Horse Facts Friday: Can Horses Pant Like Dogs?

The more you know.


Ever hear someone say that when you yawn you’re getting more oxygen to your brain? Naturally, you’d assume that the same is true for your horse. In fact, horses cannot breathe through their mouths — only their nostrils. (So no matter how frustrated you are at your horse, calling him a “mouth-breather” is legitimately impossible.)

Horses can only breathe through their nostrils, and the nasal passages in the horse are separated from the oral cavity.

Horses have a soft palate, which is a flap of tissue that blocks off the pharynx from the mouth — except when swallowing. This keeps the horse from inhaling his food, but does not let the horse breathe through the mouth in extreme respiratory distress. For this same reason, a horse cannot also pant like a dog as a form of thermoregulation.

Too tight of a nose band, nasal blockage or a bite from a rattlesnake can block off the flow of air, so it is imperative that we keep our horses’ noses clean and clear so they can breathe properly. (Fun fact: in the event your horse is bitten by a poisonous snake on the nose, two pieces of a garden hose stuffed up the horse’s swollen nostrils will keep the passageways open with enough air flowing to keep your horse alive until the vet arrives.)

So, next time your horse clears his nose, and snoodles all over your clean white shirt, remember, he’s just trying to be able to breathe.

The more you know! Go riding.

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