Is a Quarter Horse Faster than a Thoroughbred? In-Depth Comparison

Are you curious about which horse breed is faster – Quarter Horse or Thoroughbred? Look no further! In this in-depth comparison, we’ll answer the age-old question, “Is a Quarter Horse faster than a Thoroughbred?” by examining their speed, agility, and stamina. So, let’s saddle up and dive into the world of horse racing!

Quarter Horse vs Thoroughbred: Basics

English thoroughbred horse jumping

Breeds Overview

The Quarter Horse and the Thoroughbred are two of the most popular horse breeds in the world, often used for various equestrian activities. The American Quarter Horse is known for its incredible speed at short distances, while the Thoroughbred excels in long-distance races. Each breed has its unique strengths and traits, making them suitable for specific disciplines.

History and Origin

The American Quarter Horse dates back to the 17th century, originating from a mix of English Thoroughbreds and horses from Spanish-origin breeds. With their lineage tracing back to Spain, Arabian horses also influenced their development. The name “Quarter Horse” comes from their prowess in sprint races that are a quarter of a mile long.

Thoroughbreds, on the other hand, have roots in England, where they were developed in the 17th and 18th centuries as a result of crossbreeding native mares with imported stallions from Arabian, Turk, and Barb backgrounds. They quickly gained fame for their athleticism and speed in racing, becoming a highly sought-after breed.

Physical Characteristics

Characteristic Quarter Horse Thoroughbred
Height 56-64 inches (14.0-16.0 hands) 62-68 inches (15.2-17.0 hands)
Weight Approximately 1,000-1,200 pounds Approximately 800-1,200 pounds
Body Type Muscular, compact, and sturdy Lean, athletic, and toned
Common Colors Chestnut, black, bay, roan, and brown Bay, chestnut, black, grey, and white

Quarter Horses have a muscular and compact body, with a broad chest and well-muscled hindquarters. They often stand at around 56-64 inches in height, and weigh between 1,000-1,200 pounds. Their most common coat colors include chestnut, black, bay, roan, and brown.

Thoroughbreds, in contrast, usually have a lean, athletic, and toned body, with long legs and a deep chest. They typically stand taller than Quarter Horses, with a height range of 62-68 inches, while their weight ranges between 800-1,200 pounds. Their coat colors are most commonly bay, chestnut, black, grey, and white.

Uses and Roles

Quarter Horses are incredibly versatile, suitable for a range of activities, from rodeo and cutting events to pleasure riding and trail riding. They are the fastest breed at short-distance sprints, reaching speeds of up to 55 miles per hour on average. They are also prevalent in various Western disciplines, such as reining and barrel racing.

Thoroughbreds, renowned for their speed and stamina, are primarily used for racing, where they can reach top speeds of 44 miles per hour. Their athleticism also allows them to excel in other equestrian activities, including eventing, dressage, and show jumping.

Comparing Speed and Racing Abilities

A older thoroughbred horse moving forward

Race Types

When discussing the speeds of Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds, it is essential to consider the type of race each breed typically participates in. Quarter Horses are known for their sprinting abilities in short-distance races, while Thoroughbreds excel in longer distances. This distinction plays a significant role in understanding how each breed performs in terms of speed and endurance.

Acceleration and Top Speed

Considering acceleration, the Quarter Horse is unmatched. This breed can reach its top speed in a matter of seconds, making it exceptional for short-distance races. The fastest Quarter Horse achieved a speed of 55 miles per hour in a sprint. On the other hand, Thoroughbreds have a slower acceleration but can reach an impressive top speed in longer races. The highest recorded speed for a Thoroughbred is 43.97 miles per hour, attained by a two-year-old named Winning Brew in 2008.

Endurance and Stamina

When it comes to endurance and stamina, Thoroughbreds possess the ability to sustain their top speed over greater distances. This racing breed has been specifically engineered for long distances, enabling them to outpace Quarter Horses in extended races. Quarter Horses excel at short sprints but cannot maintain their maximum speed for prolonged periods as their primary strength lies in quick bursts of speed.

Stride Length and Consistency

Another factor that differentiates Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds in terms of speed is their stride length and consistency. Thoroughbreds have longer, more fluid strides, which enable them to cover more ground in each step. This stride length, combined with their endurance, allows them to sustain a relatively steady speed throughout a race. Quarter Horses, in contrast, have shorter, more powerful strides to propel them into rapid acceleration during sprints, but their stride may not be as consistent as that of Thoroughbreds over extended distances.

