It’s clear that different horses have different personalities, and most of the time these traits are dictated by their breed. However, since there are more than 300 horse breeds in the world, a horse’s temperament can also be identified quickly through its cold-blood, warmblood, and hot-blood nominations. The differences between cold, warm, and hot-blooded horses are quite obvious, as each horse type has well-defined personality traits, as well as physical attributes.
Hot-blooded horses have fiery temperaments, which is why they are best suited for racing and other athletic events. Cold-blooded horses are large, strong, calm, and willing to work. They are mostly used for the draft. Warmbloods represent a mix between the two: they are more refined than cold-bloods but not quite as explosive as hot-blooded horses. Warmblood horses are popular in show arenas.
It’s important to keep in mind that these monikers have nothing to do with the actual body temperature of a horse, or the temperature of its blood, for that matter. To put the issue at rest, all horses, no matter their temperament, have body temperatures of around 100°F or 37.7°C, which is slightly higher than a human’s body temperature.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s have a look at each breed type and figure out exactly what makes them stand out from each other.
Hot-Blood Horses (Arabian, Thoroughbred, Akhal-Teke).
Some of the most famous and appreciated horse breeds are hot-blooded, and they include the famed Thoroughbred, Arabian, and Akhal-Teke. These are oriental horse breeds and very old ones at that. If you want to find out more about the world’s oldest horse breeds, I’ve written a comprehensive article on the subject. Go check it out!
Back to the matter at hand, these ancient horse breeds are well-known for their speed, agility, and endurance. They are elegant, sometimes shorter than most horse breeds, and capable of achieving incredible speeds over short distances. The Thoroughbred is actually known for its amazing stamina as well.
The issue with hot-blooded horses is that they are hot-headed as well. They can be difficult to manage, and only the most experienced and skilled horse handlers should ever train them or work with them. Some of them startle easily, particularly during storms, and they are prone to running off or bucking their riders.
On the plus side, they are quite intelligent, and if handled properly, hot-blooded horses are capable of wondrous feats. They are expensive to buy and pricey to maintain, but they can be incredibly rewarding. In the horse racing world, you won’t find better horses than hot-blooded horses.
Cold-Blood Horses (Belgian Draft, Dutch Draft, Shire, Percheron).
Cold-blooded horses are very different from their hot-blooded cousins because they share little in the way of personality or general appearance. A cold-blooded horse is usually used for draft or farm work. These are calm, gentle horses that are willing to work and usually expect to lead a quiet, calm life away from the commotion of a racetrack.
Some good examples of cold-blooded horses include the Shire, which also happens to be the largest horse breed, as well as the Percheron or Belgian Draft. All of these horses are on the large side, often reaching or even exceeding 17 hands. While large, these horses have calm temperaments, which is why they are sometimes referred to as “gentle giants.” If you ever lived on a farm or visited your grandparents in the countryside, it’s very likely that you saw at least a few cold-blooded horses.
Apart from pulling carriages or doing farm work, cold-blooded horses are very popular at driving. They also take part in activities such as trail riding, and many horse owners use them for pleasure riding or schooling.
Cold-blooded horses are generally cheap to buy, and they are also readily available across the globe. You will find them in all corners of the world, and for good reason: they are dependable, loyal, strong, and relatively easy to keep in good shape.
Sometimes people get confused when they hear about a cold-blooded horse. Usually, we refer to reptiles, fish, insects, and arachnids as cold-blooded in direct relation to their body temperature. Since horses are mammals, referring to them as cold-blooded can create a certain level of confusion. As I mentioned above, calling a horse cold-blooded has nothing to do with its body temperature, as it only concerns its temperament.
Warmblood Horses (Hanoverian, Dutch Warmblood, Trakehner).
Some say that warmbloods are the best types of horses, as they borrow the most important traits from hot-bloods and cold-bloods. They do represent a mix of the two, as they can be quite athletic while keeping a cool head. That’s the main reason why they are so popular as show horses. Still, I wouldn’t recommend using a warmblood for the draft, or even for racing.
You see, these horses originated in Europe. The breeders there took regular carriage horses or war horses and crossbred them with Arabians or Thoroughbreds. The results were definitely impressive: horses that possess the athleticism of Arabians, as well as the calm demeanor of draft horses. While this might sound ideal, warmbloods don’t usually excel in either field.
They’re not best-suited for the draft because they sometimes lack the stature or the muscle strength, and they’re not as good as Arabians or Thoroughbreds at racing because they’re not hot-headed enough to pull through.
They can perform both of these tasks to a certain degree, but where they truly excel is showmanship. These horses are favorites for dressage, showjumping, eventing, combined driving, and some forms of hunting.
While most warmbloods were developed in Germany (Hanoverian, Holsteiner, Oldenburg, and the purebred Trakehner), there are some warmbloods that hail from Western Europe, such as the Danish Warmblood, Swiss Warmblood, Austrian Warmblood, Dutch Warmblood, and the French Selle Français.
It’s not entirely clear when we decided to divide horse breeds into these three main categories. I’m glad that we did, though, because placing each horse breed in its own sub-category certainly makes it easier to distinguish each horse’s strengths and weaknesses.
f you ask me, we probably could have come up with a better name for “cold-blooded” horses in order to avoid confusion, but their calm demeanor definitely makes them worthy of this moniker.
I hope that you now have a better understanding of the main differences between cold-blooded, hot-blooded, and warmblood horses. They are all equines, but they each excel at different things. If you have anything that you would like to add, or maybe share some information from your own experiences, feel free to speak up.