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Horse Genders: What is a Colt, Gelding, Mare, Filly & Stallion?

When it comes to horses, there is more than one term used to describe males and females. If you work closely with horses, it is important to understand the different terms used.

It may seem a bit confusing at first understanding the various phrases and why they are used. However, once you learn the proper phrases it will not only let you know a horse’s gender, but also how old they are.

When talking about a horse’s gender, you will generally hear the terms colt, stallion, gelding, filly and mare. In addition to gender specific terms, there are also general terms that can be used for both young male and female horses.

Horse Genders

What is a Colt Horse?

A colt is an uncastrated male horse that is under the age of four. Colts can be used for breeding as early as 12-14 months, though many wait until they are at least three years or older.

A colt that is under a year can be called a foal too, as it is a term used to describe all baby horses. Though all colts under a year can be called a foal, not all foals are colts.

What is a Stallion?

A stallion is a male horse that is over the age of four that has not been castrated. Since they have not been castrated, they can still be used for breeding.

Most people will only have stallions if they plan on breeding, as they can be hard to handle at times. Stallions can exhibit aggressive behaviors, although they are generally only aggressive to other horses and not people. They typically have a more cresty neck and more muscular build than geldings and mares.

Male horses that are used for breeding are referred to as studs. If a stallion has fathered a baby, he is a sire.

Close up brown mare horse

What is a Gelding horse?

A gelding is a male horse of any age that has been castrated, so he can no longer reproduce. Geldings often exhibit calmer dispositions and are typically easier to work with than stallions.

Oftentimes, a colt will be gelded between 6-12 months, as long as his testicals have descened. However, a horse can be gelded well into their teens as well. A male horse that has either been improperly castrated or never had his testicals descend is referred to as a rig.

What is a Filly Horse?

A filly is a female horse that is under the age of four. However, some people consider female horses to be fillies until they are five years old.

A filly may also be called a foal if she is under one year old. The term filly is used to identify a foal as a female, since colts can be called foals too.

A filly can be sexually mature by 18 months, but many people do not breed a horse that young. Ideally, one should wait until a filly four to begin breeding, though some are bred at three.

What is a Mare Horse?

A mare is a female horse that is four or older, though some will say five and older. Mares are very rarely spayed, so there’s no special term to describe it.

Mares are typically easier to handle than stallions. However, many agree that geldings are generally easier to work with than mares, as mares can be moody. However, every mare is different and many do have calm dispositions.

What is a Broodmare Horse?

A mare that is used for breeding is called a broodmare. When a female horse becomes a mother, she is a dam.

Broodmares are generally between 4-16 years old, though some mares can be bred at an older age. A broodmare will be able to have one foal a year, since the average gestation of a horse is 11 months.

What is a Yearling Horse?

Any horse between the age of one and two years old is a yearling. No matter if the horse is a gelding, colt or filly, they are a yearling once they turn one.

Yearlings will undergo significant growth and development between their 1st and 2nd birthdays. Though a yearling will fill out significantly, they are still too young for breeding or riding.

What is a Pony?

A pony is an equine that is under 14.2 hands. Ponies aren’t baby horses, they are just smaller and all the terminology used for horses can be used for ponies.

Ponies are the same species as horses. The main differences are that they are not as tall and tend to have stockier builds. Ponies are known to be stubborn and feisty, however, there are many great-tempered ponies as well.

Black foal horse running on grass
Foal

Horse Gender-Neutral Terms

When it comes to a baby horse, there are several phrases that can be used for both fillies and colts. Since a baby horse goes through a lot of changes in the first year, there are terms for each stage.

A foal is a male or female horse that is under a year old. When nursing a foal is called a suckling. When they are weaned from their mothers, foals are weanlings and when they are one year old they are yearlings.

Sometimes, you may hear specific terms like a colt weanling, colt yearling, filly weanling and filly yearling. However, once horses are two and older, they are referred to by their specific gender terms.

Understanding the Difference

Once you know the differences between the phrases used for horse genders, it will be easier to identify horses. It is especially important to understand these terms if you are looking to buy a horse, so you know what you are getting.

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