Hot, Cold, Warm Blooded Horses Explained: What They Mean

Coldblood Hotblood Warmblood Horses

Are horses warm-blooded or cold-blooded animals? Do horses have different blood temperatures? 

I know when I was first learning about horses and I heard the term “coldblood,” I was so confused because it didn’t make sense that horses could be cold-blooded animals like reptiles.

Horses are in fact mammals, so they are obviously warm-blooded animals. So what does it mean for a horse to be “hot,” “cold,” or “warm” blooded?

There seems to be much debate on what defines a horse as a warmblood, a coldblood, or a hotblood.

These ideas come from all over, including websites, magazines, books, equine organizations, and people’s opinions. 

I feel like I have gone down rabbit hole after rabbit hole in search of answers. On the internet, there is a lot of disinformation about this subject.

What I thought would be easy answers turned out to be harder and more work than I thought.

In this article, I am going to do my best to explain just what these “blood horse” terms mean.

So the next time you hear “coldblood,” “warmblood,” or “hotblood” horses, you will have a better understanding of what they mean.

What Does Hot, Cold and Warm Blooded Horses Mean

What Does Hot, Cold and Warm Blooded Horses Mean? 

The terms “hotblood,” “coldblood,” and “warmblood” are loosely used to categorize different types of horses based on temperament and general physical appearance.

Although, It is argued that not all horses and ponies fall into these three specific categories.

Also, I have found that “warmblood” can have dual meanings. 

  1. Warmblood as a temperament from crossing a hotblood with a coldblood, or another warmblood.

  1. Warmblood as a specific group of breeds refined and developed for athletic sport horses.

Warmblood can mean a mix of hotblood and coldblood horse types and is not always a specific breed. 

For example, a warmblood can be a coldblood crossed with a warmblood or hotblood. It would be considered a warmblood type in temperament, but not a warmblood breed.  

Warmblood can also refer to specific types of warmblood breeds that were bred for excellence as sport and competition horses in Europe. 

Only a certain number of horse breeds can be called true warmblood breeds. 

The ancestors of warmblood horses were often coldblood horses that were improved over time by hotblood breeds to make them more athletic and sporty. 

The origin and makeup are, however, different for each specific warmblood breed.

Why Are Horses Called Cold Blooded, Hot Blooded Or Warm Blooded

Why Are Horses Called Cold Blooded, Hot Blooded Or Warm Blooded?

It has been speculated that these “blood horse” terms came from their temperament as well as the environment they originated from.

Temperament descriptions for hot, cold, and warm-blood horses: 

  • Hotbloods tend to be hot headed, feisty, and sensitive. 

  • Most coldblood horses are calm, cool, and less reactive.

  • Warmbloods fit in between and can range from more energetic and sensitive to more laid-back and lazy. A warm temperament perhaps.

Environment origins for hot, cold, and warm-blood horses:

  • Coldbloods originated from colder, harsher climates. 

  • Hotbloods were developed in warm to desert-like areas. 

  • Warmbloods were developed in the European regions but were influenced by both hotblood and coldblood horses.

Types Of Horses

Horses and ponies fall into two groups: horse breeds and types.

There are different ways to group horses by type. But there are four main horse types that all horses can fall under, and then subcategories under those.

While the actual origins of horse types are unknown, there are many theories as to where they originated from.

The two earliest types of horses, according to current knowledge, are hot-blooded and cold-blooded. Warmblood, pony, and miniature breeds are said to have branched from these two throughout time.

Four Main Horse Types

Search on the internet, and you will find different information on the main horse types depending on your source. 

However, after years of learning and falling down rabbit holes, I have come to the best conclusion that these are the four main types of horses.

The four main types of horses are heavy horses, light horses, ponies, and miniature horses, which are all categorized by size (height and body build.)

The other types are subcategories that can fall under these.

  1. Heavy Horse
  2. Light Horse
  3. Pony
  4. Miniature Horse 

Where Do Hot, Cold, and Warm Blooded Horses Fit Among The Four Main Horse Types?

