Mythbuster Monday: Arabian Horses Have Fewer Bones Than Other Breeds

On Mythbuster Monday, we tackle a variety of equestrian myths to either bust or confirm. Today’s discussion: Do Arabian horses have fewer bones than other breeds of horses?

It’s Mythbuster Monday, where Horse Nation dives into different equestrian myths and provides research-based evidence to either bust or confirm those myths. Today’s topic: Do Arabian horses have fewer bones than other breeds of horses? Is it because they’re typically a smaller breed of horse? Is it only some Arabians or the entire breed? Read further to find out!

Myth:  Arabian horses have fewer bones than other breeds of horses

Myth or Fact: Fact


There are five different bones that make up a horse’s anatomy. Respectively, they are:

  1. Long bones, which make up the limbs.
  2. Short bones, such as the knee, hock and fetlock.
  3. Flat bones, which enclose body cavities that contain organs such as rib bones.
  4. Irregular bones, which are the vertebral column.
  5. Sesamoid bones which are bones embedded within a tendon.

Typically, a horse has 205 of the above stated bones that make up its structure. Pelvic and thoracic limbs contain 20 bones per limb. The rest are divided between the skull, vertebral column, sternum and ribs. However, Arabian horses are different.

It is said that Arabian horses look like they have shorter backs and, in fact, they do. Their backs are actually shorter than those of other breeds because they have less vertebrae.


According to an article by I Heart Horses, Arabians have one less vertebrae in their backs and less vertebrae in their tails. Their rib cage only contains 17 ribs whereas all other breeds have 18 ribs. This bone structure attributes to an Arabian’s shorter back and high tail set. The one less rib aids in improving long distance stamina.


In another article by Learn About Horses, the missing bones in an Arabian’s conformation are essential for the uniqueness of the breed. Arabians are the most ancient breed in the world and have aided in the improvement of many other horse breeds. However, none of the breeds they influence have fewer bones like the Arabian.

This article again reiterates that Arabians have 17 ribs while most other breeds have 18. Arabians have five lumbar vertebrae whereas most horse breeds have six and instead of having 18 tail vertebrae, Arabians have 16.


It remains unclear as to how the Arabians came to have fewer bones than other breeds and how this skeletal makeup did not find its way to other breeds that the Arabian influences. However, it is crystal clear that they have fewer bones.

After diving into the research, it appears that Arabian horses are comprised of less bones than other breeds of horses. This contributes to their shorter backs and high tail set. We could continue writing the same exact information from different articles but we figured you’ve got the idea — Arabians have fewer bones than other breeds.

Do you have an equine myth you’d like us to tackle? If so, send it our way! Email your suggestions to [email protected]. Put Mythbuster Monday in your subject line.