The World’s Fastest Horse Breeds

Horses interest so many different people for so many different reasons.

For equestrians, horses are part of their job. The same goes for trainers. Ditto for breeders. Some people keep horses as pets. Others are merely riding enthusiasts, who won’t own a horse but they might take lessons. 

Many are fans of horse racing as a sport. They attend weekend events as spectators, or they wager on outcomes at sports betting sites. Other horse racing fans are merely casual viewers; they will tune in to the biggest events of the year, like the Kentucky Derby, from the comfort of their own home.

Point being: Horses are beloved by tons of people. But how many really understand them, and what goes into their behavior and physical attributes?

For those who work with horses, it’s a given. For others, though, they may not give a second thought to what separates one breed from another. And while there are many differences, one stands out above all others: speed.

Indeed, there are various levels of agility. Horses can be taught to maneuver, quickly, through tight turns and different obstacles. But raw, explosive speed is not a skill. It can be harnessed and tailored to a rider or the horse themself; at its core, though, speed is intrinsic—something with which horses are born.

So, naturally, some horses are faster than others. A select few are the fastest of them all. You can see which ones qualify as the latter below.

Arabian

Long-distance endurance? Check. 

Incredible top speeds? Check.

Trusted horse-racing breed? Also check.

Arabian horses don’t always wield the most explosive raw burst, but their speed is unrivaled when it comes to navigating distances. Their stamina is the stuff of legend, and it’s believed to have formed over generations of evolutions, since they hail from an extremely dry climate that necessitated they exist with limited hydration.

To say Arabian horses are the most popular choice on racing circuits would be an understatement. Chances are even if a horse isn’t actually classified under this breed, they have at least a trace of an Arabian-type bloodline. That’s how much their speed is valued.

Appaloosa

We almost didn’t have the opportunity to talk about Appaloosa horses. They were verging on extinction roughly a century ago. Their line was fortunately saved once activists took a special interest in preserving their livelihood.

Like Arabian horses, Appaloosas are at their best over long distances. They have endurance levels through the roof and can not only reach but maintain top speeds for a while.

What really makes them unique is their universal quickness. It doesn’t matter what terrain they’re running or racing on. It could be a bumpy trail in the woods, and they’ll be able to hit their peak speed.

American Quarter 

The American Quarter horse is unparalleled when it comes to running short distances. They reach their top speed in the blink of an eye, requiring very little ramp-up before they max out.

Many maintain that Thoroughbreds are quicker than the American Quarter horse. Over the course of a longer distance, they might be right. But there’s no contest on flat-out sprints. American Quarter horses have been clocked at as high as 55 miles per hour. They just don’t maintain that level for long enough to qualify for the official world record.

Impressive still, the American Quarter horse is extremely plug-and-run. This is to say, it can reach and sustain its peak miles-per-hour around turns and on choppier terrains.

Thoroughbred

As we just mentioned, the American Quarter horse has a claim to the fastest-horse-in-the-world title. However, it is the Thoroughbred that holds the more official distinction.

To date, they hold the record for the highest top speed of any breed, with certain Thoroughbreds clocking in at nearly 54 miles per hour for an entire mile and then some. They cannot hold that mark for too long, and their ramp-up is more gradual, hence the difference from the more immediate burst of the American Quarter. 

And yet, top speed is top speed. No breed has beaten the Thoroughbred in that department—not yet anyway.

Paint Horse

The Paint Horse is native of the United States and one of the most common breeds you’ll find on the professional racing circuit. They are also regular participants in pageants, since the sleekness and color blends of their coats lend themselves to a certain regalness.

Don’t make the mistake of underestimating Paint Horses, though. They aren’t just for show. They’ve been known to put up speeds of 40-plus miles per hour for quite a few lengths.