If you are the proud owner of a horse, then you may wonder. Is a horse a herbivore? Their diet is completely made up of plant-based foods, and a huge part of what they eat is grass. Most of the time when you see a horse, you will see them happily munching on some grass. But some people are still under the impression that horses eat meat.
Who knows where this idea comes from because horses simply do not eat meat. They are one of many animals that do not need meat to survive, and because of this they primarily graze on grass and hay. There is no need to feed your horse meat, and they aren’t hunting animals, so they won’t actively look for meat either.
So, in short, yes, horses are herbivores. So, let’s find out a little more about what this means.
What Is A Herbivore?
The term ‘herbivore’ is a label given to animals that only feed on plants. As opposed to omnivores which eat both plants and other animals, and carnivores who only eat other animals. A lot of animals eat a plant-based diet, including insects, birds, koalas, and lots more.
Herbivorous animals do not hunt, as plants do not run or hide. Instead, herbivores can simply graze on the plants that scatter the land as they please. Unlike humans, animals that are herbivores do not make the conscious decision to just eat plants. They are not vegetarian by choice, they are vegetarian by nature. Both internally and externally, herbivorous animals are designed to eat this type of food. They are not built for eating meat.
Are Horses Herbivores?
Yes, horses are herbivores! Like we have said, horses eat a diet that consists entirely of plant-based foods, and they spend most of their time munching on grass or hay. Horses are one of many animals that can live entirely on plant-based foods, and because of this, they are herbivores.
Unlike animals such as domestic and big cats, horses do not have a hunting instinct. This means that they will not see other animals as prey, they will simply see them, and move on, perfectly content with their grass. Just because horses are herbivores, this doesn’t mean that they have a small appetite. Wild horses will spend up to 18 hours a day grazing, it is their main pass time, so being herbivores does not impact the quantity that they eat.
Horses are herbivores because of their genetic and physical design. From their internal organs through to their teeth and jaws, horses are built for eating plant-based foods. They have 12 incisors that allow them to bite through grass, along with 12 premolars and 12 molars to allow them to grind through harder stems and leaves.
Horses generally do not have canines (the teeth designed to tear through flesh), and the horses that do have canines, do not use them. It is just a simple fact that horses are meant to eat plants.
Do Horses Eat Meat?
No, as horses are herbivores, they do not eat meat. Some people expect horses to be carnivorous, but it is difficult to find the reason behind this rumor. Perhaps some people expected horses to eat meat because horse meat isn’t eaten by humans (in most countries). But this isn’t the case, horses are herbivores, and they only eat plants.
That being said, there is the possibility that a horse could eat meat. This would never occur out in the wild because wild horses know that they are supposed to eat plants. Wild horses do not have an owner, and so they will not be influenced by anybody else. They will simply go on grazing off grass and hay for the rest of their lives.
But domesticated horses could potentially eat meat. That is if their owner were to give them some. If a horse’s owner were to offer them meat, then there is the potential that the horse might eat it out of curiosity. However, they are not designed to eat meat, and so it is likely that eating it would not agree with their digestive system. Due to this, it is unlikely that a horse would eat meat if they were offered it again.
Although, as we say this, it is important to note that horses should never eat meat. If you feed your horse meat, then you are actively harming them because this isn’t what they are supposed to be eating. So, you should only feed your horse plant-based food, such as grass and hay.
What Should Horses Eat?
Finally, let’s take a look at some of the things that horses should eat as part of their herbivorous diet. If you are the owner of a horse, then this is what you should be feeding them.
The main component of a horse’s diet should be grass. As we have said, wild horses can spend up to 18 hours a day grazing on grass, and the same should be available for domesticated horses.
Grass is the best food for your horse’s digestive system, but it does pose a risk as harmful plants can grow in the grass. So, you should always keep an eye on the area from which your horse is grazing. In the cooler months, grass should be swapped to hay, and it should be readily available for your horse. But it is much more filling, so your horse will likely eat less.
You can then add things such as fruit, vegetables, concentrates, and salt to your horse’s diet. You should avoid fruits that have stones and vegetables that could lead to gassiness. If your horse is competing, young, old, pregnant, or nursing, you should also supply them with an ample amount of oats, barley, and other grains like this. Finally, treat your horse to some salt because they absolutely love this.
In short, yes, horses are herbivores. Due to this, they should eat a diet consisting entirely of plant-based food, including grass, hay, fruit, vegetables, grains, and salt. In this guide, we’ve taken a look at why horses are herbivores, and lots more.