Coldbloods fall under the “heavy horse” type. Warmbloods and hotbloods are both light horse types.

  • Cold-blood- heavy horse
  • Hot-blood – light horse
  • Warmblood- light horse 

Hot, Cold And Warm-blood Comparison

Hot, Cold And Warm-blood Comparison Chart

Type Temperament Environment Characteristics Most Common Uses Breed Examples
Hotblood hot head, feisty and sensitive warm, desert-like climates Slender athletic build, long neck and long limbs, smaller hooves. Racing, endurance Arabian
Akhal Teke
Coldblood calm and cool, laid back cold, harsh climates Large stocky build. Thick strong neck.
Big boned legs and large hooves. Thick coat, mane and tail. Sometimes feathering on legs.
Farming & Forestry work, hauling heavy loads Clydesdale
Suffolk Punch
Warmblood ranges from energetic and sensitive to laid back and lazy originated in Europe Good sized bone. Medium sized hooves. Strong hind quarters. Thick mane and tail. All levels and types of equestrian sports

Dutch Warmblood

What Are Hot Blooded Horses

What Are Hot Blooded Horses?

Hot-blooded horses are known to be high-energy and bred for speed and stamina. They have straight or dished heads, slender bodies, thin necks, dainty legs but strong tendons, smaller hooves, and a high-set tail.

They are thin skinned and have a very short coat. Even in the winter it doesn’t grow out very much. Horses of this type tend to be very smart, quick learners, and adaptable, but they also tend to be more nervous, sensitive and spirited than other horses.

They are light riding horses ranging from 800 to 1,200 pounds. In terms of height, they are in the medium range, measuring 14 to 17 hands at the withers.

Before moving on the origin of hotbloods you should know there is another meaning using the term “hot” with horses which you should known about.

So hotblood is a term used for the breed type but “hot” is a term used to talk about a horse’s behavior as well.

When a horse is acting “hot” that means they being difficult to handle and are full of extra energy.

A certain horse could also be a “hot horse” as their general temperament despite the fact that, they may not be a hotblood breed.

In another instance horses can act “hot” even if it is not there typical behavior, due to different changes.

For example stress hormone changes, changes in feed, changes in amount of time spent outside, changes in exercise routine, changes in environment and more.

Origins Of Hot Blood Horses

Origins Of Hot Blood Horses

Hotblood horses, which can be traced back to North Africa and the Middle East, were highly prized by nomadic clans.

Because of the close bond between man and horse, these breeds are said to be the most intelligent of horses.

Hotblood horse breeds got their names from their fiery personalities and the hot desert areas where they came from. This was an ideal place to develop light, fast horses with tremendous stamina.

This type of horse has a lot of Arab ancestry, which can be seen in their beautiful heads and lively personalities.

Hot-blooded horses were highly valued in Western nations throughout the Middle Ages. Western powers eventually sold or captured hotblood horses. Through battle and trade, the number of hotbloods gradually increased across Europe, and additional breeding stables began to be established.

Some of the first hotblood stallions in the UK were taken from Aleppo, Syria, because only certain people were allowed to buy pure-bred Arabs.

The Byerley Turk, a founding sire for Thoroughbreds, is said to have been stolen at the Siege of Buda in 1686.

Over the course of horse breeding’s history, hotbloods have been bred with coldbloods to improve their looks and shape, as well as their speed and athleticism.

Hot Blooded Horse Breeds

Hot Blooded Horse Breeds

The Hotblood type has the smallest group of horse breeds.

Hot blooded horse breeds include the Arabian, Thoroughbred, Akhal-Teke, Barb, and other crosses between these breeds.

One common hotblood cross is called the Anglo-Arabian. This horse is a cross between a thoroughbred and an Arabian.

To create the modern thoroughbred, local British horse breeds were crossed with horses from the Middle East and Asia, namely the Arabian, Barb, and Turkish horse breeds.

