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"Your brother's killer, a half-burned house, a horse that's too fast—remember, a horse is unusable if only one foot breaks—may you never be so trusting that you trust all these things."
Odin, Hávamál, stanza 89

A horse is a creature appearing in Dungeons & Dragons. Adventurers typically use horses as a mode of transport.


Horses are large, hooved, four-legged mammals. They are found in a variety of colors, most commonly white, tan, russet, brown and black, in solid color or various patterns. They have long hair on their tails and mane.[2] The various colorings are due to a combination of skin tone and a fine layer of hair on the body, and it is common for a horse's tail and mane colour to match the rest of its body.

Wild horses are commonly found in a sandy coloring known as yellow dun, or a black-skinned variety called blue dun. The tail hair of these is usually dark.[1]

Domesticated horses have been bred in a wider variety of colorings, often for aesthetic reasons. Shades of brown are common, including chestnut, a red-gold range of coloration; bay, ranging from dull reddish-brown to golden shade similar to chestnut; bay-brown, where the muzzle is bay but the legs, mane and tail are black; strawberry roan, a smoky rose caused by a chestnut body with white hairs; and brown, referring to a coat of mixed black and brown hair.

Gray shades are also common, including blue roan, a shade of bluish gray caused by white hair with a brown or black body; dapple gray, a dark gray reminiscent of storm clouds with flecks of lighter colours on the chest, belly and hindquarters; and gray, caused by a mix of white and black hairs. Gray horses sometimes have a pattern called "flea-bittten", where their coat has specks of brown hairs.

More regal colors include shades of red or gold, including red roan, an earthy red; palomino, a yellow-gold with white mane and tail; liver chestnut, a dark red; and sorrel, a chestnut reddish-brown with white or reddish mane and tail. Less elegant are odd-colored horses, whose coat is of three or more mixed colors; piebald, an irregular patchwork of white and black like a milk cow; and skewbald, the same but with a different color replacing black.

Perhaps the most dramatic are those all white or black. The black horse has pure black skin, hair, mane and tail; the black-brown is the same with brown patches on the muzzle and flanks; cream is a pale coloring often accompanied with blue or pink eyes; and albino, a pure white horse usually with pink eyes.

Further, a horse's coat often has distinguishing marks, such as flecks of white hairs, white patches around the legs or muzzle, or a white diamond shape on the forehead.[1]

The elves of Valenar on Eberron breed exceptionally fast riding horses whose coloration has a tan back, dark brown sides and a white belly.[3]


Domesticated horses are frequently easy-going around humans and readily accept a saddle and rider, though this is not always the case.[4] Horses who often walk on hard ground are equipped with metal horseshoes commonly crafted by human blacksmiths, or farriers. Horseshoes are replaced around once per month.[5][6]

Horses are typically skittish, and avoid combat. They are easily frightened by loud noises, sudden movement, unfamiliar smells, or fire.[7] An exception is the warhorse, bred and trained for battle, which accounts for around 10% of all domesticated horses in most worlds.[7]

The mule, a hybrid of the horse and donkey bred to carry heavy loads across difficult terrain, is notoriously stubborn.[2]

Horses often have individual traits that make them difficult to work with. They may bite their rider, step on people's feet, chew fences, ignore commands, try to throw their rider, or refuse to accept any rider but their original owner. Unscrupulous horse merchants often try to pass off difficult or untrained horses.[8]


Horses, like most animals, are typically Neutral.

Abilities and traits

Horses are noted for their great speed and ability to carry a rider, carry cargo, or pull a chariot. Their overland speed and carrying capacity vary considerably by breed. A light horse is the fastest, but can carry smaller loads. A heavy horse is slower but can carry greater louds, and is typically bed for war or farm work. Draft horses are bred especially to carry heavy loads.

The bravest of warhorses are tougher and more dangerous on the battlefield than many human warriors. They rarely accompany adventurers into dungeons, lacking the agility to move within narrow spaces. [7]

A smaller breed of horse, the pony, is popular among shorter humanoids such as halflings. Ponies bred for war are confident mounts, though ineffective at fighting.

