A small number of horse breeds grow extra-long hairs below their knees and hocks, sometimes covering their hooves completely.
However, these animals exist, and the feathers around their hooves give the horse an extra layer of warmth. Besides, hairy breeds also have long flowing manes and thick coats.
Most feathered horses and ponies are draft animals. Some of the most popular breeds include Friesians, Clydesdales, Gypsy Vanners, and Dales Ponies. All these equines are quite attractive when they prance and if well-groomed.
There is no doubt that furry horses with feathers catch the eye, especially if they are well-groomed and prancing like a showy dancer. There are those of us that love feathered horses while others spend hours trimming away every vestige of hair from their horses’ legs.
Why Do Some Horse Breeds Have Feathered Hooves ?
A few horse breeds evolved to grow feathers around their hooves. However, the hair layer isn’t for decorative purposes but has a double role. First, it keeps equine legs warm during harsh weather, and second, it drives water further from the heels.
These features were essential for horses living in humid and cold climates. Hair also protected their lower legs from sharp edges and brambles when roaming rocky terrains or thick bushes. Besides physical injuries, dense coats regulate the body temperature and reflect harmful UV light.
More so, all feathered breeds have the gene that gives them feathers. The reason why some have light feathering is a result of lower bone density. Conversely, Clydesdales or Shires have plenty of hair due to denser bones. Thanks to the cold-bloodedness, such horses are calmer and less erratic.
Horse Breeds With Long Hair and Feathered Feet.
Knowing the origin and characteristics of various horses can help you decide what’s best for your stables. Below is an overview of the most renowned equine breeds with furry feet.
Friesians are the movie stars of the horse world, often seen in advertisements in their solid black color. They also have a proud head carriage with very thick flowing manes and tails, and exorbitant feathers flowing around their legs.
The Friesian horse is strong and boasts high stepping levels with a proud bearing and medium height. Thanks to its incredible maneuverability, the breed was one of the most commonly used in wars. They are also calm and can get easily trained. In the present, Friesians are typically a ‘show’ type.
Many people now recognize Clydesdale horses because of their role as the high-profile Budweiser beer wagon team. The adorable TV adverts featuring the breed have enchanted viewers around the world.
Clydesdales originated from the River Clyde area in Scotland at the beginning of the 19 century. This draft breed got entrusted with the duty of carts and wagons pulling on cobblestone roads in the winter. Hence, the primary role of heavily-haired legs was to protect them from the ice and snow.
As cold-blooded species, Clydesdale horses are gentle, docile, and well-mannered.
Most Clydesdale horses are a solid black or bay color. Owners can often spot white markings on their hocks and knees. Equine enthusiasts who seek a fancy appearance go for chestnuts with white feet and a white stripe on the forehead.
Shires also come from Britain and are showy horses with distinctive looks. The tallest horse of all times as recoded by Guinness was indeed a Shire gelding Sampson. Later renamed Mammoth, he was 7 feet and 2.5 inches high.
Shires are muscular, and hence, could pull carts and drays full of beer to taverns. These equines also did multiple other tasks, including plodding canals, clearing farmlands, and towing boats. The most common coat colors include black, brown, grey, and bay, with white marks.
4- Gypsy Vanner
As its name suggests, Gypsy Vanners were bred initially by the Romani travelers of Britain and Ireland. The Romani essentially chose their horses and ponies from those suitable to pull their various living quarters. Cobs often fit the bill.
In keeping with their beautifully decorated vardoes, the Romani liked their cobs to be distinctive and eye-catching. Colored or black and white horse breeds such as piebalds and skewbalds are commonly sought after.
5- Fell Ponies
As a furry breed native to the northern parts of England, Fell Ponies share genes with the extinct Galloway relative. This country horse served versatile purposes like riding, towing, and agricultural work. Some evidence shows that Fell Ponies date back from Roman times.
Like many country breeds, Fell ponies were bred for versatility – riding, driving, and light agricultural work. The fluffy breed’s genetics possibly go back to Roman times when the soldiers patrolled Hadrian’s Wall.
Fells are characterized by their stamina, intelligence, hardiness, and wiliness to work regardless of conditions. As sturdy pack ponies, they carried heavy loads of iron, copper, and lead ore as well as slate. Their energy-efficient walk meant they could cover long distances, up to 390 km in a week.
The Fell pony breed generally occurs in solid colors such as black, brown, bay, or grey.
6- Dales Pony
Like the Fell Pony, Dales is another fluffy horse breed that originated in northern England in the Yorkshire Dales area. Similar to the Fell, the Galloway pony features in its ancestry.
Today, this breed participates in show events, such as dressage, jumping, cross-country, and trail. Known for their tranquilness and kindness, these horses are excellent rides for kids and adults. Besides, they are diligent workers and eager to compete.
As for coat color, most Dales Ponies come in black, but also in brown, grey, bay, and roan shades. A star or a snip is the only white marking this breed can have on the head. White muzzles, stripes, and blazes are off-limits.
7- Swedish Northern Horse
These small draft horses originated in Sweden but can also be found in Finland, Norway, and Estonia.
The Ardennes region is the home of a horse species that seems to be the oldest known to Europe. Some chronicles witness that Ardennes were present in Ancient Rome and that Caesar and Napoleon went into battles with them. Besides war, these heavy-boned equines did vital agricultural work.
Ardennes horses are about 16 hands tall, and the most prevalent colors are bay and roan. Since they originated in harsh climates, Ardennes boast thick feathering around the feet. The breed is human-oriented and excellent for beginners and relaxing trails.
9- Australian Draft
The Australian Draft appeared thanks to the crossing of four draft breeds found in Europe. The animal has exceptional strength and calm temper, and thus, is perfect for hard work and equestrian sports.
Due to extensive crossbreeding, this animal comes in various body types and colors, including black, brown, grey, white, and roan. The average height of Austrian Draft horses is about 17 hands. Owners find them most suitable for pulling and riding purposes.