Akhal-Teke have a distinctive glimmering coat and are very beautiful. They are the modern relatives of the Turkoman horses.

Most of todays horse breeds have some Thoroughbred or Arabian genetics in them.

Is A Quarter Horse A Hot Blood?

American Quarter Horses are neither hotbloods nor coldbloods; they are, however, the descendants of hotblood and coldblood breeds, making them a warmblood type.

Some argue that Quarter Horses are not a warmblood horse breed because they lack the necessary coldblood genetics.

It is true that Quarter Horses are not considered a warmblood horse breed, however, they are a warmblood by type because they are not pure hotblood and do have some coldblood mixed into the breed.

Are Andalusian Horses Hot Blooded?

Some say Andalusians also known as Iberian horses are hotbloods because of their purity but more often they are thought of as warmbloods.

Andalusians are not considered a classic warmblood breed anymore; they are better known as baroque horses. However, they were once thought to be Europe’s first warmblood.

Though officially not a warmblood breed, Andalusian horses are a warmblood type. Andalusian horses were crossed with East Asian hotblood horses and Northern European coldblood horses.

The Romans brought the Camargue horse, the Arabs brought the Oriental horse, and the Goths brought the Gotland. All of these horses were added to the Andalusian gene pool.

Thus, it has been suggested that the Andalusian was the first European “warmblood,” a cross between heavy European and lighter Oriental horses.

Common Uses For Hot Blood Horses

Common Uses For Hot Blood Horses

Thoroughbreds and Arabs have long been tied to horse racing. Thoroughbreds are preferred for short-distance horse racing, whereas Arabs are the top choice for endurance events of up to 100 miles per day.

Thoroughbreds thrive in eventing because of their speed and stamina.

Because they are versatile and intelligent, hotblood horses can take part in all kinds of equestrian sports, from jumping and polo to dressage and western disciplines.

There is high demand for Arabian and Thoroughbred horses due to their unique traits, and groups that help retrain horses that used to race have had a lot of success.

Arabs also have their own hugely popular horse shows and associations.

Their refined conformation and beautiful heads also make hotbloods popular bloodlines for producing show hacks, crossbreeds, and show ponies.

What Are Cold Blooded Horses?

What Are Cold Blooded Horses?

Cold-blooded horses are often referred to as draft horse breeds or work horse breeds. Their powerful hindquarters, large bone structure, dinner plate-sized hooves, and often abundant feathering on the legs make them easy to identify. 

They are the tallest and heaviest of all the horse types. A typical cold-blood horse can be anywhere from 16 to 19 hands tall and weigh anywhere from 400 to 2,000 pounds. 

But the world’s largest cold-blood horse was even bigger, standing 21.2 hands tall and weighing a whopping 3,360 pounds!

Even though they are very big, coldbloods have a gentle nature, which is why they are often called “gentle giants.”

However, due to their large size, like large dogs, coldblood horses tend to have a shorter lifespan compared to other smaller-sized horses.

They usually take longer to mature physically and are surprisingly easy keepers for their size.

Origins Of Cold Blood Horses

Coldbloods are thought to be the descendants of horses that lived in colder regions during the Ice Age. To survive in these harsh climates, these groups of horses developed their own distinct characteristics, which can still be seen in cold-blooded horses today.

By the start of the Middle Ages, a certain kind of coldblood horse had spread to Northwest Europe. Believed to be the “father of modern drafts,” this horse was known as the “Black Horse of Flanders.”

Coldblood horses have also been speculated to have descended from the ancient “Forest Horse.”

During early America, horses were mostly used for riding and pulling light carriages, but it wasn’t long before draft horses entered the workforce. 

Two coldblood horses, the Conestoga Horse and the Vermont Drafter, were created in the United States, but by 1800, both had become part of the general horse population. 