Wild horses most closely resemble the domesticated light horse.[7] They are sometimes hunted for food.[2]



Horses are native to temperate plains and wide open grassland.[2]

Wild horses are found almost everywhere in nature, excepting mountainous terrain; the horses of most worlds are not skilled mountain climbers. Nor are they common to underground, as horses work best in their natural open plains and navigate tight spaces poorly.[2]

Domesticated horses are found widely throughout civilized lands, and in all kinds of terrain where people live.[2]

Life cycle

Horses reproduce as typical mammals with a gestation period of 11 months. They are considered mature at three years, and adults at five years.[1]

Around the age of three, a domesticated horse begins training to carry a rider. Wild horses are more difficult to train, and warhorses require weeks of intense and dilligent training. Horses can be trained in numerous tricks, including to come when called for, find its own way home if the master is too weary, rear on command for dramatic effect, and even fight to protect its injured master.[1]

Domesticated horses are often bought and sold at market, and widely used for transport. Although a fast horse can cover much ground, horses must be allowed to stop and rest at regular intervals during the day.[6]

If well cared for, a horse can live as long as 30-35 years, although rare exceptions have lived as long as 50. A horse is in its prime between the ages of 6 and 20.[1]


Horses are herbivorous. In the wild, horses graze on grass and clover. Domesticated horses are typically fed hay, grains such as oats, barley, corn and bran. They also eat fresh fruits and vegetables such as carrots, apples and turnips. A horse consumes about ten pounds of food per day, and drinks about eight gallons of water per day. Ponies, donkeys and mules can survive readily on grass alone.[1]


Warhorses owned by humans are often equipped with expensive barding, horse armor available in the same varieties as human armor, including chainmail and plate.[9] Such armor is worth four times as much as a human suit of armor, and the best can be worth thousands of gold pieces. Horses are also used to carry goods or pull carts of goods.

Horses themselves are valuable, with large warhorses selling for hundreds of gold pieces. Horse thievery is a considerable problem in most kingdoms.


Legend tells that the deity Poseidon created horses and cattle.[10]

Domesticated horses have been used in warfare and daily life for centuries. In the world of Earth, cavalry technology was brought to the realm of Britain in ancient times by the Romans. By the Dark Ages (around 450 AD to 1100 AD), during which time the stirrup was invented,[11] the concept of a professional military was non-existant, only the elites of the warrior class could afford to possess and use warhorses.[12]

The traditionally nomadic Baklunish people of Oerth have a particular reverence for horses.

Society and culture

Domesticated horses are an integral component of most medieval societies. They are so well known that the size and shape other wild creatures and monsters are frequently described by comparison to a horse.


In the wild, horses are skittish, and use their natural speed to flee from predators such as griffons and rocs. They do not fight unless trained.

In most worlds, warriors mounted on horseback are a common sight on the battlefield, where their maneuverability, speed and height give significant offensive and defensive advantage to the rider. Specific weapons have been developed around horse warfare, such as the hook fauchard, designed to pull riders from their horse , and the lance, a heavy spear designed to use the horse's speed to make deadly charging attacks.


There are no known horse spellcasters. As animals, they lack the intelligence to take up the craft of magic. The very rare and intelligent wandega horse is known to learn spells, although this creature cannot breed with normal horses and may not be considered a true horse.[13]

However, numerous spells have been developed around horses. The spells mount and find steed conjure a horse. Chariot of Sustarre and phantom steed summon elemental or quasi-illusory horses. Paladins cast heal mount to cure their horse.


Horses, like most animals, are not known to worship a deity. However, horses have religious significance in many cultures.

The Suel deity Jascar is sometimes depicted as a horse, referring to a legend that shows him transforming into a horse to fight the god Beltar.[14] The Greek god Hades is said to ride a chariot drawn by dark horses[10], while legend credits the god Poseidon with creating horses.[15] Vhara, an arch-guardinal of Elysium, takes the form of a horse. The chaotic good demigod Besparr of Faerûn is called the Lord of Horses.[16]

Many deities are described as owning horses, or at least being skilled at riding horseback.

Notable horses

Related creatures

Numerous creatures related to the horse are known across many worlds.


The best known are the pegasus, the winged horse, and the unicorn, an intelligent horned horse. The nightmare is an evil horse with mane and tail of fire.

The equar is a genus of rare extraplanar horse with nine known breeds. According to legend, it is descended from horses of the Material Plane.[20]

The av, called the "sand runners", are intelligent wild desert horses. The bahtel are a very rare and dangerous berserker horse. The kiita is an intelligent, good-aligned horse with warm fur and pale blue coloration. The vor is a strong horse known for its ability to climb mountains. The wandega are intelligent lawful horses with the ability to learn magic.[13]

The bestial dire horse and grand legendary horse are exceptional members of the horse species.[21]

The asperi is an intelligent horse of elemental cold with the ability of magical flight.[21] The kelpie is a black-eyed, chaotic evil aquatic fey horse easily mistaken for a heavy warhorse, with the ability to disguise itself as a human.

The clockwork steed is a mechanical construct.[22]

The centaur is a peculiar, intelligent creature with the body of a horse, but where the horse's head and neck would be are the head and torso of a humanoid. The hippogriff is a creature with the body and hind legs of a horse, but the head, forelegs and wings of a giant eagle.

