orlov Trotter
The Orlov Trotter is named after its fast trot, which is hereditary. These horses are known for their excellent stamina and speed. Created in Russia by Count Alexei Orlov in the late 1700s, the Orlov Trotter has become the most famous of all Russian horse breeds.
Originally used as a warhorse, the Percheron is considered to be a gentle giant. These creatures can be truly massive, reaching weights up to 2,600 pounds and heights of 19 hands. Because of their even-keeled temperaments, they’re great for riders of all levels. First developed in the Perche province of France, little is known about the breed’s origin aside from where it took place.
12. Pinto Horse
For many horse lovers, pinto horses bring to mind an image of a Native American mounted on horseback with a bow in hand. These horses were first brought to the New World from Europe, but a wild population developed after they were released. The Native Americans captured and domesticated these horses in large numbers, preferring them for their pinto patterns that worked like a built-in camouflage.
13. Rocky Mountain Horse
Though many riders love the Rocky Mountain Horse for its four-beat single-foot gait, the breed’s looks are just as special. The most common iconic appearance for a Rocky Mountain Horse is to have a chocolate coat with a flaxen mane and tail, making for a beautiful contrast that gives the breed a unique appearance.
14. Shire Horses
A well-known British draught horse breed, Shire horses have previously held records for being the largest and tallest horse in existence. They’re incredibly strong horses that have long been used for a variety of hauling tasks. The breed is considered to be “at risk” by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust because of dwindling numbers.
15. Trakehner Horses
The Trakehner is a warm-blooded horse breed that’s best-known for its athleticism. They’re often used in equestrian disciplines such as show jumping and dressage where they excel. This breed is known for being calm and agreeable, which is why they’re often used to teach younger riders.
Few would argue against us if we said that all horses are incredibly beautiful. Even though beauty is subjective, we can all agree that some creatures are objectively more beautiful than others. While this list isn’t exhaustive, the 15 horse breeds on it are definitely some of the most majestic, beautiful horses in the world.
- 14 Best Driving Horse Breeds for Pulling a Carriage (With Pictures)
- 20 Most Popular Racehorse Breeds (With Pictures)
- 12 Oldest Horse Breeds in the World (With Pictures)
Featured Image Credit: Makarova Viktoria, Shutterstock