quarter horse jumping technique

Are Quarter Horses Faster Than Thoroughbreds? (Facts & Numbers)

In Horsesby Morten Storgaard

We typically find quarter horses side by side with arabians and thoroughbreds on the race tracks. But how do the breeds stack up when it comes to speed?

Are Quarter Horses Faster Than Thoroughbreds?
Quarter horses are typically faster than thoroughbreds on short distances. They will quickly reach a high top speed and they are also the fastest breed when it comes to acceleration. But each horse is different and extensive training also plays a big role.

Let’s take a look at some really interesting facts and how the breeds stack up.

Why Are Quarter Horses Faster Than Thoroughbreds?

The reason quarter horses are generally faster than thoroughbreds is found in the genes of the quarter horses.

Quarter horses have built extremely strong around the hind legs. They are bred especially to sprint short distances really really well. This has given them some unique physical characteristics:

  • Strong broad chest
  • Muscular hindquarters
  • Long agile muscles
  • Tall and smooth

There are actually two different body types when it comes to quarter horses:

  1. A quarter horse type built for working with cattle
  2. A quarter horse type built for racing

When we’re talking about the quarter horses that are billed for working with cattle they aren’t a little smaller and more robust. The compact muscles have a strong output and make for an extremely sturdy and strong horse.

Can Quarter Horses Beat Thoroughbreds?

Quarter horses will typically beat thoroughbreds on shorter distances. Quarter horses are often referred to as the fastest horse breed and they are built for high acceleration. Top speed varies a lot from horse to horses and training plays an important role as well as genes.

Quarter horses have often been reported as being the fastest horse on the planet.

This is primarily because they are extremely good at accelerating really fast, right from the start. This gives them an almost unfair advantage over many other horse breeds.

According to a study that was done by the US National Library of Medicine, the quarter horses will generally run faster at several parts of a race:

  • The beginning of the race
  • The middle of the race
  • The end of the race

It’s important to mention here that this test was performed with a standing start. This means that the horses were standing completely still when the race began. For the test also showed that during each phase of the race the quarter horses were still beating the thoroughbred.

But the fact is that quarter horses will often not be allowed in the race as many of the most famous races are only for thoroughbreds.

What About Arabian Horses Compared To Quarter Horses?

The study above also included Arabian racehorses. And the tendency was exactly the same, the quarter horses would beat them in all three stages of the race.

So this goes to show that the quarter horses are probably the fastest horse breed. Even when we compare them to arabians and thoroughbreds which are typically known for being excellent racehorses as well.

This is very impressive when we look at how many different horse breeds we find on the race tracks. Historically we have found a lot of different horse breeds and the quarter horses have not been the most common horse on the horse track. This has to do with several of the things which we will look at below.

Why So Many Horse Breeds In Horse Races?

Even though many of the more famous races are only open for thoroughbreds, we do find a lot of arabian and quarter horses on the race tracks as well.

So, you might be wondering why we are seeing so many different horse breeds on the race tracks. It would seem logical to only find quarter horses as they are the fastest horse breed around.

But we need to add some other factors to the equation to explain this.

The fact is that the quarter horses have historically been used for other purposes than racing. They have been bred especially to become great at working with cattle as well as for racing short distances really well. Therefore, we find two lines of quarter horse types, as we mentioned earlier in the article.

Another important thing to point out is that quarter horses are best over shorter distances. They can do an almost explosive start from the standstill and they will quickly reach a very high top speed. But they will not always rule the show if the race is an endurance race.

Because of the way the quarter horses are built they are best over short distances. These races are very exhausting for the animals as they contend to be up to 620 miles long (1,000 kilometers) like the Mongol Derby race.

What’s The Difference Between Quarter Horses & Thoroughbreds?

The main difference comes when we look at the difference between top speed and endurance. Quarter horses are typically a little heavier and do well for a spring where thoroughbreds are great over longer distances.

Here are the differences lined up:

Quarter Horses Thoroughbreds
Weight 1,075 pounds (488 kg) 1,000 pounds (450 kg)
Height 14.2-16 hands (57-64”) 15-17 hands (60-68”)
Speed Record 55 mph (88,5 km/h) 43.97 mph (70,76 km/h)

Physical differences:

  • Quarter horses have shorter legs that are a little more compact and muscular than thoroughbreds
  • Quarter horses have broader shoulders
  • Quarter horses have a more muscular hindquarter which is an advantage when it comes to sprinting and acceleration.

The thoroughbreds are built with long legs and a very muscular physique that tend to do well over long distance races. Quarter horses, on the other hand, have bodies that are a bit more compact. That makes the quarter horses the fastest horse in a shorter race.

The quarter horses are also excellent at rodeo runs and barrel racing due to their very muscular hindquarters. They can do really quick turns and sliding stops when they have to. This is also a great feature with you need to catch cattle that will try to get away by changing direction all the time.

That’s when we are talking about quarter horses that are bred for racing. We are not talking about quarter horses that are bred for working with cattle here. Though they share similar features.

The thoroughbreds originated from England where the quarter horses originated from the U.S. Both breeds have been bred especially for racing.

Where the quarter horse was made for working with cattle and sprinting they have bigger muscles and are a little heavier. The thoroughbreds are taller and a little lighter. That makes them the superior when it comes to endurance over long distances. It’s simple genetics when you look at it this way.

That being said, you cannot win a race on with the best horse genetically if you haven’t trained it perfectly. So, training has a lot to do with the equation as well when it comes to producing a winning horse for the race tracks.

Which Horse Breed Is The Fastest?

As we looked at it above the quarter horses are the world’s fastest horse.

You need to read this article about why the quarter horses are the world’s fastest horse.

They are simply built differently than other horse breeds and while arabians and thoroughbreds can be very fast as well, the quarter breeds are simply the fastest breed according to ncbi. They conducted a test with arabians, quarter horses, and thoroughbred horses and found that the quarter horses are faster during all phases of a race.

This is when we talk top speed and quick acceleration. When we are looking at endurance races, which has more to do with endurance than speed, we might find that the breeds stack up more evenly.

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