Do Arabian Horses Have One Less Rib and Vertebrae?

Arabian Horses, originating from the Middle East, are known for their muscled bodies and distinctive genetic characteristics.

But the Arabian Horse skeleton isn’t quite the same as others.

So, do Arabian Horses have one less rib? Most Arabian Horses are born with one less rib, lumbar vertebrae, and tail bone. Arabian horses have 17 ribs instead of the usual 18 ribs found in other horse breeds. This skeletal difference accounts for their shorter lengths. The higher tail set in Arabian horses is attributed to the missing tail bone.

Here’s the thing:

Arabian Horses might have lesser bones, but this majestic breed has garnered much love from all over the world.

In this article, we’ll talk about the differences in the Arabian horse’s skeleton, its genetic basis, and whether or not they face breathing problems due to lesser ribs.

The Arabian Horse Skeleton

Arabian Horses are different than most horse breeds because of their unique head shape, skeletal structure, and overall size.

Here’s the deal:

An average Arabian has 17 ribs, 5 lumbar vertebra bones, and 16 tail vertebrae.

How many ribs to horses have?

Usual horses have 18 ribs, 6 lumbar bones, and 17 or 18 tail vertebrae.

Arabian Horses have an incredibly high bone density which promotes their physicality and masculine nature. Because of this, their strength when compared to larger, taller animals, is similar.

Also, this flattens the Arabian’s back and leads to their high carriage of the tail.

Their strong backs are capable of carrying people around for miles on end. This is why they were the prime source of transportation for the Arabs ages ago.

Another major skeletal difference between Arabian horses and other breeds is the former’s dished face.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me, “Why do Arabian Horses have dished faces?”

Well, it’s all in their genes.

Arabian Horses have a unique dished face, which complements their large, wide-set eyes, and large nostrils. Not only are they hard-working, intelligent species, but are adored by equestrian lovers for their beautiful and astounding facial features.

When compared to other horse breeds, Arabians have a much compact body with a strong back and good hoof walls.

This compactness also makes them the most efficient breed when endurance racing is considered. That’s why Arabian horses have won the Tevis cup for about 85% of the time!

Long-lasting stamina, compact body, and strong bones. These few genetic traits help them rank amongst the best horse breeds with a wide variety of uses such as racing, jumping, and other related sports.

Despite their short bodies, the Arabian Horse’s gait is ground covering and offers a smooth ride to the equestrian enthusiast. Speedy pursuits are one of the most common uses of an Arabian and the breed excels at it.

An Arabian horse has:

  • Chiseled bone structure
  • Wide forehead
  • Large eyes
  • Arched neck
  • Broad chest
  • Strong, short back

Do Lesser Ribs Cause Breathing Problems in Arabian Horses?

Here’s a question you might have:

Do the dished face and lesser ribs cause breathing problems for an Arabian horse?

A short and simple answer to this would be, no.

Arabians have evolved much during their time on this planet. People preferred to have horses with a far more dishier face and thus through selective breeding, they achieved it.

This unique and intriguing nasal bone structure doesn’t produce a breathing problem for them rather, beautifies the looks of an Arabian and makes them stand out from other horse breeds.

However, a breeder should always abide by the ethics of responsible horse breeding.

Size and Colors of an Arabian Horse

Arabian Horses are generally shorter in stature than other equestrian breeds because of their skeletal structure. Most adult Arabians are 57 to 61 inches or 14-15 hands tall.

An average Arabian Horse stands 14 or 15 hands at shoulder or withers and weighs somewhere in between the range of 800 to 1,000 pounds.


Although their heights generally fall within the height range of ponies, Arabians are considered to be horses, nonetheless.

The most widespread Arabian horse colors are:

  • Bay
  • Chestnut
  • Gray
  • Black
  • Roan

These colors are also recognized by the Arabian Horse Association.

Arabians also have special white markings and stocking or socks on their legs. Despite the coat color, all Arabian Horses are black skinned.

Due to long-term exposure to the sun in the desert, the dark pigmentation actually helped the Arabians maintain their skin and protect their health as well.

Other Health Concerns in Arabian Horses

You might be wondering:

Does the lack of a few bones affect the performance or the health conditions of an Arabian Horse?

Well, it’s safe to say, no.

Despite the lack of a few bones, the Arabian Horses have a much stronger bone density, allowing them to be one of the strongest horse breeds to have ever existed.

Yes, the Arabian horse, much like any other horse breed, is susceptible to genetic health disorders. However, most of these are only because of aging and similar factors.

Arabians are still considered to be a sound, strong breed because of their strength, masculine body, and dense bones.

Moreover, they tend to have a very low occurrence of unsoundness or lameness problems.

Arabian Horse Breeding

The Arabian Horse has been bred with various other horse breeds for centuries now.

The bloodlines of Arabians are responsible for the growth and development of most of the modern light horse breeds like the Thoroughbred, Orlov Trotter, American Saddlebred, American Quarter Horse, and many others.

The purpose of cross-breeding the Arabian and other horse breeds is to promote agility, endurance, intelligence, add refinement, and beauty to the other breeds.

Here’s the best part:

Even though most of these refined breeds didn’t adopt the skeletal structure of the Arabian Horse, they have grown out to be stronger and taller breeds with much more potential.

Other than the breeds available across the United States, the Polish Arabian, Egyptian Arabian, and many others are found in the Middle East and Europe.

Although they have been able to adopt much of the genetics of the Arabians, they are much larger and taller than the Arabians with much thicker bones.

Related Questions

How long can Arabian Horses go without water? An average adult Arabian horse can live up to 72 hours without water.

For ages, Arabians were bred by the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula to be war horses and trek longer in the harsh environments of the desert.

With the passage of time, they were able to adapt to their state and evolve with higher endurance and lung capacity.

What do Arabian Horses look like? Arabian Horses are unique, both in their looks and nature.

Finely chiseled bone structure, short back, deep chest, long arched neck, and a high tail carriage are some of the most distinguishing traits of an Arabian horse.

How tall do Arabian Horses get? Arabians are generally shorter in height with a compact body because of their unique skeletal structure.

An average adult Arabian’s height lies in the range of 1.4 to 1.6 meters which is approximately 15 hands at the withers.

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