8 Smallest Horses in the World

Written by Dana Mayor
Updated: October 10, 2022
© iStock.com/Alan Morris
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Key Points

  • From Asia to Europe, there are horse breeds which are smaller than your average.
  • Yet most of these horses have played a key role in the cultural landscape of the regions they come from.
  • The smallest of them is almost the size of a golden retriever!

When making a list of the smallest horses in the world, it’s best to put some size requirements into place. What are miniature horses? In order to qualify as miniature, a horse must be no more than 38 inches tall. Keep in mind the height of a horse is measured from its withers down to its hooves.

If you’ve ever seen a written record of a horse’s height, you know they are measured in hands. For instance, an owner at a horseshow may record their horse’s height as 14 hands. A hand is equal to four inches. So, a horse that’s 14 hands tall measures 56 inches from hoof to withers. Though that is the traditional way to record a horse’s height, this list is going to convey a horse’s height in inches.

Some of the horses on this list are miniature horses. Others are not miniature horses but instead fall under the heading of the smallest breed. All of the equines on this list are notably smaller than the average horse.

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Discover eight small horses found across the globe. Also, learn about the different purposes these horses have fulfilled throughout history. Plus, see how these horses are used by people today.

#8 Fjord Horses: 60 Inches Tall

Smallest horses - fjord horse
Fjord horses, some of the smallest horses, are gentle and used for riding.

©Bianca Grueneberg/Shutterstock.com

On a list of the smallest horses in the world, fjord horses are on the taller side of the spectrum. A fjord horse can grow as tall as 60 inches and weigh up to 1,100 pounds. A fjord horse standing next to a Shetland pony (also on this list) may seem tall, but fjord horses are about six inches shorter than the average horse.

A fjord is a wild horse native to Norway. This horse’s name refers to the fjords found in their homeland. These equines are experts at navigating treacherous cliff and mountain terrain.

Fjord horses are gentle and used for riding. They are large enough to be ridden by kids and small adults. Someone visiting Norway may see fjord horses pulling carts with tourists inside.

#7 Icelandic Horses: 56 Inches Tall

Smallest horses - Icelandic Horse
Beautiful Icelandic horse, one of the smallest horses, standing in a meadow on a dull summer day

©iStock.com/zysman

Picture a small wild horse with a shaggy coat, flowing mane, and tail wandering over the snowy plains of Iceland. This is an Icelandic horse. Though this horse only grows to 56 inches tall, it can weigh up to 840 pounds. This is a powerful, hardy horse in a small package!

For decades, these horses were used to herd sheep and goats as well as carry riders over cold, rough ground on the island. Their thick coat and sturdy hooves are designed to help them endure the low temperatures and snowy environment of Iceland. They are still used for riding on ranches and farms.

#6 Noma: 55 Inches Tall

Smallest horses - Noma
A Noma at Tennōji Zoo in Osaka. These small horses are very agile and can adapt to harsh environments.

©OpenCage.com / Creative Commons – License

The Japanese Noma is one of the smallest horses in the world. They can grow as tall as 55 inches and weigh up to 450 pounds. These small horses have a compact, strong body atop thin legs. They are surprisingly agile and can adapt to harsh environments. In the 17th century, they were used to haul supplies on uneven, rough terrain. Another advantage was these horses were small enough to fit through narrow spaces!

This wild horse is named after the district of Noma in its native Japan. Unfortunately, the Noma is Critically Endangered. The population of this horse decreased due to a regulation prohibiting the breeding of Noma horses. For a time, these horses were crossbred with bigger breeds in an effort to make larger horses. There were less than 100 Nomas in existence as of ten years ago.

Today, Nomas are used for riding and as therapy horses for people with PTSD or emotional issues. These horses are also seen in zoos, on farms, and in wildlife parks in Japan.

#5 Yonaguni: 47 Inches Tall

Smallest horses - Yonaguni
A Yonaguni is defintely one of the smallest horses. These horses are used by instructors for riding classes.

©sota / Creative Commons – License

At 47 inches tall, the Yonaguni definitely has a place on the smallest breed of horse list. Yonagunis can weigh as much as 460 pounds. These horses are native to Yonaguni Island in Japan. Like other small horses on this list, Yonagunis were used for farm work and hauling goods over long distances. Today, they are used by instructors for riding classes held on farms and ranches.

#4 Shetland Pony: 46 Inches Tall

Smallest horses - Shetland Pony
Gorgeous shetland pony with a long blond mane in the snow. Shetlands ponies are one of the most well-known small horses.

©Zuzule/Shutterstock.com

Though Shetland ponies are short, they are strong, sturdy animals. They weigh from 400 to 450 pounds. For centuries, this pony breed was used for work on farms and even pulled carts in coal mines. Their heavy, shaggy coat keeps these ponies warm in the freezing weather. They are native to the Shetland Islands in Scotland.

This pony breed is used for riding. They are especially ideal for small children who are just learning how to ride. Shetland ponies are easy to control and a good first pony for young riders eager to learn. Shetland ponies are notable for living very long lives.

For more on the Shetland pony, look here.

#3 Guoxia: 40 Inches Tall

This is one of the smallest breeds of horses with a very long history. They date back about 2000 years. Guoxia ponies are native to China. They were used to haul baskets of fruit in orchards during the harvest. In fact, the name Guoxia means, ‘under fruit tree horse.’ Guoxia ponies can grow to 40 inches tall and weigh up to 300 pounds.

Part of the history of this pony breed includes a long period of time when they were thought to be extinct. Fortunately, a wild horse herd of 1,000 Guoxia was discovered in a small district of China back in 1981. Today, though their population is still sparse, these horses can be found living on farms and ranches in China.

# 2 The Falabella: 34 Inches Tall

Smallest horses - Falabella horse
Falabella filly playing in a meadow. The Falabella are one of the smallest horses from South America.

©horsemen/Shutterstock.com

The Falabella horse is one of the smallest horses in the world weighing no more than 100 pounds and standing 34 inches tall as an adult. These horses are originally from South America. They are named after the Falabella family that bred these small horses back in the 1940s.

A family with a Falabella horse is likely to think of it more as a house pet than a horse that belongs in a stall inside a stable. Falabella horses are intelligent and can sometimes be trained to pull a cart with a small child riding inside.

#1 Peabody: 16.5 Inches Tall

Peabody is not a type of horse, it’s a horse’s name. At this time, Peabody holds the title of the smallest horse in the world. He is 16.5 inches tall and weighs just 19 pounds. To put this in perspective, a Golden Retriever is 24 inches tall and weighs up to 75 pounds. So, even though Peabody is a horse, he could easily get lost in a group of Golden Retrievers!

Peabody has many birth defects that account for his very small size. His original owners were told he would likely have a very difficult life and probably not be able to see. In addition, he was born with a malformed jaw that could have caused him to have trouble eating. Fortunately, Peabody can see and his jaw allows him to eat in a normal way. So, despite his challenges, this miniature horse is active and living happily with his adopted family in California!

Summary

NumberHorseHeight 
1Peabody16.5 inches
2Falabella34 inches
3Guoxia40 inches
4Shetland Pony46 inches
5Yonaguni47 inches 
6Noma55 inches
7Icelandic Horses56 inches
8Fjord Horses60 inches

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© iStock.com/Alan Morris

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About the Author

I love good books and the occasional cartoon. I am also endlessly intrigued with the beauty of nature and find hummingbirds, puppies, and marine wildlife to be the most magical creatures of all.

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