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What Is a Baby Horse Called?

Oliver Jones

All animals have a specific term that refers to the young and babies. Horses are no exception. Still, it can be difficult to know exactly what to call a baby horse because the industry has quite a few terms that describe different types of horse babies.

In this article, we are going to go over all that terminology so that you can more confidently use horse age terminology. We will begin by looking at the general name for baby horses, and then look at more specific terminology that relates to age and gender.

Let’s get started.

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What Do You Call a Baby Horse?

If you see a baby horse under the age of one, it is called a foal. It does not matter if this baby horse is a boy or girl. The name foal simply tells you the age of the horse, which is that it is a newborn baby who is under the age of one. If only things were as simple as calling a baby horse a foal. There is other terminology that you need to know in order to address a horse more confidently by its age and gender:

exmoor pony mother and foal
Image Credit: Paul Steven, Shutterstock

Horse Age Terminology to Know:

Term Definition
Foal Baby horse under the age of one
Weanling Foal who has recently stopped nursing, under the age of one
Yearling Foal between its first and second birthday
Colt Male foal who is not yet 4 years old
Filly Female foal who is not yet 4 years old
Stallion Adult male
Stud Adult male for breeding
Gelding Castrated adult male
Mare Adult female
Broodmare Adult female for breeding

Weanling vs. Yearling

Whereas a foal is a horse under the age of one, a weanling is a foal that has stopped nursing recently. This typically occurs whenever the foal is around six months old.

Once a horse has reached its first birthday, it is called a yearling. If a horse is a yearling, it means it is over the age of one but under the age of two. Both terms weanling and yearling can be used for males or females.

In both of these cases, the horse is still really young, but it isn’t quite and adult yet. The terms weanling and yearling simply tell you exactly how old the horse is and what stage of life it is in.

Fell Pony mare with foal_Shutterstock_Nicole Ciscato
Image Credit: Nicole Ciscato, Shutterstock

Male vs. Females

Foals are also distinguished by their gender. This occurs whenever the horse is between the ages of two and four. During this age, the horse is still not a complete adult, but it is old enough that it is finally out of the baby stage.

For male horses that are between two and four years of age, they are called colts. In contrast, females of this age group are called fillies. You can technically use this terminology before the horse is of the age of two, but you most likely hear these terms used when the horses are between two and four.

Adult

After horses have reached their fourth birthday, they are finally adults. At that point, males are called stallions and females are called mares. If the male is castrated, it will be called a gelding. Males used for breeding are called studs, whereas females for breeding are called broodmares.

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More Information About Foals

foal
Image Credit: rihaij, Pixabay

Foals are actually quite interesting. Here are some fun facts about foals and horse breeding:

  • Foals can start walking one hour after birth.
  • Most horses are over the age of two before they are ridden.
  • The horse’s gestation cycle is eleven months long.
  • Breeders try to have their foals born as closely to the beginning of the year as possible.
  • A horse’s age is calculated by using January 1st as its universal birthday.
  • If the mother is having a difficult birth, that is called dystocia, and it can lead to the mother’s and the baby’s death, as well as a barren future if she survives.
  • Foals and ponies are not the same thing.

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Final Thoughts

If you want to refer to all baby horses under the age of one, you simply call them a foal. As the horse ages, the terminology transitions from a weanling to a yearling. Then, you start hearing gender-specific terms, such as colt, filly, stallion, stud, gelding, mare, and broodmare.

If you aren’t using these terms perfectly, don’t worry. These terms are used much more fluidly than you would expect. What matters most is that you know when a horse has reached adulthood. Adulthood is when the horse can reproduce and race.

So long as you don’t say “baby horse” and opt for the more correct term “foal” instead, most people will not ask questions or raise any eyebrows about the terminology used.

SEE ALSO: 32 Best Songs About Horses


Featured Image Credit: Maria Junge Fotografie, Shutterstock

Oliver Jones

Oliver (Ollie) Jones - A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his master's degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.