Horses Aren’t Dogs


Throughout history, there have been some epic quotes about horses.  For example, one thinks of the old “The outside of the horse is good for the inside of a man” quote that’s been attributed to Winston Churchill, Will Rogers, and probably a bunch of other folks.  You could probably claim your great uncle said it and impress a lot of folks.


Bucephalus and Alexander

There are have been some pretty famous individual horses throughout history, too.  Bucephalus, the horse of Alexander the Great, comes to mind.  Of course, you’ve got Pegasus, the winged horse of Greek mythology that also adorns Mobil gasoline stations.  General U.S. Grant’s favorite horse was a big black gelding named Cincinnati – the only other person said to have ridden Cincinnati was Abraham Lincoln.

But, in reality, over the past centuries, while are there are some good literary quotes, and a few famous ones, horses haven’t really been treated as anything special.  They’ve mostly been looked at as one of the barnyard crowd – happily munching away on their feed right next to the cows, sheep, goats, and pigs.  They were undoubtedly a symbol of wealth, power, and prestige, but for most of history, most horses were treated as just another stock animal.

Traffic, 19th century

Traffic, 19th century

That’s started to change, especially in the last few decades.  While equids are certainly important as working animals in many areas, in most of the developed world, horses are no longer necessary as means of transportation, or particularly as useful engines to transport goods for the economy.  Most folks don’t rely on horses to get to work, deliver messages, plow fields, or pull carts and buggies (at least, not unless you’re Amish).  Instead, horses have mostly morphed into leisure and recreational vehicles. Now, in many cases, they are almost as much a companion animal as they are a beast of burden.

People cherish their leisure time.  What they do with that time is generally very special to them.  So, for example, car enthusiasts may spend a lot of time applying wax to their car’s hood, so it will have that special shine; gardeners find that digging in the dirt is something to look forward to, with a prized tomato, or a blooming rose, as one of the emotional rewards. And, just like anywhere else that people choose to spend free time, horse people put a lot of emotional energy into their horses.  Horses are very special, for, among other reasons, they let us do all sorts of things to them.

Only one other animal lets us dote upon it as much as does the horse: the dog.  Dogs can really put an emotional choke hold on your heart.  They’ve probably been human companions since before recorded time (since it wasn’t recorded, we really don’t know).  Dogs let people pet them, and brush them, and feed them, and even dress them up in outrageous costumes, Dog.Halloweenwith nary a complaint.  So, too, horses, at least to a point – happily, most people do not seem inclined to adorn their horse’s forelocks with red ribbons, à la French Poodles.  (Come to think of it, horses do get regularly braided for shows, and there are costume classes in some shows, too.)  The point that I’m trying to make, however, is that while dogs and horses share some things in common, there are some notable differences.  It’s a good thing to remember that horses are not dogs, because they do and can act very differently.  It’s safer for everyone.

So, for your consideration, here’s a list similarities and differences between horses and dogs.  Do with them what you will.


1.  Both live in packs (herds).  In the wild, both dogs and horses tend to travel in fixed group with an “alpha” (lead) animal in charge.

2.  Both horses and dogs can be eaten by people, although typically not in the United States, at least not to anyone’s knowledge.

John S. Rarey, famous 19th century horse trainer

John S. Rarey, famous 19th century horse trainer

3.  You can walk horses and dogs on a leash/lead.

4.  Both can be – and should be – trained.  There are gurus in both fields.


1.  Horses are larger than dogs.  That mostly means that they can hurt your inadvertently, say by accidentally stepping on your foot (at least, it seems accidental).

2.  Most horses scare more easily than most dogs.  This can be detrimental to the health of both people and dogs (see the preceding).  Neither a scared horse or a scared dog will care about whether you’re in its way when it’s scared, but a horse can generally do more damage.

3.  Most horses are more scared of dogs than most dogs are scared of horses.  This can make for serious health problems for dogs that get kicked by scared horses, and for horses that get bitten by aggressive dogs. People, of course, get the distinct displeasure of having to deal with both of them after they get hurt.  Sort of like raising kids, actually.

Try this with your horse

Try this with your horse

4.  Horses don’t normally fetch.  Try it if you don’t believe me.  There are exceptions.

5.  Cleaning up after your dog is easier than cleaning up after your horse.

6.  Dog lovers hate cleaning up after their dogs.  Horse owners love cleaning up after their horses.

7.  Dogs are predators.  Horses are prey.

8.  You can take the dog off the leash, and it will usually to stay with you.  Not horses.  There are exceptions.

9.  Horses eat hay.  Dogs eat horses.

10.  Dogs hunt.  Horses forage.

Horse that has been pressed

Horse that has been pressed

11.  When pressed, dogs tend to bite.  Horses tend to kick.  Neither is any fun.

12.  Dogs want to please.  Horses want to get back to their stalls and eat.

13.  If your horse is fat, you’re feeding it too much (CLICK HERE to read my article on fat horses).  If your dog is fat, you probably aren’t getting enough exercise.

13.  If you make a fool out of yourself around a dog, not only will the dog not mind, but the dog will respond by making a fool out of himself, too.  If you make a fool out of yourself around a horse, the horse will probably run away, you could get hurt.

14.  It’s hard to keep most dogs out of your lap.  Horses shouldn’t sit in your lap.

Female_jockeyDon’t confuse your dog with your horse.  While some folks may treat their horses like big dogs, there are some big differences.  Those differences can get you hurt, if you’re not aware of them. Be aware of the differences.  It’ll be better for both of you.

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