By the year 1900, there were more than 27,000 purebred draft horses in the United States. At this point, the average horse in the U.S. weighed 1,200 to 1,500 pounds because its blood was mixed with that of purebred draft stock. 

Coldbloods changed America and were used for many things, like farming, transportation, logging, mining, and hauling heavy goods. 

In the 20th century, however, there were a lot fewer coldblood horses because so many were needed for the World Wars.

Today a handful of coldblood breeds have been put on the endangered animals list, this is greatly due to the transition to tractors and machines in agriculture. Coldblood horses are not needed to the extend they were in the past.

Cold Blooded Horse Breeds

Cold Blooded Horse Breeds

Coldbloods are not as popular as the warmblood and hotblood horse breeds, yet they continue to exist in the present day, though for most, their jobs look a bit different than those of their ancestors throughout history.

In the United States, you can find the Belgian, Percheron, Clydesdale, Shire, and Suffolk Punch.

There is also a fairly new breed of horse that is less than 100 years old, originated in the USA, called the American Cream Draft. 

The Ardennes is one of the oldest coldblood horse breeds that we know of. It comes from Northwest Europe and dates back to the time of the Romans and the Middle Ages.

The Boulonnais, the Breton, the Irish Draft, the Italian, and the Russian Heavy Draft are also well-known draft horse breeds.

More controversially, small horses such as the Icelandic Horse, Fjord, and Gypsy Vanner are thought of as coldbloods.

Can You Ride Draft Horses?

Yes, you can ride draft horses. Even though most draft horses aren’t meant to be ridden, they make great riding horses for fun.

Riding heavy horses has become more popular within the past couple decades. Not only can draft horses accommodate larger or heavier riders, but they are also generally more easy-going and laid-back.

Draft horses are also often used as police mounts owing to their calm demeanor and power.

Draft horses are sometimes seen as more lazy and less sensitive to the aids, but more and more, they are being seen in all different riding disciplines, from western to trail riding to dressage and eventing.

Are Draft Horses Friendly?

Draft horses tend to be very friendly and gentle. Many people like to work with draft horses because of their kind personalities and friendly nature. 

Even though draft horses tend to be friendly, it is important to realize that sometimes, due to their size, they do learn that they can pull their weight around.

For example, if they don’t want to do something or want to go in a different direction, they use their strength to get what they want. 

Even though draft horses are friendly, they still need consistent and correct training to be safe to handle.

Common Uses For Cold Blood Horses

Common Uses For Cold Blood Horses

Today coldblood horses are still used for farming though it is much less common. Logging and forestry work, is more common with coldbloods as far as being work horses.

Today, coldblood horse competitions are popular, typically for showing in hand or for pulling competitions.

Coldbloods have also become more popular as riding horses due to their easy-going temperaments and ability to carry heavier riders.

What Are Warm Blooded Horses?

What Are Warm Blooded Horses?

The term “warmblood” more commonly refers to the classic European sports horse breeds, not the “warmblood type,” which is what horses are labeled when they don’t fit into the coldblood or hotblood type and have a mix of both in their lineage.

Either “warmblood”, typically have athletic conformation and a calmer disposition than hotbloods but a sharper nature than coldbloods.

They maintain part of the hotbloods’ speed, endurance, and agility, but the addition of the coldblood provides them greater robustness and a gentler demeanor.

Most warmblood horses are similar in height to hotbloods, averaging 14.2 to 17 hands. However, they weigh slightly more with a typical range of 1,200 to 1,700 pounds.

Origins Of Warmblood Horses

Origins Of Warmblood Horses

Warmblood horses have traditionally been used as war horses, draft animals, and carriage horses.

Warmblood horse breeds come from coldblood horses that hotblood breeds have “enhanced.”

They were made to be smaller and lighter than coldbloods and more versatile, which makes them true all-rounders. When automation replaced their initial purpose, warmbloods were repurposed and refined for sport and recreation.

Classic warmblood breeds in Europe have often been set apart by strict performance requirements through government breed associations. Most warmbloods are either bred for show jumping, dressage, eventing or driving.

