Like many farm animals, horses possess all the major attributes that place them into the mammal category. Mammals are a class of animals that share a variety of common characteristics, including the fact that they have mammary glands.
Thanks to this ability, mammals form unique bonds with their offspring that animals in other categories do not. Mammals are all ‘warm-blooded’ animals that also have three bones in their middle ears which allow them to hear sound effectively.
Apart from these specific characteristics, mammals also tend to be very intelligent, are often capable of domestication and can communicate in unique and intricate ways. Female horses also nurse their foals with milk they produce using their own mammary glands.
Horses also have coats comprised of hair that comes in a variety of beautiful colors and unique patterns. Their hair helps to keep them safe from outdoor elements including harsh rain, wind, and extreme temperatures.
Horses have 3 middle ear bones called the hammer, anvil and stirrup. In prehistoric times, most mammal animals served only as a food source for humans.
Humans also found that they could breed and raise mammals to eat without having to hunt them. The ability of many mammals to be domesticated helped to turn a hunting and often nomadic way of life into a more settled, agricultural lifestyle.
Being a mammal creates a unique bonding experience for animals, especially horses. The fact that mammals have mammary glands and personally feed their own young creates a maternal bond that begins at birth.
While there are rare exceptions, most mares that give birth to a foal will quickly begin to bond with them. Horses, unlike some mammals, like to keep their babies very close and this begins immediately after they are born.
Shortly after birthing a foal, mares will instinctively begin to lick off the amniotic fluid that covers their baby. The mare will continue to lick, nuzzle and help push their baby to stand up and nurse.
This bonding helps to ensure that the foal will continue to have a source of food and protection throughout their young lives. It is easy to see that horses have the largest eyes out of all the mammals that live on land.
The horse’s large eyes sit on each side of their head, creating only a couple blind spots but also allowing them to see more of what is around them. Draft horses are most often called cold-bloods due to their calm demeanor and easy-going personalities.
Some racing and competition horse breeds including Arabians and Thoroughbreds can be referred to as hot-bloods. Horses can get infected from the bites of cats, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and more.
Rabies is a frequently fatal disease that rapidly spreads to the animal’s brain and causes damage that cannot be repaired. Thankfully, there are annual vaccines available to keep our domesticated animals, including horses, safe.
Horses are unique, but they are still grouped into the larger category of mammals thanks to their backbones, mammary glands, temperature regulation, bonding capabilities, middle ear design and their coats of hair. The skeletal system of the horse has three major functions in the body.
It protects vital organs, provides framework, and supports soft parts of the body. Bones serve three major functions in the skeletal system; they act as levers, they store minerals, and they are the site of red blood cell formation.
Long Bones : aid in locomotion, store minerals, and act as levers. Due to their relatively poor blood supply, ligament injuries generally take a long time to heal.
Its dorsal section extends from the occipital protuberance of the skull (the poll) to the withers, then narrows to become the supraspinatus ligament. Its main purpose is to support the head and allow it to be moved upward or downward.
Proximal and distal check ligaments: The proximal check ligament originates from the radius and attaches to the superficial digital flexor tendon. The distal check originates from the Palmer carpal ligament and attaches to the deep digital flexor tendon, approximately 2/3-way down the metacarpus.
Plantar ligament: in the hind leg, runs down the lateral side of the tarsus, attaches to the fibular, 4th tarsal, and 3rd metatarsal bones. It helps to support the fetlock, and provides an enclosed “pulley” for the flexor tendons to run through.
Sacrosciatic ligament: Originates from the sacrum and coccyges vertebrae, inserts into the pelvis. Horse Skull (Unknown breed)The vertebral column usually contains 54 bones: 7 cervical vertebrae, including the atlas (C1) and axis (C2) which support and help move the skull, 18 (or rarely, 19) thoracic, 5-6 lumbar, 5 sacral (which fuse together to form the sacrum), and 15-25 caudal vertebrae with an average of 18.
The withers of the horse are made up by the dorsal spinal processes of the thoracic vertebrae numbers 5 to 9. The cranial cavity encloses and protects the brain and it supports several sense organs.
The hind limb attaches to the vertebral column via the pelvis, while the forelimb does not directly attach to the spine (as a horse does not have a collar bone), and is instead suspended in place by muscles and tendons. This allows great mobility in the front limb, and is partially responsible for the horse's ability to fold his legs up when jumping.
Although the hind limb supports only about 40% of the weight of the animal, it creates most of the forward movement of the horse, and is stabilized through attachments to the spine. Scapula (shoulder blade): flat bone with a large area of cartilage that partially forms the withers.
(Misspelled in the picture as “Humerus”) Radius: extends from the elbow, where it articulates with the humerus, and travels downward to the carpus. Ulna: caudal to the radius, it is usually partially fused to that bone in an adult horse.
Carpus (knee): consists of 7-8 bones placed in 2 rows to form 3 joints. Appendicular hind limb skeleton Pelvis: made up of the OS come, the largest of the flat bones in a horse.
At the junction of these three bones is a cavity called the acetabulum, which acts as the socket of the hip joint. The pelvic cavity is larger in diameter in the mare than in the stallion, providing more room for the foal during birth.
The largest bone in the hock, the calcaneus or fibular tarsal bone, corresponds to the human heel, and creates the tuber Calais (point of hock). There are usually slight differences in these bones when comparing the front and the hind.
Performance horses, like human athletes, place a high amount of stress on their bones and joints. This is especially true if the horse jumps, gallops, or performs sudden turns or changes of pace, as can be seen in racehorses, show jumpers, events, polo ponies, racers, and western performance horses.
Treatment of early joint disease often involves a combination of management and nutraceutical. Advanced therapies, such as Interleukin-1 Receptor Antagonist Protein (Iraq) and stem cell treatments, are available for acute cases.
^ The suspension ligament ^ a b King, Christine, BSC, Maces, and Weissmann, Richard, VM, PhD. Illustrated Atlas of Clinical Equine Anatomy and Common Disorders of the Horse Vol.