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How Horses Get Along With Other Species

Two horses meet a pig in a pasture.
Always consider the individuals when thinking about pasture cohabitation! Photo: Luvin Arms Animal Sanctuary

If you’re caring for horses with limited pasture, you may be wondering how they get along with other species of animals. Because individual animals each have their own unique personalities, preferences, and histories of trauma, this resource may not apply universally to all horses and the other species they interact with, but it should provide a good starting point in regards to how well a horse will get along with other animals. If you’re planning on keeping a horse with anyone new, regardless of species, make sure to carefully monitor their interactions until you are satisfied that there will be no trouble when you go off to attend to other sanctuary needs!

Horn Holdups

If you are caring for horses in the same pasture as residents with horns like goats, sheep, or cows, be aware that there’s a chance these residents could accidentally injure other sanctuary residents, usually when interacting or playing. Any time you introduce a horned resident with others, closely monitor them until you feel confident that they won’t pose an unintentional threat! Some horned residents are more inclined to frequent interactions than others, and some residents are more mindful of their horns than others. And keep in mind that even if they’re the most gentle resident in the world, accidents can happen!

Horses And Other Horses

It’s preferable for a horse to have horse companions, provided that they have enough space, food, water, and mineral access so they don’t feel the need to compete. Horses are inclined to follow a social hierarchy, especially in environments with more limited resources. Once they’ve established who’s in charge, they will typically peacefully coexist. If a horse simply cannot get along with others, you may need to give them their own pasture or indoor living space, while trying your best to balance their need for companionship.

Horses And Donkeys

Horses and donkeys tend to make fine companions, provided that they have enough space, food, water, and mineral access so they don’t feel the need to compete and have the opportunity to avoid one another. Some horses and horses develop very close relationships. Just be sure to recognize the unique care needs of donkeys and how they differ from those of horses!

Horses And Other Farmed Sanctuary Mammals

Horses and other sanctuary mammals such as cows, goats, sheep, pigs, llamas, and alpacas, can potentially live harmoniously on the same pasture, but they will require careful introduction and early supervision to ensure a good fit. Some horses are more territorial than others, which could either translate into dangerously hostile behavior or herd-protective behavior, depending on the individual and circumstances. Horses rescued out of abusive or neglectful situations could react very poorly to other animals being in their space (and could even potentially cause fatalities in tragic circumstances), especially if they have become habituated to extreme resource scarcity. Always err on the side of resident safety and keep separate pastures if you’re not sure whether any particular residents would be able to safely live together for the long run!

If you do keep multiple species together peacefully, you should avoid mixing any kind of mineral access between species (this is especially important for sheep to prevent copper toxicity), and it is important to employ fencing that is appropriate and safe for all species being kept in the same pasture. Feeding schedules might be complicated to coordinate with more hands-on care residents such as large breed pigs, so even if you’re having everyone in the same pasture, you’ll probably want to keep them in separate living quarters!

Horses And Farmed Sanctuary Birds

Just like with farmed mammal species, whether a horse will tolerate, appreciate, or be outright hostile to living with sanctuary birds like chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys, is very much a question of individual horses. Most horses have no trouble sharing an outdoor space with birds such as chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese provided that all species have their specific needs taken care of (like dust baths accessible for chickens or turkeys or accessible ponds for ducks and geese). In rare instances, some horses may have too much trauma in their background or a more territorial personality and would not be a good fit to ever safely live with birds.

If they do get along very well, you still must ensure that there is plenty of space to avoid any situations where a bird (especially a mobility-impaired resident) might get caught underfoot. Like most animals, horses will avoid eating food that has been defecated on by another animal if they can, so if you’re going to keep horses and birds together, try to avoid letting the birds spend time where the horses eat.

Horses And Dogs

As a general rule, it’s not a good idea to let dogs interact with any animal at a farmed animal sanctuary. As the species in your care are prey animals, there is a high chance that there will be a negative reaction, either from the dog or the resident, and it is never worth risking an animal’s safety when there is any possibility to avoid conflict.

When it comes to letting dogs spend time around horses specifically, it is entirely dependent on the individual personalities at play, though generally, many horses perceive dogs as threats, especially if they were not socialized around them. Some dogs and horses have been known to get along very well, without any issues. However, other personalities might not ever be safe around one another, especially dogs who are more prone to chasing or aggression, which could stress out the horse, cause injuries, or worse. If you believe there is a good candidate dog to spend time with your horses, plan for a great deal of supervision, with the knowledge that some dogs may live peacefully with horses one day and decide to chase the horses the next day, or the horse may decide to defend their territory unexpectedly one day. Many horses might be too skittish or afraid to ever peacefully spend time in the same pasture as a dog.

Horses And Cats

horses should be able to coexist fairly easily with cats; most likely they’ll do their own thing apart from one another (assuming the cat has space to avoid being stepped on by the horse), though there are plenty of horses and cats that are quite friendly who frequently interact with one another! As with all other species above, it’s important to note that especially territorial horses might not be good candidates to ever spend time with cats.

Predators Of Horses

Certain animals are especially dangerous to horses and will attack or try to eat them if given the chance or frightened. This includes stray dogs, coyotes, wolves, cougars, bobcats, snakes, and bears. The best defense is a properly monitored outdoor living space and secured indoor living space. This includes fencing that cannot be dug under, predator-secure latches, and vigilance! For tips on avoiding wildlife confrontations at your sanctuary, check out our resource here.

Horses And Other Small Animals

Small birds and rodents aren’t typically going to be a problem for your horses socially, but both could potentially carry and transmit diseases to your horses, so it’s important to keep their living spaces generally secured from them and clean of droppings if at all possible. Obviously this is unrealistic in a wide open pasture, but keeping their sleeping quarters clean can go a long way in avoiding zoonotic threats.

SOURCES:

Concerns With Keeping Different Types Of Livestock Together | Knoji (Non-Compassionate Source)

Managing Multi-Species Grazing | On Pasture (Non-Compassionate Source)

Non-Compassionate Source?

If a source includes the (Non-Compassionate Source) tag, it means that we do not endorse that particular source’s views about animals, even if some of their insights are valuable from a care perspective. See a more detailed explanation here.

Updated on August 4, 2020

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