Horse vs Car: which one wins?

The subject of horses racing against cars has long intrigued people. Are autos faster, better, and more reliable than horses? Recently, the idea of being more ecologically friendly has also been added to the debate.

The Top Speed

There is no doubt that modern cars can easily beat even the fastest horses. The world record speed for a horse is listed as 88 km/h (55 mph). However, the average speed is closer to 40 km/h (25 mph).

The fastest production car is currently listed as the Hennessey Venom GT. In 2014, this incredible auto recorded a speed of 270 mph (434 km/h) at the Kennedy Space Center.

Naturally, a horse can only maintain it top speed for short bursts, while motorized vehicles can carry on for hours if needed. It is true that horses were once faster than cars of the time over short distances. For example, the maximum speed of the Ford Model T was just 72 km/h (45 mph). 

Cars overtook horses in terms of pure speed long ago. Their greater staying power also means that any race over anything, but a very short distance is only ever going to have one winner.

Acceleration Rates

Could a thoroughbred horse win a very short race due to having better acceleration? If you place your bets online on for prestigious races like the Kentucky Derby, you might be surprised at how quickly they can get up to top speed.

There are no clear figures for how fast a horse can accelerate, although some studies note that they tend to gradually increase their speed over the duration of a race. 

Mazda put this to the test by organizing a 60 meter race at Goodwood Racecourse. They used the Mazda MX-5, which goes from 0 to 60 mph (96 km/h) in 9.9 seconds. The result? It was a victory for technology over nature, as the auto won by a nose. 

Cost and Maintenance

We have seen so far that cars are faster than horses over both long and short distances. Yet, you may wonder whether a horse is cheaper to own and maintain than an auto. Maybe it suits you to buy a horse if you want a less expensive option.

We all know that owning an auto is expensive. Apart from the purchase price, you need to pay for fuel, insurance, and other costs.

The purchase price of a horse will generally be lower than that of an auto. Having said that, thoroughbred specimens and race winners tend to cost huge sums. The highest price ever paid for a horse was $16 million for a two-year colt sold at auction in Florida in 2006. 

In terms of maintenance costs, both are fairly expensive options. It costs a lot of money to feed a horse and keep it in a stable. This is why horse ownership is often done for the love of the animal rather than for more practical reasons.

A study from the University of Maine discovered that the average annual cost of owning a horse is $3,876. The annual cost of keeping a car is difficult to calculate, as it varies widely and there are various figures available online. The AAA gave a figure of $8,469 in 2017 but other sources quote far lower amounts.

Environmentally Friendliness

Horses have traditionally been seen as far friendlier to the environment than motorized vehicles. The rise of clean, electric cars has certainly seen this gap close in recent years. 

However, the Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894 showed us that the use of horses as transport can mean that they bring their own environmental problems to our cities.

 It is also worth noting that agriculture, including livestock, is responsible for up to 9% of greenhouse gas emissions, compared to 29% from the transport industry. Currently, horses only make up a small percentage of the emissions coming from livestock.


It is clear that cars are faster than horses, although they are more damaging to the environment. The cost of owning varies widely, so it is difficult to make financial comparisons.  

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