Have you ever come across meat-eating horses? It is a very rare sight, as equines are typically fond of grass and hay. They do, however, welcome a variety of fruits and vegetables in their regular diet, happily.
Although horses don’t normally eat meat and fish, there have been some instances and certain situations where they did. In fact, there was a video showing a horse eating chicks and another which showed a wild horse feeding on a bird. Moreover, in Iceland, horses are routinely fed dried fish.
If this sounds interesting, wait till you read the rest of the article.
Can Horses Eat Meat?
Horses are generally herbivores, however, they can digest meat in smaller doses if need be. As a matter of fact, many horse owners in Iceland feed dried fish regularly to their equines all through winter to boost their protein intake.
What is the first thought when you visualize a horse happily chowing down its food? Probably that it is enjoying a treat of apples, oats or celery in a bran mash, right? It is natural of us to think about how horses are living on a healthy vegan diet, but not everyone knows that horses can consume meat too! Even in our article on what horses eat, we didn’t really add meat as a common food source.
Regardless, even though horses can eat meat and extract some nutrients out of it, their digestive systems are certainly not designed to easily process such foods. Hence, meat cannot and should not be the foundation of an equine’s diet. Moreover, if some were to question you about what do horses eat; meat is something you can easily exclude as it is not a compulsory part of their diet.
A Horse’s Digestive System is not Designed to Eat Meat
Meat-eating horses are not a common sight because the animal’s digestive system isn’t habitual of accepting such foods. You will hardly ever find a horse going on a meat hunt on its own.
Now, if you are wondering what horses eat in the wild, it is still not the flesh of other animals. Equines prefer vegan food because their digestive system and eating habits are best suited for grazing grass, hay, and other plants.
A closer look at a horse’s stomach will help you realize how its intestines are larger and longer than carnivores. It is because of this, that whatever plant matter the animal consumes tends a longer time to digest fully. The slow process, thus, helps in fully absorbing all nutrients from the food.
Nonetheless, meat in small quantities is not likely to cause any problem. However, serious health issues are bound to arise if a horse is fed meat in larger quantities. In short, an equine’s digestive system is just not set up to accept meat in the long run. Furthermore, they have flat teeth which are perfect for chewing plants and not sharp enough to shred meat.
Besides, a horse can’t even vomit or flush out the protein residues from meat out of its system. This is dangerous as the building up of toxins can eventually lead to fatal consequences.
A Horse’s Diet
It is understandable for one to wonder what horses eat to boost their protein and calorie intake, if not meat. Well, for this, horse breeders make sure to feed the animal with alternative sources of energy such as grains. As a result, horses perform much better with the energy boost from grains.
A horse weighing an average of 1000 pounds generally requires around 15,000 calories to survive well throughout the day. However, if the equine is very active and energetic, its calorie requirement can go up to 33,000 a day. Besides, horses have the ability to store a huge amounts of water and mass in their enormous gut. Losing this can actually lead to health complications such as diarrhea which eventually results in dehydration.
You might have seen horses grazing a grassy pasture calmly. They can spend more than half the day doing that! As a matter of fact, horses aren’t accustomed to handling an empty stomach. When the digestive tract of an equine has no food to process, it is likely to suffer from abdominal pain and colic issues.
Besides, the animal has no idea what to do with the time not spent chewing, unless of course, its owner sets out some work for it. Horses basically relieve their hunger and boredom by constantly sweeping the ground in an attempt to find something to graze on. This can often lead to adverse health conditions too.
My Horse Ate Meat – Now What?
What happens when your horse accidentally eats meat, should you panic? Well, not really. A horse can eat meat, but it is not advisable to feed it as part of his regular diet. An equine will hardly ever try to feed on big slices of meat on its own. However horses can eat chicks and smaller rodents in intense hunger, but they aren’t habitual of doing so.
When consumed in tiny quantities, a horse’s digestive system will easily flush out parts of meat that its digestive system doesn’t process. Thus, it is completely fine if your pet snatches part of your hotdog, but it is definitely not okay to allow it to taste the meat deliberately. In fact, you should keep meat away from your horse as the creatures aren’t aware that it isn’t good for its digestive system and may want to try it out of curiosity.
