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Why Some Horses Have a Mustache and Its Purpose

Why Some Horses Have a Mustache and Its Purpose

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Horse mustaches may seem like a peculiarity, a quirk of nature, or simply an amusing sight, but they hold a far more important purpose than one might initially assume.

Although not all horses develop mustaches, these facial features are particularly prevalent in certain breeds, and they serve essential functions for the animals.

This article delves into the reasons behind these fascinating whiskered wonders, their role in equine communication, and the care necessary to maintain them.

Why Do Horses Have a Mustache?

While most people associate mustaches with human facial hair, horses, too, can sport impressive whiskers. These mustaches are tufts of coarse hair that grow around the upper lip and corners of a horse’s mouth.

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

The most common horse breeds that can grow a mustache are Gypsy Vanner, Friesian, and Haflinger, among others.

Not all horses develop mustaches, but their presence is not indicative of an abnormality or health issue. In fact, the mustache serves a vital purpose for the equine species.

Just like a cat’s whiskers, these tactile hairs provide sensory input and help the horse navigate its environment.

By understanding the vital functions of these whiskered wonders, horse owners can appreciate and care for these unique features, ensuring the well-being and happiness of their equine companions.

Functions of the Horse Mustache

1. Sensory Input

The whiskers of a horse’s mustache, known as vibrissae, are embedded in a dense bed of nerve endings. They act as touch receptors and help the horse gather information about its immediate surroundings.

When the whiskers make contact with an object, they transmit information about its location, size, and texture back to the horse’s brain. This sensory input is particularly valuable in low-light conditions or when a horse is exploring unfamiliar terrain.

2. Foraging and Feeding

As grazing animals, horses rely heavily on their sense of touch to locate and evaluate potential food sources. The mustache’s tactile hairs are essential for distinguishing between edible plants and potential hazards, such as thorny bushes or toxic plants.

Additionally, they help the horse navigate while grazing, enabling it to avoid bumping into obstacles and injuring its sensitive muzzle.

3. Social Interaction and Communication

Equine communication relies on a complex system of body language, vocalizations, and touch. The mustache plays a role in this communication by providing tactile feedback during social interactions.

For instance, when two horses touch noses, their mustaches help them assess each other’s intentions, mood, and familiarity.

This mutual grooming reinforces social bonds and ensures a stable and harmonious herd dynamic.

Caring for Horse Mustaches

Although horse mustaches are low-maintenance, they still require some attention to keep them clean and healthy. Here are a few care tips:

Regular Grooming

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

Groom your horse’s mustache regularly to remove dirt, debris, and any potential irritants. Use a soft brush or damp cloth to gently clean the whiskers and inspect them for signs of injury or irritation.


It is generally not recommended to trim a horse’s mustache, as doing so could impair their ability to gather sensory information. However, if the whiskers become excessively long or tangled, you may carefully trim them to avoid causing discomfort.


Keep an eye on your horse’s mustache and overall health, as changes in hair growth or texture could be indicative of underlying health issues. Consult a veterinarian if you notice any unusual changes.

What to Take Away from this Article

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