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An adult female horse over the age of four is called a mare and a young female horse under the age of four is called a filly.
However, if a female horse is used for breeding she is also referred to as a broodmare and once she has a foal, she is a dam.
Female Horse Terms
The primary terms used for female horses are mare and filly. Any female horse that is used for breeding can be called a broodmare, but it is rare that a filly is used for breeding. You will most commonly see the term dam when looking at the mother in a horse’s pedigrees.
A filly is a female horse that is under the age of four. However, some consider a female horse to be a filly until she is five.
When it comes to horse racing, the cut off age for a filly is often five years old. However, fillies can race as young as two.
What is the Difference between a Filly and a Foal?
A horse under a year old is referred to as a foal. So a filly can also be called a foal if she is under a year old.
Foal is a horse gender-neutral, so both baby male and female horses can be called foals. However, the term filly can only be used for female horses.
A mare is a female horse that is over the age of four. Mares are mature female horses that can be used for breeding and riding.
It is very rare for a female horse to be spayed because it can be a dangerous procedure. Since there is no special term used, they are simply called a spayed mare.
Broodmare and Dam
When a mare is used for breeding, she is called a broodmare. Once a mare becomes a mother, she is a dam.
Though a female horse can be sexually mature by 18 months, that is considered too young for breeding. Many people will wait to breed their mares until they are at least four to five years old.
A mare can typically be bred between the ages of 4 – 16, though some can have foals at a later age. Since the gestation period of a horse is an average of eleven months, a horse can have one foal a year.
5 Interesting Facts About Female Horses
- Fillies tend to be more intelligent and shyer than colts.
- Fillies often physically mature slower than colts.
- A mare will often give birth late at night or early in the morning, as it is safer that way from predators.
- Though rare, a mare may give birth to twins.
- During spring and fall, a mare will go through her estrous cycle, also known as heat, every 18 – 23 days.
Also, read our guides on what is a male horse called, what is a gelding horse, 45 amazing horse facts and facts about foals.