Eventing Nation: World horse population in decline
What does it mean that the world’s horse population saw a drop of about 1 million horses per year between 2009 and 2011? Erin Critz shares some thoughts.
Top photo: Wikimedia Commons
It’s hard to believe, but the world’s horse population saw a drop of about 1 million horses per year between 2009 and 2011, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Other types of livestock saw the same reduction in numbers world wide, but pig and donkey populations grew during the same time period.
In Europe, horse numbers dropped from 6.3 million in 2009 to 5.8 million in 2011. However, in North America, horse numbers actually increased during the same period, rising from 10.1 million to 10.5 million. The United States looks to have the world’s largest equine population as well, contributing 10.15 million to North America’s total headcount. If the human population in the U.S. is around 313.9 million, that means there’s around 30 people for each horse. The next largest population is in China, with 6.77 million. China’s population is estimated to be about 1.351 billion, so that means about 200 people per horse.
Looking at these numbers, I’m left with a few thoughts. First and foremost, it’s no wonder it’s so easy to pick up a free horse these days. There are an obscene number of horses in the United States. Second, you would think that if we had that many horses to draw from, American breeders would be more consistently able to match the quality of sport horses produced in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Don’t get me wrong; there are excellent breeders in the U.S., but many people are still of the mindset that if you want an elite horse you have to go to Europe.
Finally, I’m even more impressed by the horses out there at the top of the sport. While I’m sure there are plenty who are simply undiscovered talents or owned by folks who lack the resources, skill or desire to get them to the top, the number of horses in the world that compete successfully at the upper levels are an amazingly small portion of a very significant population.
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