What is the Difference between a Quarter Horse and a Thoroughbred?

To a novice, all horses would look the same.

In the case of a Thoroughbred and a Quarter horse, they do look pretty similar.

But here’s the thing:

If you look closely, you’ll start noticing the dissimilarities.

So, what is the difference between a Quarter horse and a Thoroughbred? The Thoroughbred horse is taller and leaner than the Quarter Horse. Both horses are excellent racers, but Quarter Horses tend to do better in shorter quarter-mile races. Thoroughbred horses, on the other hand, are experts in winning longer races of a mile or more.

If you want to find out more about Quarter Horse vs Thoroughbred, then keep reading!

Physical traits

The first step to differentiating the two breeds is by taking a look.

There actually isn’t a lot that varies in the two breeds.

It is only if you notice closely that you’ll be able to spot a few differing points.

This table summarizes the main physical traits of the two breeds:

Trait Thoroughbred Quarter Horse
Height 62 to 68 inches 56 to 64 inches
Weight 800lbs to 1200lbs 1200lbs on average
Overall build Athletic and lean look Short head, muscular body, broad chest


There is a very minor difference in the heights and weights of the two horses.

If put side by side, Thoroughbreds do look stronger despite their slim build.

On the other hand, the Quarter Horse looks muscular and wider.

Both horse breeds come in shades of browns, black, and gray.

However, Quarter horses have a wider range of fur colors.

Both the horses have a solid colored body with white marks on their face and below their knees.

This makes them look even more similar.

The Quarter horses tend to live a couple of years longer than the Thoroughbreds.

The average lifespan of a Thoroughbred horse is between 25 and 30 years whereas a Quarter horse can live for up to 33 years.


Thoroughbred and Quarter horses are both considered great racehorses.

They are both a common breed in activities that involve racing, jumping, dressage, etc.

Here’s our detailed article on whether a Quarter Horse can beat a Thoroughbred – a common question by equine lovers.

Yes, there are a few variations for each in the different categories.

For example, Quarter horses are said to be consistent in terms of speed.

If they start a race on a high note, there’s a high chance they’ll win it.

However, if they start off slow, there is almost no chance that they’ll catch up later on in the race.

This is why they’re preferred in short-distance races.

While most other horses take time to speed up, Quarter horses start at the maximum.

However, this isn’t the case with Thoroughbred horses.

They may start slow but gradually, they speed up.

You can hope that a Thoroughbred will win a race even if it had a bad start.

While one starts off with maximum speed and the other speeds up steadily, both the breeds have remarkable performance.

Quarter horses can run at up to 55 mph speed whereas Thoroughbred horses have a maximum speed of 40 mph.

The bottom line is:

If you want a horse for polo games or simply for riding purposes, these minor differences don’t matter.

Whatever little details are lacking can always be improved with training.

After that, the two breeds aren’t left with much differences in terms of speed and performance.

The crux of the matter is:

Quarter horses often win shorter races but slow down in longer ones. Thoroughbreds, however, start slower but have the ability to win longer races as they don’t slow over time.

The personality of Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds

Here’s the kicker:

Thoroughbreds and Quarter horses are completely opposite when it comes to personality traits.

American Quarter Horses are known to be one of the easiest horse breeds for beginners.

But, they’re most than just beginner horses. Here’s more information on the abilities of a Quarter Horse.

On the other hand, Thoroughbred horses are not recommended for anyone below an expert level.

Quarter horses have a mellow and calm personality.

They are open to new owners and surroundings.

Of course, they do take time to settle, but they’re never aggressive unless triggered.

Quarter horses are known to be loving companions with a versatile nature.


When it comes to Thoroughbreds, they are extremely hot-blooded.

Only ride these horses after you’ve experienced other beginner-friendly breeds.

Also, Thoroughbreds are not the most accepting of strangers.

You will have to work hard to build a trustworthy relationship before the horse allows you to ride it.

Training the Quarter and Thoroughbred horse

You may be considering buying horses of both the breeds.

One major factor to consider before making this decision is regarding their training.

Horses that cannot be trained together will be a lot of hard work.

You will have to dedicate double the time to train either of the horses separately.

The truth is:

There are very few people who keep Thoroughbreds and Quarter horses together.

But, the fair few people who do take the risk claim that it isn’t that hard.

There aren’t a lot of differences in the way these breeds perceive instructions.

Hence, they can be trained together in a similar way.

You must remember the following differences:

  • Quarter horses are better runners
  • Thoroughbreds are better jumpers

Now, these basic differences need to be catered accordingly.

Quarter horses are also known for being flightier.

But, this shouldn’t be much of an issue.

Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to manipulate both the breeds on similar instructions.

The health of both the breeds

According to experts, Thoroughbreds and Quarter horses have similar ailments.

The most common horse health issues are:

  • Respiratory issues
  • Swamp fever
  • Dental problems

Respiratory issues

Respiratory health is a major concern for both, Thoroughbreds and Quarter horses.

Since they are racing horses, their lungs must always be in perfect condition to minimize further health risks.

Both these breeds have strong respiratory organs for the most part.

They are required to get relevant vaccinations in the early years to prevent any risks in the future.


Regular running further strengthens the lungs of either of the horse breeds.

Swamp Fever

The next issue is swamp fever.

It is caused due to insect bites.

Thoroughbreds and Quarter horses are both equally prone to this fever.

To prevent this terrible condition that may lead to anemia, you should use horse fly repellents.

If insects or pests have been bugging your horse, I’d highly recommend you to try Farnam SWAT fly ointment. It’s one of the few products that actually work. What’s more, it lasts for hours on end.

Dental infections

Lastly, you have the risk of dental infections.

Dental overgrowth, fractures, swelling, and other issues can gradually grow in a horse’s mouth.

These issues usually affect horses aged between 4 and 7 years.

Quarter horses and Thoroughbreds may develop these issues too.

Consult an equine dentist if you notice even the slightest dental problem.

Here’s an in-depth article on how you can take care of your Quarter Horse easily.

Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred’s origins

The Quarter horse originates from the USA whereas the Thoroughbreds belong to England.

Quarter horses are among one of the oldest horse breeds of America.

The first ever horses of this breed were known to be bred in the 1600s.

They were a result of a cross between:

  • A Spanish horse
  • And an English horse

It is said that the English horses that birthed Quarter horses were Thoroughbreds.

Therefore, Quarter horses share Thoroughbred blood and characteristics.

However, they are still very different from the Thoroughbreds due to the additional features they inherited from other horse lines.

The Thoroughbred horses date back to the 17th and 18th century.

They were bred for the purposes of speed and agility.

A cross between the native mares of England and imported stallions of Arabian, Turkoman, and Barb breeds gave rise to the Thoroughbreds.

These horses started appearing in America when the colonists took over.

Related Questions

Why is it called a Quarter Horse? American Quarter Horses are and always have been a popular breed in short distance racing.

These “short distance” races are usually a quarter-mile long.

These horses succeeded in most of these quarter-mile races and that is how they got famous as the “Quarter” horses.

Is a Quarter Horse faster than a Thoroughbred? Quarter Horses have a maximum speed of 55 mph which is considerably faster than Thoroughbreds.

However, Thoroughbreds are more likely to catch up in long-distance racing as they have enough reserve energy to sprint in the end.

In general, both these breeds are faster than Arabian horses.

What is a Quarter horse Thoroughbred cross called? The first generation of horses that are a cross between a Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred are called “Appendix”.

Most American Quarter Horses these days carry Thoroughbred bloodlines which is why both horses share a lot of similarities with each other.

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