Horses are amazing animals, and so much more. They run with grace and beauty. They carry people and pull vehicles. Have you ever wondered how fast and strong horses really are?
Let’s compare them to other animals to find out.
This comparison becomes a little more complicated. On average, bulls weigh 2403 lbs and are 5 ft. 6.9 inches tall. Much of their bulk is made up of muscle. Horses weigh around 2205 lbs, and their average height is 5 ft. 3 inches. That suggests that the advantage goes to the bulls.
However, horses have been bred over centuries to be pack animals and carry weights. According to Ella Davies in an article written for BBC earth:” a 2008 study suggested that light horses should carry no more than 20% of their bodyweight, their heavy counterparts were specially bred for strength.”
Large, heavy draft horses–like Clydesdales and Shire horses–developed over years of intentional, selective breeding of the largest animals. Their pulling power lead to the definition of horsepower–used to talk about how much power an engine produces.
Scottish Engineer James Watts defined horsepower based on experiments he conducted involving horses working a millstone at a brewery. He estimated that one horse could lift 33,000 lbs (15 tons) 1 food in the air in 1 minute.
How does this compare to bulls? A draft horse exerts 120lbs of force at a speed of 3.6 feet/second, producing a power of 432 feet-lbs./second. Oxen, which are basically castrated bulls, exert 120lbs of force at a speed of 2.4 feet/second, producing a power of 288 feet-lbs./second. (Click here for a chart comparing the powers of various animals).
According to the numbers, then, draft horses are technically stronger than bulls. Still, the energy of a charging bull is more than 4 tons–so a bull can definitely harm a lighter horse and/or a human.
In terms of speed, the fastest Quarter Horse (the fastest equine sprinter) was clocked at 55 mph. The fastest race time for a thoroughbred is 44 mph. An average horse, that isn’t bred for racing gallops at about 27 mph.
The average top speed of a bull is about 25 mph, so they are generally slower than horses. However, this also depends on circumstances. An angry bull runs faster, and can turn on a dime, thus making them truly dangerous animals.
When running with the bulls (as they do at Pamplona’s San Fermin festival) the bulls average about 15 mph.
Donkeys lose in the power competition with draft horses. Their power is equal to 108 ft.-lbs./second.
However, is it really fair to compare these smaller animals to their giant cousins?
Donkeys are stronger in comparison to a horse of the same size. They are also sturdier in diverse terrains.
While donkeys and horses come from the same family (equidae) they are different species. Donkeys have a reputation of being slow and stubborn. The truth is, they can be fast if they want to or feel it is necessary.
An Asiatic wild ass–the fastest type of donkey–can gallop at speeds reaching 43 mph. It can almost keep up with a thoroughbred racing horse. Domestic donkeys vary in their speeds, depending on their size, fitness, and motivation.
On average they are much slower than horses or Asiatic wild asses. They average 30 to 35 mph over short distances. Still, that is faster than some horses.
However, a horse can hold a gallop for between 2 to 2.5 miles, and a trot for 20 to 30 miles a day (with breaks). Your average domestic donkey probably isn’t motivated to move at high speeds for very long.
In terms of power, the draft horse wins again. Mules exert 60 lbs. of force at a speed of 3.6 feet per second, producing a power of 216 ft.-lbs./second. However, when compared to lighter horses, mules can carry up to 30% of his body weight long, sure-footed distances. (Horses should only carry up to 20% of their body weight). The exception is if a mule has a donkey mother and a horse father. These animals–known as hinny’s–don’t tend to have the strength of mules.
Mules are actually a mix between a donkey father and a horse mother. These lucky creatures inherit the best qualities of both donkeys and horses. So this means they pick up a little bit of speed, strength, and intelligence. While mules run faster than donkeys, they still can’t outrun horses however. They are fast and athletic, and if their mother happens to be a quarter horse they will inherit some speed, but that won’t win them any races with a similar fast horse.