Also due to these breeding organizations focus on performance rather than pedigree, warmblood groups may sometimes accept horses with ancestors from a different studbook or no recognized pedigree if the quality of the horse qualifies.

Although most warmblood horses are not considered “true” warmblood breeds because of these strict breeding requirements. They are still referred to as “warmbloods” by many because they don’t fit into the coldblood or hotblood type, and because they are still mixed with varying degrees of hot and coldblood lineage, they are technically still seen as warmblood types.

Warm Blooded Horse Breeds

Warm Blooded Horse Breeds

Warmbloods are the most widespread horse type, responsible for the vast majority of current breeds.

Most warmbloods bred for sport were developed like I have previously mentioned in Europe, particularly Germany. The most famous German warmbloods are the Hanoverian, Trakehner Holsteiner, and Oldenburg.

Other classic warmblood breeds include the Dutch Warmblood from the Netherlands, Swiss Warmblood from Switzerland, Selle Français from France, and the Belgian Warmblood from Belgium, .

Aside from a few exceptions, almost all Olympic dressage, show jumping, and eventing champions have been warmbloods.

The Hanoverian, Dutch Warmblood (KWPN), Oldenburg, Trakehner, and Irish Sport Horse are all popular warmblood breeds. Aside from Europe.

Most American horse breeds also belong in the warmblood category. A few examples are the Mustang, Morgan, Standardbred, Quarter Horse, Paint Horse, Appaloosa, Saddlebred and Tennessee Walking Horse.

Are Warmbloods Good For Beginners?

Warmbloods can be good for beginners when they have been well trained and have a calm disposition.

When selecting a horse for a novice, bear in mind that the horse’s personality and attitude are important considerations. Warmbloods are still very strong and may become out of control if they are feeling to full of energy.

A beginner’s horse should ideally have at least a few years of experience working under saddle, although this is not always possible.

Although many warmblood breeds are excellent for novice riders, good beginner horses may be found in many types, and should always be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Common Uses For Warmblood Horses

Common Uses For Warmblood Horses

After the World Wars, warmbloods have become common as both pleasure and competition horses, but they are most popular as sport horses.

They have always been good at dressage, show jumping, and as carriage horses, but now that the cross country phase of eventing is shorter, they are winning more and more at the highest levels.

 In America and Australia, warmblood breeds are even used for western riding, ranching, and rodeo.

The Irish Sport Horse is the “first cross” of the Irish Draught and Thoroughbred. They are more popular for hunting than classic warmbloods because they are thought to be smarter and better suited for long days in the field.

Meanwhile, heavier warmbloods like the Oldenburg, Hackney, and Cleveland Bay often make great driving horses.

About Hotblood, Coldblood And Warmblood Horses

Conclusion About Hotblood, Coldblood And Warmblood Horses

Depending on their breed and temperament type, horses are called coldbloods, warmbloods, or hotbloods.

Coldbloods are generally heavier and have more hair because they were raised in cold places and were used for jobs that required them to carry a lot of weight.

Hotbloods are descended from the scorching deserts of Arabia and the Middle East; therefore, they have light hair and bones, are quick-witted and spirited.

Warmbloods are middleweight horses with different degrees of cold and hotblood ancestry. They often succeed in the disciplines of dressage and showjumping.

Which type of horse is your favorite (Hot, Warm, or Cold blood)?


P.S. Did you like this article? Gallop over to:

Kacey Administrator
Kacey has been riding and working with horses since 1998. She got an A.S. in Equine Industries from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she was also on the UMass dressage team. She was certified by the American Riding Instructors Association and is licensed to teach riding in Massachusetts. She has been a barn manager and has run a boarding and lesson barn. Kacey was a working student at several eventing and dressage barns. She has owned horses, leased horses, and trained horses from untouched to green as well as retrained racehorses. For more on Kacey, you can look at her About The Blog page.
follow me