Horse’s Digestive System: How Many Stomachs Does A Horse Have?

There are a lot of queries about the digestive system of a horse. With a basic knowledge of a horse’s digestive system, many unconditioned miseries can be prevented.

People would be crazy to ask how many stomachs does a horse has?

It is a myth that horses have two stomachs, being the class of non-ruminant and herbivores. They have only one stomach and are divided into one compartment and functionality like humans.

How Many Stomachs Does A Horse Have

This blog post will explain the basic anatomy of a horse’s digestive system, the process of digestion, and some important facts that can help you deal with an upset stomach.

Let’s start the article without wasting any time.

Horse’s Digestive System

Horse’s digestive system is like a human’s digestive system. The digestive system has mainly two parts which its features can characterize.

The main parts are:

  • Foregut
  • Hindgut

The foregut has the stomach and small intestine, while the hindgut mainly has a large intestine where fecal defecation and water absorption occurs.

The stomach of the equine can hold about 3 gallons simultaneously. It is the smallest stomach compared to all the domestic animals. The food stays for an average of 20 to 25 minutes in the horse’s stomach.

The second part, the small intestine, is about 65 to 68 feet long. It has the same anatomy as the human small intestine. It has:

  • Duodenum
  • Jejunum
  • Ileum

The food completes its digestion in about an hour (60 minutes) with a maximum of seven hours.

The next section of the digestive system is the hindgut. It is a part that is subdivided into two primary parts, which completes the process of digestion:

  • Caecum
  • Colon

The caecum starts right after the small intestine, which is much similar to a cow’s rumen. It is a comma-shaped structure with a length of four feet, holding a liquid of 8 gallons. (the liquid store here is water).

The caecum ends at the colon with small divisions of large colon and small colon, about nine to10 feet long. Food passes in about two days on average in the hindgut and then reflexes out of the body.

The Horse’s Stomach

Before the stomach, there are two essential parts. One is the mouth, and the other one is the esophagus. Food is selected by five senses and is taken into the mouth. If any unpleasant food lump is entered, it is instantly rejected and thrown out.

When the food enters the mouth? it is moistened by saliva produced by salivary glands. An average horse will produce about 30 to 50 liters of saliva per day. Teeth help in chewing and is converted into oval shape structure known as bolus.

The bolus then enters the esophagus and is swallowed by the process of peristalsis (wave-like motion assisted by gravity which leads the bolus into the stomach).

Before entering the stomach, only a tiny enzyme is known as Salivary Amylase; only partial digestion of carbohydrates is executed.

Digestion in Stomach

When food enters the stomach, it’s in the form of a bolus. The bolus is further digested by the aid of chemicals present in the stomach. 

Here’s how actually digestion in the stomach happens:

When food enters the stomach, the walls are stimulated, which secretes gastric juice, which has a protein-digesting enzyme pepsinogen. The hydrochloric acid present in the stomach activates pepsinogen to pepsin which starts the digestion of proteins and lipids.

In this way, the stomach dissolves the part of food containing lipids and proteins and converts it into slimy, liquid material (In humans, it is called Chyme).

Further digestion of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates occurs in the last portion of the stomach, which is the pyloric region, and from here, the food leaves the stomach to enter the small intestine.

So, How much time does it take to digest in a horse’s stomach?

The digestion process in the stomach takes approximately 1 hour, and food is digested into simpler carbohydrates, lipids, and protein subunits. The rest of the food is passed to the small intestine for absorption and further digestion.

The small intestine has two main functions:

  • Digestion of Remaining Food
  • Absorption in blood

Last digestion occurs in the small intestine, and all of the remaining digested food is converted into energy and passed into the blood.

The energy is stored in ATP (Energy Storing Unit) and is utilized whenever the horse needs it.

Basic Principles Of Horse Nutrition

Making a perfect diet for your horse is as necessary as water for human beings. Feeding the essential hay or grass won’t keep a horse’s health.

Most people would be taking care of the five essential nutrients, carbohydrates, Proteins, Fats, various Vitamins, and Minerals. But, most importantly, water is forgotten, which may cause many digestive diseases and affect the whole body.

