Horses are big mighty animals. But unlike their appearance, most of them are friendly and calm and definitely not predatory. If you are wondering whether or not a horse eats meat, you’re at the right place!
In this post, we will share with you a horse’s diet preference, a brief overview of their digestive system, and discuss some major topics regarding horses and behavioral omnivory. Let’s get started!
Are horses herbivores or carnivores?
Horses are herbivorous animals, meaning their diet mostly consists of greens, plants, and hay. In fact, their digestive system is evolved to process herbivorous diet efficiently, but not meat.
So, while small quantities of meat of carnivore diet might not be problematic, feeding horse large quantity of meat often can cause major health issues.
Also, horses do not have natural carnivorous instincts. And, the instances of horse eating meet are often when the owners purposely feed them meat, not horse seeking for a carnivorous diet.
What Do Horses Eat?
The majority of horse diet consists of hay and grass. Nevertheless, it is imperative to feed your horse a diversity of food items in order to keep them in their best health.
You can also treat your horses once in a while with fruits. Horses love fruits, and frankly, that’s how you get them to like you. Some fantastic treat options are carrots, oranges, peanuts, mango, beets, apples, pineapple, coconut, bananas, lemons, berries, and sweet potatoes.
Also, if you want a wild horse to stop being intimidated by you and display a friendly attitude, approach with fruit from the front. It actually sends them a safe signal and is a great way to ease out the tension of unfamiliarity around.
A horse needs to be fed plenty. A horse with a weight of around 1000 pounds needs around 13,500 calories per day just to maintain its body weight. Adding more jumping or more straining exercise or training to their routine can increase the number up to 16,200 calories a day.
Greens are typically low in calories. In fact, grazing on pasture grass only provides around 266 to 308 calories per pound. So, it is imperative to strengthen a horse’s diet with the addition of grains, sweet feeds, hay, and more.
Horses get their nutrients mostly from the roughage. Grasses and hays also hold plenty of water. For instance, pasture grass is said to be around 70% water. So, these food items take most of the horse digestive space.
The Equine Digestive System
Digestion starts from the teeth in horses. They mostly have flat molar-like teeth that are meant for chewing and grinding in herbivores. They lack sharp canine teeth that serve the purpose of tearing apart meat in carnivores.
Horses have twelve incisors for cutting plant-based food items, twelve premolars, and twelve molars to chew and grind plants.
It takes longer for animals to digest and break down plant-based food. So, the horse’s stomach and intestine are relatively longer. A carnivore’s digestive system, on the other hand, are smaller and shorter as meat-based diet are relatively quick and easy to digest.
Horses also lack gall bladder, the major function of which is to break down fats and store bile. A horse’s diet doesn’t consist of high-fat content. Despite the ability of horses to acclimate up to 20% fat content, the increase must be slow, and they must be given enough time to acclimate.
Also, a carnivore’s liver is able to remove toxins from the meat. But, a horse’s liver doesn’t have that function. Horses are also unable to vomit, which makes their digestive complications scary. Grasses and hays don’t spoil as meat often does.
So, while carnivores can vomit our unhealthy or indigestible painful food out from their system, horses can be stuck with it. So, a horse’s diet should be well thought of, and in case of any digestive complications, professionals should be contacted as soon as possible.
My Horse Kills Small Animals? Do They Want To Feed On Them?
Many animals are territorial. While horses might not come to your mind at first when you think of such territorial animals, they might try to get rid of pesky little intruders.
Also, if your horse has killed a small animal such as a chicken or a rabbit, it might be an accidental result of their playful behavior.
Horses are friendly animals. But they are huge compared to these animals, and their strengths are incomparable. So, horses might accidentally kill small animals in attempts to play with them.
Do Horses Eat Meat?
Horses are vegetarians, as they should be. But there can be instances when horses are fed or when horses willingly try to feed on meat items. Let’s discuss some such scenarios where horses accidentally or willingly eat meat.
1. As a Supplement
Sometimes, horse owners feed beef gelatin and bone meal to their horses as supplements. It is most common among European and American horse owners.
These food are not directly fed to the horses but are instead added to the horse food to increase their intake of proteins and fats and targeted to improve their hoof growth.
2. In cold and harsh climates
In cold and harsh winters, horses are fed meat to increase their protein intake. In Iceland, many owners add dried fish to their horse diet.
Likewise, Tibetan horses are also fed a mixture of grain and blood. Though the horses are not fed a completely carnivorous diet, the addition of meat helps them survive through the unforgiving cold of such harsh climates.
3. The salty flavor
Horses are also often found to grab a bite of their owner’s cheeseburgers. But it is believed that horses sometimes crave the salty flavor of the meat, not the meat itself.
Horse craves the minerals which they can stock up by having a good salt lick. So when they see their owners eating their burgers or meat item, they think that it is edible and reach out for the food.
4. Out of curiosity
When horses see their owners drooling on and relishing cheeseburgers, they might get curious about the food item and attempt to eat them. Also, when their human friend tries to feed them a piece or two of meat, they might eat meat out of curiosity.
5. In desperation
Horses are adaptive animals. In extreme hunger, the possibility of them attempting to eat meat, if readily available, shouldn’t be ruled out. In fact, it is a natural instinct of almost every animal to eat what is available to them in order to survive.
My Horse Likes Meat. What Should I Do?
As we have mentioned before, horses, by nature, are meant to be vegetarians. But if your horse likes meat, you must remember that exceptions occur everywhere, and behavioral omnivory is commonly witnessed among herbivores. So, if your horses seem to like meat, there’s no need for you to panic about it.
In fact, horses are often encountered to be attracted to the smell and the flavor of processed food, which often contains meat. The flavor, the sauces, the seasonings, and the smell; even us humans cannot resist the temptation and fall victim to such unhealthy food.
So, if your horses snatch your non-vegetarian burger or a hot dog or relish the leftovers you left around them, it is probably not a very big deal.
Also, a small quantity of meat, once in a while, will not cause major digestive issues in horses. The horse digestive system will simply expel the meat parts that it cannot digest.
However, your horse liking meat does not suggest that you should feed them a carnivore diet. Feeding meat to horses daily or incorporating a large amount of it into their diet can take a toll on them. Also, since horses cannot vomit, any such digestive complications might require you to call a vet immediately.
Do Wild Horses Eat Meat?
First things first, horses are not a predatory species. They often gather in a herd, not to relish on big dead animals but to be safe from predatory attacks of big cats, bears, and alligators. So, it is almost never that you will encounter a group of wild horses eating meat off of a dead animal.
However, wild horses might eat smaller animals such as rodents and birds once in a while. They might catch and play with such small animals for sports and eventually end up eating them. The speculated reason behind wild horses eating small animals is hunger and the need to survive.
Horses might also eat meat out of curiosity. While fresh foods are difficult to find in the wild, greens are readily available to them. Yet, if they chose to feed on small animals indicates that they did so out of curiosity or they simply liked the aroma and the flavor of the meat.
We hope we’ve given you the answer to your query ‘Do Horses Eat Meat?’ The conclusion is that while they are born and designed to be herbivores, they might prefer to feed meat or are fed meat sometimes for various underlying reasons.
However, unless meat-based products are exclusively recommended by professionals for supplemental purposes, a carnivore diet should not be encouraged for horses.