Top Speeds: How do horses stack up?

David Sanderson All About Horses


Though not quite as fast a cheetah, horses hold a top position in overall speed in the animal kingdom. What makes this more impressive is the ability to actually RIDE on these majestic creatures!

As this comical t-shirt graphic from Threadless illustrates below – humans are nowhere near the speed of horses. In fact, it’s hard to believe that humans can be outrun by ostriches? .. and worse, by polar bears! It is impressive to notice that horses outrun even greyhounds, which are known for their speed.

Different horse speeds by Walk, Trot, and Full Gallop

Horses speed varies with their stride length, body build, and other factors, but here is a basic idea of how fast– in miles per hour– horses move at their various gaits:

Walk: Roughly 3-4 MPH. A pleasure show horse can go as slow as 2 mph. Gaited horses– who do not trot– can do a ‘running walk’ as fast as 15 mph.

Trot: The trot is roughly 8-10 MPH. Again, a shorter striding horse could trot slower, and a horse with a long stride could move faster.

Canter/Lope: 10-17 MPH.

Gallop: This depends on the horse’s condition and athletic ability. Some horses are not built to run fast an may only do a fast canter at their best; however, the gallop is about 30 mph. Thoroughbreds, which are bred for running distance but not speed, have been clocked at over 40 MPH. Quarter horses, bred and raced for short distances at speed, can reach 50 MPH.