Why Are They Called Quarter Horses? The World’s Fastest Horse

Quarter horses are wonderful. They are one of the most common horse breeds across the United States. But how did they get their name?

Why Are They Called Quarter Horses?

The name “Quarter Horses” originates from their ability to run a quarter-mile really fast. They are one of the fastest horse breeds over short distances because they are strong and built for speed.

But there are a lot more interesting things to say.

Let’s dig a bit deeper and take a close look at some of the amazing facts about Quarter horses.

How The Quarter Horse Got Its Name

American Quarter horse on the field

As we mentioned above, the origin of the name “Quarter horses” goes back to the old days of racing a quarter a mile as fast as possible.

Back in the late 17th century horses were often being raced over a quarter-mile distance. People have always loved speed and fast horses are no exception. It’s a great feeling to raise over the field on the back of the horse.

When people were racing horses they would typically do so overstretch off a quarter-mile. So people would specifically breed these horses to become as fast as possible and very good at accelerating. They wanted them to be able to gain speed fast as that is a big advantage in was as well as working with cattle.

Quarter-mile races were very popular around Rhode Island and Virginia.

The Quarter horses we find today are a little shorter than the Quarter horses people used to race back in the days. They have bigger muscles and brought her chest. This is also one of the main reasons they are so extremely easy to ride.

Here you can read several other things Quarter horses do really well and reasons why people love quarter horses.

Just How Fast Can They Go?

Quarter horses have been known to run faster than breeds over a quarter-mile stretch. They can reach speeds as fast as 55 mph (89 km/h). They accelerate faster and they have a very high top speed.

This is incredibly fast and not something you do on your first rodeo!

But then not only the fastest horse around they are also the fastest horse to get up to speed from a standing start. When the horses are lined up against each other it’s really important that the horse is able to gain momentum really fast.

When you’re observing a racehorse you need to focus on three parts of the race:

  1. The initial acceleration from the standing still position (beginning)
  2. To acceleration toward top speed (the middle)
  3. The endurance of the horse (the end)

The quarter horse outperforms all other breeds in all three categories here. This makes them superior and the reason why they are often winning the races.

That being said, you can definitely train other breeds of horses to race really well. It’s not only a matter of genetics and how the horses built, but it also has a lot to do with training the horse. It needs to get motivated and it needs to train a lot just as you and I would have to train hard in order to win a running race.

We also have a very interesting article here entirely dedicated to racehorses and gender. As it tends out, horseracing is one of the only sports where males and females are racing side-by-side.

They are also fast at other things such as…

Good running short distances is not the only thing that quarter horses can do really fast.

They are also incredibly agile when it comes to turning around and changing direction. Therefore they are often used for rodeos. As you can imagine, you need it really flexible and fast horse when it comes to doing rodeo competitions.

The horse needs to be able to move and twist its body in all kinds of directions in order to throw off the rider as quickly as possible. The more flexible the horses are, the more fun it is to ride at the rodeo.

This is why you typically find Quarter horses at the rodeo.

They are also amazingly good with the cattle. When you’re working with cattle you also need to be able to turn around really fast. Whenever a flock of cattle is moving in the wrong direction you need to get there quickly. On top of that, people working with cattle have a lot of things to do so they prefer fast sprinters as well.

Quarter Horses Are The World’s Fastest Horse

On the race track and there’s no doubt about it. The Quarter horses are generally the fastest horse breed on the planet. They are simply built differently with a more sleek and muscular body.

Over the years, people have tested them many times to find out that they are indeed the world’s fastest horse. They have stronger hind legs, as we will look at in a second.

Other horse breeds that are really great and racing include:

  • Thoroughbreds
  • Arabian horses
  • Appaloosa
  • Friesians

Let’s take a look at exactly why they are faster and how they are built differently than other horse breeds.

Why Are Quarter Horses Faster Than Other Breeds?

The quarter horses we find today are built a little differently than other breeds.

They tend to have stronger legs and a more muscular appearance around the shoulders.

The hind legs are especially strong and this is very important when you need to accelerate as fast as possible. It gives the horse an explosive start on the race track.

Other than that it’s important to mention that the quarter horses have long and flexible legs with very strong muscles. That’s also why they can work all day in the field with the cattle or around the farm.

That’s why they are fast printers and not only have a high top speed.

Comparing Quarter horses to Thoroughbreds

Quarter horses vs. Thoroughbreds

When we take a look at the way the Quarter horses are built we see some differences when compared to Thoroughbreds.

They have stronger and more muscular hind legs. This is what gifts and the ability to sprint from the very start of the race. Other horses, like the Thoroughbreds and Arabians, typically take a little longer time to get up to speed.

The Quarter horses also have broader shoulders which might give them an advantage as well. Other than that, it’s a really nice thing for the rider as it makes it easier to hold on to the horse. This is especially great when you are learning to racehorses.

When you are training to become a Jockey you need a horse that’s easy to work with in order to avoid injuries. Needless to say, it’s no fun falling off a horse running at full speed.

Especially not when we are talking about racehorses running around 50 mph (80 km/h).

When you compare Quarter horses to Thoroughbreds it’s like comparing a sprinter to a marathon runner. That’s probably overly simplified but I think you get the point.

That being said, we also find a lot of Thoroughbreds on the racetracks as well as Arabians and Appaloosa. They can certainly also go fast. At the end of the day, it mostly comes down to training and breeding. Every horse is different and you can’t say that all Quarter horses are better than other horse breeds when it comes to running.

You can definitely have another horse breed that will be a quarter horse. That happens every day on the race tracks and it shows how many factors you need to take into account.

But when it comes to genetics, there are some advantages of being a Quarter horse on the racetrack, generally speaking.

This is the same thing with horses that jump well. Quarter horses are also great jumping horses. Here you can read specifically why quarter horses are exceptional jumping horses.

The quarter horses have been bred over centuries to create the fastest horse on the short distance. And they succeeded. No other horse breed can beat the Quarter horse on the short distance.

Where Did Quarter Horses Come From?

Quarter horses originally come from English ancestors like the Thoroughbreds. It was originally bred as a working Stock horse for the southern ranches and farms.

They work with the cattle because they had a really good understanding of how to handle the cattle and they were very intelligent. Farmers loved them because they were easy to ride so even a kid could learn to ride them. Other than that, they quickly learned how to handle the cattle and they were excellent at finding their way home as well.

But over the course of time people figured out that these horses were exceptionally good at running. So they started using them for other purposes as well.

The American Quarter Horse Association was formed in 1940 by a group of horsemen and ranchers from the Southwest.

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