Do You Eat Like A Horse
 By Winniefield Park   •   28th Sep 2016   •   1,261 views   •   0 comments
Do You Eat Like A Horse

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘eats like a horse’, usually in reference to someone who eats too much. But is this a fair comparison? How much does a horse eat? A while back, I looked at how much hay a horse should eat to keep it in healthy condition. The equation is generally

Bodyweight X 2% = Amount of hay to feed in 24 hours

That’s about 20lbs of hay per day, or one half of a small square bale. Some horses will need less. Others that are hard keepers or hard workers will need more.

Related: How Much Hay
Related: How Horses Spend Their Time

And, we know that wild horses spend about two-thirds of their time eating. But is that because they are gluttons and just keep eating and eating? Nope. Horses spend all that time eating because they have small stomachs, a long digestive system and have evolved to eat dribs and drabs of grass as they find it while foraging. Our domestic horses tend to eat more than they need because the food is easier to come by, but the instinct to get it while the gettin’ is good is so ingrained. So, do they eat more or less when compared to humans or other animals, and if they do, why? Stand back from your screen because I’m about to do MATH again.

What animal, similar to a horse, is the biggest eater? The largest land mammal is the elephant. The average adult elephant is about 16,500 pounds. And the average elephant eats about 300 lbs of food a day in the form of grass, plants, tasty roots bushes and leaves, fruit, twigs and even tree bark. They’re herbivores like horses, and much of their diet is similar to a horse’s. A horse eats 2% of its body weight of similar foodstuffs a day. That’s about 20lbs of hay and other vegetable matter. Which means, if my calculations are correct that an elephant eats about 2% -3% of its body weight in feed too. They’re generally slow movers, and burn off energy more slowly than a horse. So although much larger, it doesn’t take much more food proportionally to keep them healthy.

An elephant produces about 220-300 lbs of manure in a day. Elephants use only about 50% of the digestible food they’ve eaten. They also drink a lot of water, around 50 gallons. Which of course bulks up the manure and adds to the weight. Horses will drink about 5 to 10 gallons of water a day and make around 37lbs of manure. Which means, if I’d added,subtracted and divided correctly, a horse makes proportionally more manure than an elephant! But they don’t eat substantially more.

Of course, the smallest mammalian herbivores is the mouse. Although technically herbivores, they can be opportunist eaters because they will snack on almost any type of food they can find. The average house mouse weighs about 20 grams. It will eat up to 5 grams a day. That’s 20% of its body weight! Mice have a much faster metabolism than a horse or elephant and they need lots of food energy. I don’t know if anyone has tried to weigh mouse poop. I’m sure they have, I just can’t find the report of that study. But what goes in must come out. If a mouse were the size of a horse, it would need about 200lbs of feed per day. And we’d need much bigger manure forks and muck buckets and probably would have very little time for riding.

So is that big eater eating like a horse? Or an elephant. Nope, those aren’t fair comparisons. They’re not eating like a horse. They’re eating like a mouse.
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