The valicorn is the offspring of a unicorn and a horse or other horselike creature. It closely resembles its horse parent.[23]


The equinal guardinal is a celestial in the form of a humanoid horse. The ruler of all equinal guardinals is Vhara, a huge bipedal horse.[24]

There exists a monstrous anthropomorphic horse, an intelligent bipedal horse created by unknown means.[25]

Publication history

Horses have appeared in every edition of D&D since the original in 1974.


In the Chainmail (1971) miniatures game which preceded Dungeons & Dragons, horses appear as part of mounted fighting units:

"Given normal probabilities, a body of horsemen will always defeat a like number of foot-men (excluding pike armed troops), but a small chance that the footmen will somehow triumph remains, and that chance is reflected in the combat tables employed."

Original Dungeons & Dragons

The draft horse, light horse, medium warhorse, and heavy warhorse originally appeared in Men & Magic (1974). In The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures (1974), horses benefit from increased movement rates across land.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition

The draft horse, heavy warhorse, medium warhorse, light warhorse, pony and wild horse appear in the Monster Manual (1e) (1977), p.53.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition

The draft, heavy, medium, light, wild and riding horses, and the pony and mule, are detailed in the Monstrous Compendium Volume One (1989).

Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition

Horses are referenced in the Player's Handbook (3e){{UnknownBook}} and Monster Manual (3e){{UnknownBook}}. The Player's Handbook lists typical prices for a light horse, heavy horse, pony, light and heavy warhorses, and a warpony.

Numerous rules in this edition reference horses. Druids and rangers in D&D 3.5 have the ability to take a light or heavy horse as an animal companion, while paladins can take a heavy warhorse or warpony as their special mount. Riding on a horse interferes with a spellcaster's concentration. The handle animal and ride skills are important to dealing with horses. Many spells conjure or affect horses, such as heal mount, phantom steed, mount, and create food and water, which describes the amount of food it produces in terms of how many humans and horses it feeds.

Monster Manual II (3e) (2002) introduced the dire horse (p.74-76) and legendary horse (p.136-139). The Eberron Campaign Setting (2004), p.289 introduced the Valenar riding horse.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition

Riding horses and warhorses appear in the Player's Handbook (4e) (2008) and Monster Manual (4e) (2008), p.159.

Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition

The riding horse, draft horse and warhorse appear in the Player's Handbook (5e) (2014), p.157 The warhorse skeleton appears in the Monster Manual (5e) (2014).

Creative origins

The horse is a real-world animal whose inclusion in Dungeons & Dragons draws from its appearance in historic medieval wargames played by D&D's creators Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

The modern-day use of vehicles powered by the internal combustion engine has rendered horses obsolete, and the use of horses for transport is a key element to evoke the mediaeval theme of Dungeons & Dragons.

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Horses are People, Too, Dragon #191 (Mar 1993), p.10-15.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Monstrous Compendium Volume One (1989).
  3. Eberron Campaign Setting (2004), p.289.
  4. Player's Handbook (2e) (1989), p.29.
  5. Player's Handbook (2e revised) (1995), p.144.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Player's Handbook (2e revised) (1995), p.166.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Monster Manual (1e) (1977), p.53.
  8. Dungeon Master Guide (2e revised) (1995), p.54-55.
  9. Player's Handbook (3.5) (2003), p.131.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Deities and Demigods (3e) (2002), p.117.
  11. Dungeon Master Guide (2e revised) (1995), p.53.
  12. Dark Ages: Roleplaying in Anglo-Saxon Britain, Dragon #257 (Mar 1999), p.40-41.
  13. 13.0 13.1 The Dragon's Bestiary: Not quite horses—but perhaps better, Dragon #149 (Sep 1989), p.22-26.
  14. Living Greyhawk Gazetteer (2000), p.173.
  15. Deities and Demigods (3e) (2002), p.129.
  16. Down-to-Earth Divinity: One DM's Design for a Mixed & Matched Mythos, Dragon #54 (Oct 1981), p.6-9.
  17. Deities and Demigods (3e) (2002), p.175-176.
  18. Living Greyhawk Gazetteer (2000), p.165.
  19. Deities & Demigods (2002), p.169.
  20. Destriers of the Planes: Magical Steeds for Knights of All Alignments, Dragon #243 (Jan 1998), p.26-34.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Monster Manual II (3e) (2002).
  22. Monster Manual IV (2006), p.33.
  23. Ghostwalk, Web Enhancement (2003), p.4-5.
  24. Book of Exalted Deeds (2003), p.144.
  25. Savage Species (2003), p.214-217.