In summary, Quarter Horses are unmatched in short-distance sprints due to their acceleration and top speed, making them the faster breed in that respect. However, Thoroughbreds dominate longer races with their sustained speed, endurance, and stride length. Understanding these differences in racing abilities, speed, and endurance is essential when comparing these two prominent racing breeds.

Muscle and Body Structure

Muscular Hindquarters

The Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred breeds exhibit significant differences in their muscular systems, especially in the hindquarters. Quarter Horses are renowned for their muscular hindquarters, which contribute to their explosive power and acceleration over short distances. This strength and power are vital components in their ability to excel in sports such as sprint racing and barrel racing, where quick bursts of speed are essential (source).

Stocky vs Lean

Comparing the body structures of the two breeds reveals further disparities. Quarter Horses are often stockier in build, usually weighing around 1,200 pounds, with heights ranging from 55 to 65 inches (source). In contrast, Thoroughbreds are leaner and taller, standing between 60 to 68 inches and weighing anywhere from 800 to 1,200 pounds (source). The increased height and leaner build of Thoroughbreds contribute to their endurance and sustained speed over longer distances, making them better suited for extended races such as those found in flat racing competitions.

Short Head vs Long Head

In addition to muscular and body structure differences, variations in head structure can impact how these two breeds perform on the racetrack. Quarter Horses generally have a shorter head, while Thoroughbreds possess a longer head. The head structure plays a role in balance and, consequently, contributes to their preferred racing distances. Short-headed horses, like Quarter Horses, can achieve their top speeds quickly but maintain them over shorter distances. Long-headed Thoroughbreds, on the other hand, show a capacity to maintain higher speeds over extended distances, even if their initial acceleration may be slower (source).

To summarize, Quarter Horses have muscular hindquarters, a stocky build, and a short head, all of which enable them to achieve remarkable speeds and acceleration over short distances. Thoroughbreds, with their leaner bodies and longer heads, excel at maintaining high speeds over long distances, providing them with an advantage in endurance races.

Temperament and Personality

Thoroughbred Bay horses grazing in pasture


Both Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds are intelligent breeds, capable of learning quickly and adapting to various situations. Thoroughbreds are often praised for their keen sense of awareness and sharp instincts, making them exceptional at tasks that require attention and focus. On the other hand, Quarter Horses often display high levels of intelligence in their ability to quickly master various tasks and adapt to new environments (source).


When it comes to agility, Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses both excel, but in different ways. Thoroughbreds are known for their long strides and ability to maintain high speeds over longer distances, which is a testament to their endurance and overall athleticism. Quarter Horses, on the other hand, demonstrate impressive agility with their ability to accelerate rapidly and reach higher speeds over shorter distances, thanks to their muscular build (source).

Calm vs Aggressive

In general, Quarter Horses are known for their calm and gentle demeanor, making them suitable for riders of all experience levels. They are typically more patient and tolerant of handling by novice riders, often displaying a friendly and approachable personality. Thoroughbreds, while not necessarily aggressive, can be more spirited and less predictable, making them better suited for experienced riders who can confidently manage their energy and drive (source).

Beginners and Experts

Due to their calm temperament and innate intelligence, Quarter Horses are often recommended for beginner riders. They are known for their easygoing nature and ability to form strong bonds with their handlers, making them an ideal choice for novice riders seeking a reliable and friendly companion.

Thoroughbreds, on the other hand, are usually recommended for expert riders due to their spirited and energetic nature. Their heightened sensitivity and responsiveness require a knowledgeable and experienced handler to effectively manage and encourage their potential without becoming overwhelmed (source).

In summary, the temperament and personality of both Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds offer their own unique advantages and challenges. While Thoroughbreds excel in endurance and focus, Quarter Horses showcase exceptional agility and a calm disposition. The choice between these two breeds may ultimately depend on the rider’s experience, preferences, and intended use for the horse.

Training and Care

A beautiful Arizona quarter horse portrait


When comparing the exercise requirements of a Quarter Horse and a Thoroughbred, it’s important to keep in mind their distinct characteristics. Both breeds are known for their prowess in racing, but they differ in terms of speed and acceleration. A Quarter Horse can reach speeds of up to 55 mph, whereas a Thoroughbred tops at around 44 mph. Quarter Horses are known for their ability to sprint quickly over short distances, while Thoroughbreds have a more consistent pace during long races.

Given these strengths, the training approach for each breed should focus on developing their specific racing abilities. For Quarter Horses, this may involve short, intense workouts that help improve their agility and acceleration. On the other hand, Thoroughbreds might benefit from longer training sessions aimed at enhancing their stamina and racing pace.


Both Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds must maintain good health to perform well in their respective racing disciplines. Regular veterinary check-ups and appropriate care are essential for ensuring the well-being of these athletic animals. As high-performing athletes, they require a diet tailored to their specific needs, which might include the right balance of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.

