Belgian Horse
Miniature Horse
(Equus caballus)

Arabian Horse
Welsh Mountain Pony
(Equus equus)

Horses are odd-toed ungulates, this means they walk on their middle toe (tippy-toe style), unlike a cow, for example, which walks on its two middle toes. Clearly, horses are closely related to zebras and donkeys, but surprisingly, they are also a close relative of the tapir.

All horse breeds are descended from the wild horse of Europe. Today, there are approximately 300 breeds of horse divided into three categories: heavy, light and pony, all of which are represented at the zoo.

Currently Bowmanville Zoo has a group of eight welsh mountain ponies, two black Arabs, four miniature horses, and two black Arabian stallions.

Facts & Myths

  • There were wild horses living in Canada until 10,000 years ago. However they died out due to over hunting. The modern wild horses in Canada and the USA are called mustangs but they are not actually wild, but rather domesticated horses that escaped and returned to the wild.
  • Humans have had an extremely long relationship with the horse; they painted them in a beautiful cave painting over 30,000 years ago in Southern France.
  • There are approximately 60 million domestic horses in the world today. Horses were domesticated 6,000 years ago, not for riding, but for meat and milk. Huge herds are found in central Asia tended by wandering nomads, descended from the great Conqueror Genghis Khan. Horses have been the deciding force in warfare throughout history. Whoever had the best horses usually won the battle.
  • Belgian Draft horses were the mighty chargers in medieval times. You needed a big horse back then to carry you and your protective armour. It was so heavy!
  • The ancestor of all modern horses is the European wild horse. Unfortunately, it is now extinct. Its closest relative, the Przewalski wild horse of Mongolia, is critically endangered – there are only about 1000 left in the world. They were saved from extinction by captive breeding in zoos!
  • Philip Astley is considered by many to be the founder of England’s first circus. He opened the Royal Amphitheatre in 1795, and specialized in horse riding, the modern circus ring of today was designed then especially to showcase the beauty of a cantering horse.

Horses at the Bowmanville Zoo

Whenever our trained zebras are in the show, their minder goes with them – Rusty the miniature horse! He keeps them content and happy and also acts as our go to horse: If we need the zebras to go from A to B , we place Rusty at B and the zebras go to him on cue! (Rusty can also count and is sometimes hypnotized, watch the show to see how…)

Our horses and ponies perform their act in the show completely at liberty – with no lead ropes or guidance except the cues from the trainer. It is one of our most popular acts and it highlights the long and special bond between people and horses, a partnership based on trust.

You can see our horses in our show (in the AnimaTheatre), performing their beautifully choreographed act. Shows take place daily and are FREE, included in the price of your admission. Check the show schedule for times.