New Jersey State Animal
Horse (common name)
Equus ferus caballus(scientific name)
The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today. Humans began domesticating and breeding horses around 6,000 years ago. Horse breeds are divided into three categories based on general temperament: "hot bloods," "cold bloods," and "warm bloods." Hot bloods are seen as difficult to manage, while cold bloods are much more docile. There are over 300 breeds of horses in the world today, developed for many different uses. Populations of true wild horses still exist, but they are endangered. Representing power and strength, the horse became New Jersey's state animal in 1977.
Horses have many coat colors and distinctive markings. However, all horse colors begin with a genetic base of "red" (chestnut) or black, with the addition of alleles for spotting, graying, suppression or dilution of color, or other effects. The teeth of horses are adapted to grazing. An adult horse has 12 incisors and 24 premolars and molars. Stallions and geldings have four additional teeth just behind the incisors. Horses have the largest eyes of any land mammal, and because their eyes are positioned on the sides of their heads, they have a range of vision of more than 350 degrees. They also have excellent night vision. Horses have a great sense of balance and sense where the body and limbs are at all times.
Horses are prey animals and their first response to threat is to startle and usually flee. But in cases where flight is not possible, or when their young are threatened, they do stand their ground and defend themselves or their offspring. Some breeds of horses are docile, particularly certain large draft horses. Most light horse riding breeds were developed for speed, agility, alertness, and endurance.
Horses are herd animals, with a clear hierarchy of rank led by a dominant animal, usually a mare (a mature female). They are also social creatures who are able to form companionship attachments to their own species and to other animals, including humans. They communicate in various ways, including vocalizations such as nickering or whinnying, mutual grooming, and body language.
All horses have four basic gaits: the four-beat walk, the two-beat trot or jog, the canter or lope, and the gallop. Because they are domesticated animals, their behavior (including what they eat, how they breed, and their normal activities) are all dictated by humans.
Top speed: The world speed record for a horse galloping over a short, sprint distance is 88 km per hour (55 mph).
Most horses only need quality forage, water, and a salt or mineral block. Grain or other concentrates are often not necessary. Horses prefer to eat small amounts of food steadily throughout the day, as they do in nature when grazing on pasture.
Breeding interval: Annual
Average litter size: 1 foal; Twins are very rare
Height: At the withers, a foal is 60 percent of its mature height at birth.
Weight: A foal weighs approximately 10 percent of the dam's weight.
Click to enlarge an image
|Data Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service|