Horse Anatomy

Horses have, on average, a skeleton of 205 bones. A significant difference in the bones contained in the horse skeleton, as compared to that of a human, is the lack of a collarbone. Their front limb system is attached to the spinal column by a powerful set of muscles, tendons and ligaments that attach the shoulder blade to the torso.

The horses legs and hooves are also unique, interesting structures. Their leg bones are proportioned differently from those of a human. For example, the body part that is called a horses ‘knee’ is actually the carpal bones that correspond to the human wrist. Similarly, the hock contains the bones equivalent to those in the human ankle and heel.

The lower leg bones of a horse correspond to the bones of the human hand or foot. The fetlock (incorrectly called the ‘ankle’) is actually the proximal sesamoid bones (bones that are typically found in locations where a tendon passes over a joint) between the cannon bones (a single equivalent to the human metacarpal (the intermediate part of the hand skeleton) or metatarsal bones (five long bones of the foot)) and the proximal phalanges (bones found in the limbs of most vertebrates), located where one finds the ‘knuckles’ of a human. A horse also has no muscles in its legs below the knees and hocks, only skin and hair, bone, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and the assorted specialized tissues that make up the hoof.

The skeleton gives support for the muscles, protection for the internal organs, and possesses the necessary mobility of its parts for the horse to move at various speeds or lie down or graze.

Below is a diagram of the some of the most important bones within a horse:

skeletal anatomy of a horse

Below is a diagram of a horses body parts – the numbers on the diagram correspond with the body part names:

Horse Anatomy1. muzzle 2. cheek 3. face 4. forehead 5. poll 6. neck 7. crest 8.jaw 9. withers 10. heart girth 11. back 12. loin 13. coupling 14. croup 15. thigh 16. point of buttock 17. quarters 18. gaskin 19. hock 20. cannon 21. fetlock joint 22. pastern 23. stifle 24. rear flank 25. under line 26. ribs 27. fore flank 28. elbow 29. forearm 30. knee 31. cannon 32. fetlock joint 33. pastern 34. foot 35. arm 36. breast 37. point of shoulder 38. shoulder 39. throat latch