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What is a Female Horse Called? Ultimate Guide

What is a Female Horse Called? Ultimate Guide

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The world of equines is characterized by a fascinating assortment of breeds, distinctive identities, and diverse roles. Every single horse, unique in its own way, adds a certain charm to this mix.

One essential classification that plays a vital role in this diversity is the horse’s gender. Understanding the gender-specific terminologies, roles, and characteristics gives us valuable insights into their lives and behaviors.

This comprehensive guide will serve as your detailed manual to female horses. We will explore each term associated with female horses in-depth, delve into their different life stages, uncover their roles and significance in the equestrian world, and understand the nuances that each term brings with it.

What is a Female Horse Called?

A female horse is called a mare. The term filly is used to describe a female horse that is under the age of four. Once a female horse reaches four years old, she is considered a mare.

However, there are some other terms that can be used to describe a female horse, depending on her age or breeding status.

  • Filly: A female horse that is under the age of four is called a filly.
  • Broodmare: A female horse that is used for breeding is called a broodmare.
  • Dam: A female horse that has given birth to a foal is called a dam.

Mares play a pivotal role in the horse world, particularly in breeding programs. They carry and nurture the future generations of horses, and thus, have a major impact on the traits and characteristics that get passed on.

A mare’s pedigree, performance, and temperament are often critical factors in selecting her for breeding. They contribute their genetics and maternal instincts to their offspring, shaping the future lineage of horses.

American wild horse herd with a chestnut horse in the foreground running towards the camera
Christy berry /

Interestingly, in wild horse herds, it’s often a mare who takes up the leadership role. While the stallion is the protector of the herd, the lead mare is the one who decides when and where the herd moves to graze, drink, or seek shelter.

This matriarchal structure emphasizes the significant role that female horses play in the social structure of horses.

Male vs. Female Horses: An In-Depth Comparison

The differences between male and female horses are not limited to physical characteristics alone. Their roles, abilities, and behaviors also vary significantly.

While both genders have their strengths and qualities, understanding these differences can provide fascinating insights into their world.

Physical Differences

Physically, adult male horses or stallions have prominent external genitalia, while in mares, the genital area is located more towards the rear, under the tail, and is typically not visible unless viewed from the rear.

Stallions usually have a more muscular and robust build compared to mares, although individual body structures can vary widely depending on the breed and specific lineage of the horse.

Role in Equestrian Sports

In terms of equestrian sports, both mares and stallions have shown their prowess. A horse’s suitability for a particular sport largely depends on their breed, training, and individual temperament rather than their gender.

That being said, male horses have traditionally dominated in horse racing, especially in high-stakes races. However, it’s important to note that many mares and fillies have also made their mark in racing history with their outstanding performances.

In other equestrian sports like dressage, show jumping, or eventing, mares and stallions both compete at top levels.

The choice between a mare or a stallion often boils down to a rider’s personal preference and the individual horse’s ability and temperament.

Personality and Mood Differences

Behaviorally, stallions can be more challenging to handle due to their natural instincts and hormonal influences. They can be more aggressive or dominant and may require experienced handling and management.

Mares, on the other hand, are often perceived as more calm and consistent. However, they can have mood changes related to their reproductive cycles, often called “mareish.”

Some people appreciate the sensitivity and intelligence that mares often exhibit, while others prefer the boldness and charisma of stallions.

Young Female Horses: The Filly

Before a female horse reaches the stage of being referred to as a ‘mare’, she is known as a ‘filly’. This term denotes young female horses usually under the age of four.

The Place of Fillies in the Horse World

Fillies hold a special place in the horse realm. They signify the future, the potential of the breeding lineage, and future competitors in various equestrian sports.

Certain horse races are exclusively designed for fillies, offering them a platform to showcase their prowess.

Chestnut mare horse with her black female foal in a horse paddock
nigel baker photography /

Fillies also embark on the initial steps of their training journey. During this time, they learn the essentials of being ridden, groomed, and taken care of, shaping their future behavior as adult mares.

The Significance of Filly Foals

Filly foals signify the beginning of a new life cycle in the equine world. These fragile creatures need intensive care and nurturing from their mothers and human caregivers.

Early life care encompasses proper nutrition, gradual socialization, and gentle handling, each of which plays a pivotal role in the foal’s overall growth and future behavior.

This period is also the genesis of the bond between humans and horses. The early interactions set the tone for the future horse-human relationship, influencing the foal’s future responsiveness and bonding with humans.

5 Interesting Facts About Female Horses

  • Fillies often physically mature slower than colts.
  • Fillies tend to be more intelligent and shyer 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is there a specific term for an older mare?

There isn’t a universal term specifically for older mares in common use. However, sometimes older mares (typically over 15-20 years) might be referred to as ‘old mares’ or ‘elder mares’.

Their care, nutrition, and health management might require some changes compared to younger mares.

2. Can mares continue to participate in equestrian sports while pregnant?

While it’s physically possible for a mare to participate in certain activities during the early stages of pregnancy, it’s typically not recommended. As the pregnancy progresses, the mare’s comfort, health, and the safety of the unborn foal should be the priority.

Always consult with a veterinarian for advice tailored to the specific mare and her condition.

3. Do mares have a specific breeding season?

Horses are seasonal breeders, with the natural breeding season aligning with the warmer months, usually between late spring and early fall. This ensures that foals are born when conditions are optimal for their survival. However, with modern breeding techniques, mares can be bred at different times of the year.