Zebra bodies are more similar to donkeys than horses. They tend to be smaller and weigh about 550-990 lbs. It’s difficult to tell which animal is stronger, mostly because zebras have refused to be domesticated. It’s a challenge to test their strength when they use their zig-zagging speed to escape. However, like horses, zebras are known to kick. Zebra kicks may be more intense than their horse kin. They kick with both back legs, and have even used this vicious defensive weapon against lions.
In spite of the similarities with their cousins, horses, zebras are actually more closely related to donkeys. The three species of zebra found in Africa all maintain a top galloping speed of 40 mph, which makes them slower than fast horses. They rely on running in a zig-zag pattern to help them evade predators.
Camels can carry up to 900 lbs. for 25 miles a day. Horses should only carry up to 20% of their weight each day, which means a 1000 lb. horse would only carry 200 lbs. including all the gear.
Horses are faster for shorter distances. Camels are faster for long distances. While horses can only maintain their highest speeds for about 2.5 miles, camels can run at 25mph for long periods. They can also be kicked into higher speeds that reach 40 mph. So, it’s difficult to say who would win that race, especially if it is only for a short distance.
It’s possible that cows are stronger than horses, or at least more durable. However, they are slower and less nimble than horses.
We’ve already discussed the strength and power of your average bull. What happens if that bull is castrated, which is the basic definition of an oxen? A draft horse exerts 120lbs of force at a speed of 3.6 feet/second, producing a power of 432 feet-lbs./second. Oxen, which are basically castrated bulls, exert 120lbs of force at a speed of 2.4 feet/second, producing a power of 288 feet-lbs./second.
The easiest way to compare the strength of a horse and a lion is to look at their bite. A lion’s bite measures at 650 pounds per square inch (psi). This is actually weaker than many other big cats. A horse’s bite is 500 psi. So in this case lions are the stronger animals.
Lions can run 50 mph. which is faster than all but the fastest Quarter Horses.
Wolves also have truly powerful jaws. They actually have the largest bite pressure of any of the canid family. Their bite ranges from 400-1200 psi, which even surpasses a lion. Their strength is in their jaws and they easily defeat horses.
While not known for their speed, wolves can achieve short bursts of up to mph. So in a short race, a horse would definitely win. However, wolves can travel long distances at 5mph, and have a pack to help them chase down their prey.
Horses are pretty good at fighting off predators and then using their speed to get away. For this reason, wolves who hunt horses prefer to go after the sick or weak. A lone wolf might lose the battle against a healthy horse.
Ponies and horses are the same species, however ponies are notsimply small horses. They are smaller in size, and remain small. They are incredibly strong for their size. They can pull heavy loads equivalent to those of a horse–making them actually stronger than a horse.
The top speed of a pony is 40 mph, which makes them faster than some horses but slower than other.
Reindeer have a lot of endurance, and are strong animals. They can travel long distances over all sorts of different terrains. They have been known to cover 500 miles in six weeks. They use their powerful hooves to dig through snow to get lichen for food. So, if strength is measured by endurance, reindeer win.
Horses win again in this category. A reindeer’s highest speed, especially when being chased by a predator, is 50 mph. A horse’s is 55 mph.
Moose are the largest members of the deer family, and are taller than a horse. They are powerful and can fight off predators with their sharp hooves. They aren’t usually aggressive except during mating season, when the males want to prove their dominance. That said, it is difficult to say which is stronger. Horses have the strength of their teeth and their hooves.
Moose can run at a top speed of 35 mph. A horse would beat a moose in a race.
This depends somewhat on the type of bear. Polar bears can run 25 mph. Grizzly bears have been clocked at 35 mph. Still most horses could outrun a bear.
In terms of strength, humans are definitely the weakest. Humans can exert 18 lbs. of force at a speed of 2.5 feet/sec. Which equals 45 ft. lbs./ sec (compared to draft horses 432). Unfortunately, humans supplement their weakness in other ways.
So far the fastest human, Usain Bolt, was able to reach 27.5 mph for a 100 yard dash. That is still not fast enough to beat a horse.