So, never compromise on a horse’s diet in any way. Essential minerals play a vital part in preparing a horse for better health, which is constantly needed in different races and competitions.

What Are 5 Nutritional Requirements For Horses?

Every nutrient in the diet of a horse is very crucial for its health. Most people describe five essential nutrients:

  • Carbohydrate
  • Protein
  • Fat
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals

Every mineral in this diet should be given in the exact recommended amount. Fluctuations in nutritional requirements render mineral deficiencies and lead to upset stomach and metabolism.

What Is A Balanced Diet For Horses?

A perfect horse diet contains premium quality alfalfa and grains measured in weight and not volume. 1:1 of grass/roughage: grains would be fantastic.

What Is The Most Important Part Of A Horse’s Diet?

Different opinions about the key ingredient of a horse’s diet are there. But, long-stem forage is what all the horses need in a new quality of grass. Due to any reason, if long-stem forage is not available, free-hay grass may be fed to the horses.

How Many Stomachs Does A Horse Have?

A horse is a non-ruminant herbivore, meaning it is a plant-eating animal, with only one compartment of digestion and no sub-divisions. Unlike goats, cattle, and sheep, horses have only one stomach.

The stomach is the part of the hindgut and where 90% of digestion occurs.

6 Fascinating Facts About Horse Digestion

Horses’ digestive system is infrequent. Its exciting facts will shock you!

What is unique about a horse’s digestive system?

It has two major parts: the foregut digests the essential food parts, and the hindgut fermenters the remaining food items.

Here are some interesting basic facts:

1.10 Gallons Saliva Daily Produced If A Horse Eat Forage Adequately

The more food a horse will eat, the more saliva it will be producing. Salivary glands activate when the horse starts chewing. Hence, more than 8 Gallons of saliva is produced.

2. Horses Never Vomit, As Esophagus Is One Way

It may sound crazy, but the esophagus can only send food down the stomach; horses never vomit!

3. Only 2 Gallons Liquid/Water Is Stored In Horse’s Stomach

Horses retain the smallest amount of water or liquid in their stomach, about 1.5 to more than 2 gallons of all the animals.

4. Food Will Move To Small Intestine In 20 Minutes On Average

The digestion is quick in the stomach. After that, the food moves into the small intestine.

5. Horses Lack A Gallbladder

The gallbladder is associated with the digestion of fats in humans, but horses lack a bladder. So, the duodenum of the small intestine will assist in breaking down the fats.

6. Complete Digestion Takes 3 Days On Average

If estimated correctly, the digestion process starting from mouth to excretion through the anus will take 2 to 3 days on average.

Major Problems with Horse Digestion

Many horses have problems digestion due to the lack of any key nutritional compound.

Horse digestive problems include:

  1. Diarrheal conditions
  2. Gastric ulcers.
  3. Weakness
  4. Apathy
  5. Loss of appetite
  6. Constipation

In addition to this, bowel infections and bloating occur with abdominal pain persisting with muscle cramps. That is why nutrition is essential for horses.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Type Of Digestive System Does A Horse Have?

Horses have a non-ruminant digestive system, which only has one compartment. Though, it is divided into two parts: foregut, where enzymatic digestion occurs, and foregut for food fermentation.

How Long Does It Take A Horse To Digest Its Food?

Complete digestion in horses may take up to two to three days. from mouth to anus, a total of three days are required.

Where Do Horses Do Most Of Their Digestion?

Most of the digestion in horses is said to be occurring in the small intestine. Key parts of food, like proteins, lipids, sugars, fats, and other minerals and vitamins, are digested in the small intestine.


A horse’s digestive system is a unique blend of nature. It has structural and functional similarities with a man’s digestive system.

But, it has different functions like enzymatic activity is occurring in the foregut and fermentation of food in the hindgut.

So, that was all about the Horse’s Digestive System. If you have any questions about it, please comment below and let us know!

Also Read :

  1. 7 Things to Know About George Washington’s Horse “Nelson.”
  2. 10 Foods You Should Never Feed To Your Horse
  3. Horses Analyzed: What’s a Mare, Yearling, Colt, Gelding, Stallion & Foal?

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