When it comes to potential health concerns, each breed might be prone to certain conditions. For instance, Thoroughbreds could be susceptible to racehorse shin splints, while Quarter Horses might face issues such as navicular disease. It’s crucial for trainers and owners to be aware of these breed-specific concerns when providing care for their horses.


The average lifespan for both Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds ranges between 25 and 30 years. However, a horse’s life expectancy can be influenced by several factors, such as genetic predispositions, diet, and the quality of care they receive throughout their lives. Since both breeds are considered high-performance athletes, their lifespan may also be affected by the level and intensity of their training.

A well-rounded approach to training, exercise, and care can enhance the overall health and longevity of both Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds. Being attuned to their specific needs, trainers and owners can ensure the horses reach their full potential while maintaining a high quality of life.

Racing Horses and Organizations

Incredible Quarter horse galloping on meadow

Quarter Horse Racing

Quarter Horse Racing focuses on the American Quarter Horse, known for its incredible speed and agility, particularly over short distances. These horses typically reach top speeds of 55 miles per hour and excel in sprint races around a quarter-mile long, hence the name Quarter Horse Equestrian Space. The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) governs and promotes Quarter Horse Racing and sets the rules and standards for the sport.

Thoroughbred Racing

Thoroughbred Racing showcases fast and powerful horses bred for racing longer distances, typically from one mile up to two miles. Thoroughbreds have an average maximum speed of 40 miles per hour and have a strong competitive spirit, making them the preferred breed for prestigious long distance horse races Horsevills. This type of racing is governed by various organizations, depending on the country or region, such as the British Horseracing Authority in the UK and the Jockey Club in the US.

Triple Crown of Quarter Horse Racing

The Triple Crown of Quarter Horse Racing is a series of three prestigious races, similar in concept to the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. It includes the Ruidoso Futurity, Rainbow Futurity, and All American Futurity. Each year, the winning horse of all three races is crowned the Triple Crown champion. These competitive events not only showcase the speed and agility of Quarter Horses but also contribute to their breeding value and pedigree status.

World Records and Fastest Horses

  • Quarter Horses: The record for the fastest quarter-mile by a Quarter Horse is held by L. S. Prince, who completed the distance in 20.678 seconds in 1989. This accomplishment demonstrates the breed’s exceptional acceleration and speed over short distances Horse Racing Sense.
  • Thoroughbreds: The fastest Thoroughbred on record is Winning Brew, who achieved a top speed of 43.97 miles per hour over a distance of two furlongs (0.25 miles) in 2008. While Quarter Horses outrun Thoroughbreds in shorter sprints, Thoroughbreds excel at maintaining high speeds over longer distances, making them suitable for races of a mile or more Animal How.

In conclusion, while Quarter Horses are known for their exceptional speed and acceleration over short distances, Thoroughbreds shine in events covering longer distances. Both breeds have a dedicated following, and their racing organizations continue to cultivate their respective talents in the competitive world of horse racing.

Is a Quarter Horse Faster Than a Thoroughbred?

Quarter Horse Mares on Spring Grass

When it comes to speed, both Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds are known for their impressive abilities. However, their strengths lie in different areas of racing, depending on the distance of the race.

Quarter Horses are renowned for their unmatched acceleration and ability to reach top speeds quickly in short distances. They have been known to reach speeds of up to 55 mph, making them the fastest breed in sprints. Their muscular build and powerful hindquarters contribute to their speed and agility over short distances, typically a quarter mile, hence their name.

On the other hand, Thoroughbreds excel in long-distance races, where they can maintain top speeds for more extended periods. Their lean, athletic build allows them to reach an average maximum speed of 40 mph. Famous for their performance in prestigious races like the Kentucky Derby, Thoroughbreds showcase their endurance and sustained speed over distances up to 1.5 miles or more.

The physical differences between the two breeds also contribute to their respective racing strengths. Quarter Horses generally weigh between 1,000 and 1,200 pounds, while Thoroughbreds have a weight range of 800 to 1,200 pounds. Thoroughbreds are often taller, with a more slender stature, whereas Quarter Horses have a shorter, more muscular build, making them ideal for short sprints *.

Final Words

In conclusion, both Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds possess phenomenal speed and racing capabilities. The answer to which breed is faster ultimately depends on the distance of the race: Quarter Horses dominate short sprints with their impressive acceleration, while Thoroughbreds excel in longer distance races, maintaining streaks of speed with their endurance. It is essential to recognize the uniqueness of each breed and the specific situations in which they exhibit their top performance levels.