Horse are often classified into three main groups based on their temperament and physiology: hot-, cold-, and warm-blooded. But what do these horse types mean and what is the difference between the three?

While personality can vary between individual horses, some temperament traits are more common in certain breeds. Your horse’s temperament impacts his ideal management program and suitability for different disciplines.

Hot-blooded horses are ideal for racing and sports requiring agility, cold-blooded breeds are perfect for heavy work and leisure riding, and warm-blooded horses excel in a variety of competitive equestrian sports. When choosing a horse, considering these categories can greatly assist in finding a suitable match for specific disciplines or preferences.

This article will review the differences between hot-blooded, cold-blooded, and warm-blooded horses. Keep reading to learn which breeds fall into each category and other factors that influence equine temperament.

Hot-Blooded vs. Warm-Blooded vs. Cold Blooded

The terminology of hot-blooded, cold-blooded, and warm-blooded breeds does not have a scientific origin. Horsemen have used these terms to describe different types of horses for centuries.

However, these terms have nothing to do with body temperature. All mature horses should have a body temperature of 99 – 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit at rest. Temperatures outside of that range could indicate a health problem.

British breeders used blood horse to refer to horses with good breeding in the early 17th century. The name later referred to the English Thoroughbred breed in the 18th and 19th centuries. [1]

The 1857 book Horse and Horsemanship described blood as bloodlines that trace back to the Arabian horse through the Thoroughbred. The author contrasted blood horses to “cold-blooded cart horses” with no Arabian bloodlines. [1]

French breeders popularized crossing Thoroughbreds with heavier native horses to produce demi-sang or half-blood horses. The modern Selle Francais warmblood descends from French demi-sang horses. [2]

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Hot-Blooded Horses

Today, horse owners classify Arabians and Thoroughbreds as hot-blooded breeds. These horses typically have more sensitive and energetic temperaments than other breeds. Hyperactivity and sensitivity in horses are often referred to as “hot” behaviour.

Hot-blooded horses have fine coats, refined heads, and light conformations. They are often intelligent, sharp horses that quickly adapt and learn. Most of these breeds originated in North Africa and the Middle East.


Breeds classified as hot-blood horses include:

  • Thoroughbred: Thoroughbreds descend from Arabians imported to Great Britain from the Middle East. They are known primarily for their use in horse racing and distinguished by their tall, slim, athletic build. [3]
  • Arabian: Arabians are one of the world’s oldest and most influential horse breeds. However, research suggests many different breeds may have contributed to the modern Arabian. [3]
  • Barb Horse: A genetic study of North African Barb horses revealed links between Barbs and Arab horses. Cross-breeding between these two breeds is common today. [4]
  • Akhal-Teke: The Akhal-Teke is native to modern-day Turkmenistan. Genome studies found close genetic relationships between the Akhal-Tekes, Arabians, and Caspian horses. These results suggest that Akhal Teke’s ancestors originated in the Middle East. [5]
  • Caspian Horse: Caspian horses are a rare Iranian breed of miniature horse. Archeologists found 5,500-year-old remains in Iran that resemble the skeletons of modern Caspians. Some research suggests Caspians are the ancestors of all hot-blood horses. [6]

These breeds share similar physical and temperament characteristics.


Hot-blooded horses are athletic horses that do well in training programs that provide positive outlets for their extra energy.

Arabians, Akhal Tekes, and Barbs are excellent endurance mounts. The ancestors of these horses carried riders long distances through desert environments with limited resources.

Thoroughbreds are the most popular breed of racehorse in the world. Their speed and athleticism also help them succeed at the top level of eventing. Several Anglo-Arabians, or Arabian-Thoroughbred crosses, also compete in international eventing.