Regardless, it is important to remember that horses cannot vomit. Hence, if they consume anything that may be harmful to them, it will become vital for them to be given veterinary attention immediately. Failing to take them to a vet at the right time can even be fatal. Keep a close eye on your horse’s health if you suspect it has been enjoying too much meat lately.
Needless to say, a professional’s opinion is always better, especially when the matter of concern if about the health of an animal as big as a horse.
Different Scenarios in Which Horses Eat Meat
Although horses can survive well without eating meat even in small quantities, there are certain scenarios in which their survival depends on incorporating meat into their diet. Some such situations are mentioned as per below:
It is usually during cold or harsh weather that equines develop tendencies similar to omnivores. No wonder dried fish is added to the diet of horses in Iceland. It helps in boosting their protein source and keeping them warm.
Similarly, horses in Tibet are given a mixture consisting of grains and blood to eat so as to maintain their weight and protein levels. Moreover, such additions to their food help in keeping horses healthy and able to survive extremely cold weather.
Horses can eat meat in the form of a supplementary diet, as well. A lot of horse owners in the USA and Europe add beef gelatin as well as a bone meal to their equine feed. These are known to be the most common supplements that help a horse to acquire essential fats and proteins to sustain its health. Moreover, the supplementary diet also makes the animal less prone to mineral deficiency such as Pica.
Accidentally chewing on meat or bones is also something horses do. This can be out of habit, hunger, or due to a mineral deficiency. Besides, it is not always that a horse knows what it is eating.
Horses are curious creatures and it is not unusual to find them exploring a food item just for the sake of it rather than craving. Nonetheless, a small bite of any kind of meat is unlikely to affect a horse’s digestive system.
Because of Salt
Since horses are super energetic animals, their body craves for minerals found in a good salt lick. Hence, if you happen to witness a horse enjoying a bite of dried fish, cheeseburger, or hotdog, it is not because of the meat content. The equine rather desires the taste of sodium in those foods, looking up to it as a salty snack.
FAQs Related to Horses Eating Meat
Just in case you still have some confusion regarding whether or not horses can eat meat, browse through the following FAQs to find your answers!
Do wild horses eat meat?
It is not common for wild horses to eat meat for survival or craving. Although it is possible, it is highly unlikely. It is only in the rarest of situations that horses readily accept meat, usually out of extreme hunger.
Can horses eat chicken feed?
It is not advisable to feed horses with commercial feeds specifically made for any other animal. Chicken feed can actually be poisonous to a horse, hence, it is very important to keep it away from where you spread out hay and other staple foods for your equine. Ingesting chicken feed can cause serious problems like colic, laminitis, diarrhea, and even heart damage.
Do horses eat apples?
Horses can eat apples, and it is, in fact, a very healthy snack for them. However, although apples are a safe and tasty option for the equine, they should be consumed in a limited quantity at a time.
Upon chewing, apple seeds tend to produce hydrogen cyanide which can be dangerous if digested in a high dose. Moreover, the sugar content in apples can also cause colic and laminitis in horses if eaten in large quantities at once.
Are horses omnivores?
Due to their ability to eat meat, you might be compelled to believe that horses are omnivores. However, this is not true. A horse’s digestive tract is designed to rely only on a plant-based diet to survive and stay healthy. Horses are herbivores and do not need a regular intake of both meat and plants to sustain themselves, unlike omnivores.
What do horses drink?
Unless it is a foal, all species of horses only need clean water to quench their thirst. A horse may require approximately 12 gallons of water every day depending on his level of exertion, diet and the environment they dwell in. It is of utmost importance to keep your horse’s water easily accessible to it, clean and at a comfortable temperature.
Can a horse eat a chick?
Horses can eat chicks, but will never do so unless extremely hungry or curious. As a matter of fact, it is uncommon for even a wild horse to deliberately hunt down any bird for its survival.
To sum up, it can be said that horses can eat meat, but they are better off without it. These creatures are typical herbivores that thrive happily on plants and hay. Although it is common in some places to feed dried fish to horses for extra protein, their digestive system is not capable of processing large quantities of meat. Hence, it is highly discouraged to make meat-based staple a common part of an equine’s regular diet.
In case your horse has accidentally consumed meat that has triggered health concerns, it is best to consult a vet for immediate remedies. Although it may seem strange how such a huge, energetic animal can survive on plant matter alone, it is, indeed, true.