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Are Quater Horses Faster Than Thoroughbreds?

The fastest horse’s main difference is that some breed breeds excel in short distances while others have endurance and stamina during long distances. How do we find out who is faster? This article looks at American Quarter horse and Thoroughbred racing speeds and who tops the list.

Typically, on short distances, Quarter horses are faster than Thoroughbreds. Quarter horses reach high speeds quickly and are also the fastest when it comes to acceleration. A Quarter horse can reach 55 miles per hour in a short distance, and Thoroughbred’s speeds measure just over 44 miles an hour.

Thoroughbreds and Quarter horses are the two horse breeds typically known for racing speeds. So, who is faster the Quarter Horse or Thoroughbred? We are looking at the differences between these two horses regarding speed.

High-Speed Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds – What’s the Difference?

Horse racing is a fast-exhilarating sport loved by most. Most horse breeders and racers say that any horse breed can produce a fast horse.

However, the fastest racing horse breeds commonly used for racing are the mighty and fast Thoroughbred.

The difference between fast horses is that some breeds excel at short distances while others have stamina and speed for long-distance racing.

The Thoroughbred is the fastest breed for long-distance racing, while the Quarter horse is the winner on short distances.

The most significant difference between a Thoroughbred and a Quarter horse is body type, size, and speed. Quarter horses are shorter than Thoroughbreds, and they weigh more. Quarter horses are more muscular with a stockier body than the tall, athletic lean Thoroughbred.

Their speed is comparable since they share the Thoroughbred lineage. Thoroughbreds and Quarter horses are relatives. Thoroughbreds were specifically bred from English mares and Arabian horses, and the English bred Thoroughbreds to produce Quarter Horses.

When the English reached the New World, they found Spanish horses left on the mainland. The Thoroughbreds that made the sea journey were bred with those native, which resulted in the Quarter horse breed. The Thoroughbred and Quarter horse have many differences, but they share a common ancestry. 

Quarter Horses vs. Thoroughbreds – Speeds

The Thoroughbred can run faster at top speed over long distances, while the Quarter horse is faster at full speed than the Thoroughbred but only at short distance sprints.

Quarter horses typically weigh between 1,000 to 1,200 pounds and the lean athletic Thoroughbred between 800 to 1,200 pounds.

Generally, the average height of a Quarter horse is 14.3 to 16 hands high, and the Thoroughbred horse is 16 hands high. Thoroughbreds are taller but have a lower average weight than Quarter horses.

Quarter horses are specifically bred to reach high speeds during the quarter-mile races over short distances. Their powerful and muscular hindquarters allow them to reach high speeds, but they lack the endurance and stride length to maintain this speed for the entire race.

The maximum speed recorded for the American Quarter horse was 55 mph over a short sprint distance.

Thoroughbreds are bred for speed and endurance and when in top condition, can reach incredibly high speeds of 44 mph. Their endurance allows them to maintain that speed for the length of a race. Thoroughbred’s race training teaches them to run consistently throughout the race without any bursts of speed at the start of the race.

Typically, Quarter horses reached faster speeds than Thoroughbreds. When Thoroughbreds were raced the standard distance of 402 meters, Quarter horses usually raced, Quarter horses remained faster than Thoroughbreds.

Quarter horses are trained differently from Thoroughbreds; they are trained to sprint as fast as possible from standing. Their powerful hindquarters are developed for that propulsion at an instant.

Why Are Quarter Horses Faster Than Thoroughbreds? 

A Quarter horse is built for acceleration and speed at sprinting distances, making them unbeatable at short distances. They are incredibly good at accelerating fast with a broad chest, muscular rounded hindquarters, and agile muscles. This gives them a significant advantage over the Thoroughbred and other horses, making them faster.

The Characteristics of the Quarter Horse Breed

The American Quarter horse is the most famous horse breed in the United States. They have even made their way to Europe and the U.K, where popularity grows.

The Quarter horse society has more than 3.2 million horses registered. Quarter horses are the fastest in sprinting distances. They were initially bred for high-speed quarter-mile races during colonial times.

Quarter horses are famous for their excellent performances in horse shows, rodeos, barrel racing, roping, trail riding, mountain hunting, and ranch work. Quarter horses have made it onto the U.K stage at race events.

A Quarter horse’s stocky, muscular body is perfect for ranch work and roping. Their ability to sprint, turn, and change direction instantly makes them stand out from other horses.

They are the best horse for intricate quick maneuvering in ranch activities like reining, calf roping, and barrel racing.

Quarter horses have short, well-muscled bodies with refined heads and straight profiles. Their broad and powerful chests and strong rounded hindquarters give them an edge when they need to get out fast. Quater horses are power and speed all in one.

The average height of a Quarter horse starts from 14 to 16 hands high. Some Quarter horses have even been measured at 17 hands high.

There are two body types documented for this breed, The stock type and the hunter/racing type.

The stock type is shorter, well-muscled, compact, and best for working livestock. The stock-type Quarter horse is fast, small in stature, and agile.

The hunter-type Quarter horse is taller with a lightly muscled body. The hunter Quarter horse’s average height is 15.3 to 16 hands high and weighs about 540 kg.

The Characteristics of Thoroughbred Horses

Thoroughbreds have lean, slim athletic bodies, delicate heads, high withers, long necks, broad chests, good hindquarters, powerful long legs, and short backs.

Thoroughbreds are classed as hot-blooded horses bred for speed and agility and known to be bold and spirited in general.

They have excellent work ethic with gentle hearts, and their people-pleasing temperaments make them perfect riding horses. However, Thoroughbreds are forward-going and energetic and not ideal for young or novice riders. They are mainly bred as racehorses. A Thoroughbred racehorse is famous for mid-length distance races.

