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Why Do Some Horses Have a Mustache?

Why Do Some Horses Have a Mustache?

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Horse mustaches are one of those things that look like an Internet meme or Photoshop. However, they are real and have a very useful purpose, as you’ll find out.

Commonly found on the Gypsy Vanner, they can be a gentlemanly delight to look at.

Can Horses Grow a Mustache?

Yes, horses can grow a mustache and are usually found on the Gypsy Vanners. Gypsy Vanners are known for their thick manes, tail, and feathers and it is thought the genes that cause all this hair to grow also makes them grow a mustache.

Also read our article on the long hair and feathered horse breeds.

Woman combing a horse's mustache
April owned by Lucia Urquhart

Because the gene for a horse’s hair is cumulative (more copies of the gene = more hair), certain horses will have more copies and thus, more hair. This excess may be the reason why not all horses grow them (even in hairy horse breeds), but others do.

Other heavy-haired breeds such as the Shire often grow them too, especially as they age. It really depends on the horse itself: some will have modest ones, some will go full handlebar. And of course, unlike in (most) humans, female horses grow mustaches as well.

These shouldn’t be confused with whiskers, which every horse has.

Why do Horses Grow Mustaches?

It is thought that horse’s mustache is an adaptation to help them feel and differentiate between types of grass. This allows them to graze easier in poor light and conditions.

It’s more commonly seen in native horse breeds that have to scratch about to find the best grass.

Most horses will grow them in winter and shed them in summer. It is also believed that some horses can grow the extra hair due to hormonal imbalances and neglect as well, such as excess testosterone.

Selfie with a horse that has a big mustache
Alfie owned by Joanne Priestley

A horse’s mustache might look adorable and silly though, but some people are in favor of shaving the mustache off.

As with human ones, sometimes they can get in the way, especially of work, as the horse can become bothered with the sweat running off it.

Other people let it remain. Depending on the situation, one may or may not want to keep the horse’s facial hair, but as with every horse, it’s nice to keep it groomed and tidy.

Gypsy Vanners Mustache photos

Just because they’re so funny, we’ve added some more photos of Gypsy Vanners (Irish Cobs) with some funny facial hair for you to laugh at. Enjoy!

Two horses look at the camera
Horse looking off into the distance
Alfie owned by Joanne Priestley