The breed was developed in the 17th century and is a mix of three breeds: Turkoman, Arabian, and Barb bloodlines. Each year more than 100,000 foals are registered globally, making it the most popular breed.

Thoroughbreds were initially developed for jumping and racing and can race at great speed. An average Thoroughbred racehorse weighs 450 kg and is most commonly chestnut, brown, black, or grey.

The hot-blooded temperament of the Thoroughbred makes them highly competitive perfect for racing. Because of this, Thoroughbreds are prone to accidents while racing.

A Thoroughbred racehorse can reach between 40 to 44 miles per hour during a race in top condition. Compared to their bigger bodies, Thoroughbreds have relatively smaller hooves, and the soles are thin and lack adequate cartilage mass; this sometimes contributes to foot soreness.

Quarter Horse Racing

Quarter horses are famous for their agility and speed, ideal for racing. Quarter horses compete in several races.

However, they are best known for their short-distance racing. Quarter horse racing originated in Virginia in 1607 when settlers first introduced it, where original races measured 0.25 miles. The races would be run through settlements, forests, and straight paths. In 1940, Quarter horse racing began formally on flat racetracks in America. 

Quarter horse racing takes place over several distances. The AQHA established eleven race distances from 220 yards to 870 yards. Generally, a race is 350 yards long. The traditional quarter-mile race is 220 yards. Quarter horse races of 550 yards or less are run on straight courses.

The rules and regulations at Quarter horse races are typically the same as Thoroughbred races. However, the timing recorded is to the nearest 1/100 second from a standing start.

The Triple Crown of Quarter-Horse Racing held at Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico offers prize money worth millions.

The Triple Crown series includes the Kansas Futurity held in June, Rainbow Futurity held in July, and All-American futurity held in September on Labor Day at Ruidoso, New Mexico, in 2021, which KJ Desparado won.

Kj Desparado won prize money worth $3 million at the All-American Futurity at the Ruidoso racetrack in front of thousands.

Famous Quarter Racing horses

Rocket Wrangler

The Quarter horse champion Rocket Wrangler was a 2-year-old colt who won ten races in 1970 worth $252,00 prize money. When he retired from racing, he became the favorite breeding sire of the Quarter horse world.

Rocket Wranglers’ offspring won races with prize money worth $9 million. Dash for Cash, the twice AQHA world champion and First Down Dash the Hall of Fame member, was Rocket Wrangler’s offspring.

First Down Dash

First Down Dash, the son of Dash for Cash, is one of history’s most famous quarter horses. First Down Dash won thirteen races out of fifteen starts and won prize money worth $857,300 during his lifetime career.

First Down Dash is a legend with 1,100 wins and 224 stakes wins, including six All-American Futurity G1s. First Down Dash’s name will forever echo in the halls of fame in quarter horse racing.

Three Bars – Thoroughbred Stallion

A Thoroughbred stallion is on this list because he greatly influenced the Quarter horse breed as we know it today. During the 1950s, Three Bars left his mark on horse racing for generations when his owner switched from breeding Thoroughbred mares to Quarter horse mares.

 Three Bars offspring established the foundation of quarter horse racing as we know it today. Three Bars descendants include Dash for Cash, Rocket Bar, Impressive, and many others. 

Dash for Cash

The most famous Quarter horse stallion of all time is Dash for Cash. Owner B.F. Phillips Jr. bred Dash for Cash in April 1973. Dash for Cash stepped on the racetrack in 1975 and since defined Quarter Horse racing. Dash for Cash had great intelligence that he passed onto his offspring. Dash for Cash’s offspring won prize money worth $39 million.  

The 1976-1977 World Champion Quarter Horse won 21 of 25 races, including 2 Champion of Champions titles. In 1997, Dash for Cash was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame.

Three Bars remains were buried at the foot of a bronze statue in front of the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum. 

Racing Records – Quarter Horse

The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) is the governing body of quarter horse racing that maintains the records.

Quarter Horse World Records

Chosen Jewel110 yards6.770 seconds2021Mexico City, Mexico
Free Thought770 yards39.495 seconds2019Century Downs, Rocky View, Alberta
Captain BD220 yards11.448 seconds2016Hialeah Park, Florida
Joltin Jess550 yards26.033 seconds2013Hialeah Park, Florida
Skyline Lover1000 yards52.224 seconds2012Hialeah Park, Florida
Allens Cash250 yards12.588 seconds2012Mexico City, Mexico
Valiant War Hero300 yards14.594 seconds2011Sunland Park, New Mexico
Neversaynever330 yards15.859 seconds2011Sunland Park, New Mexico
Strike It Quick350 yards16.642 seconds2010Sunland Park, New Mexico
Double Down Special400 yards18.613 seconds2010Sunland Park, New Mexico
First Moonflash440 yards20.274 seconds2009Sunland Park, New Mexico
Gone To the Mountain870 yards43.029 seconds2009Sunland Park, New Mexico


Quarter horses are faster than Thoroughbreds over short distances. However, Thoroughbreds can race for longer distances and periods at consistent speeds.

Quarter horses are built for speed, and their powerful muscled bodies and strong hindquarters propel them from a standing position at a great speed.

The most significant difference between a Quarter horse and a Thoroughbred is the distances that they race. Thoroughbreds are built for medium-distance races at consistent speeds.

Comparing the speed of a Quarter horse to a Thoroughbred is not as simple; we can’t declare a winner because Quarter horses are sprinters during short distances, and Thoroughbreds fast at long-distance racing. They share the same lineage, which makes them both extremely fast. We hope we have answered the question for you if Quarter horses are faster than Thoroughbreds.


Anrie Diedericks

I've been around horses since I was 6 years old and started competing at the age of 9. Horses are my greatest passion and I am thrilled to be able to share my 23 (and counting) years of experience and knowledge with you.

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