Horses are beautiful creatures that have many strange and amazing qualities. For example, did you know they have the largest eyes of any land mammal? Did you know a horse has a memory that rivals an elephant’s? A horse remembers the things you tell them, including insults and compliments. They also sleep standing up. In fact they can stand for a very, very long time without getting tired.
Many people are curious as to why horses sleep standing up. It’s probably because it’s so hard for us to imagine falling asleep while we stand. Our bodies and minds are far different from a horse’s.
Horses’ bodies are built differently with bones and ligaments in their legs that are able to lock in a certain way. This allows them to be completely relaxed while they stand. So relaxed they can sleep.
Horses prefer to stand while they sleep and doing so doesn’t harm them. Horses are very heavy animals with large muscles, but delicate bones. Lying down in one place for too long can hurt them. The average light riding horse can range from 840-1,210 pounds (380 to 550 kilograms). That’s the same weight as the average male polar bear, an 8 month old elephant, or two standard snowmobiles.
Horses can stand for a very long time. This is called “stay apparatus.” Horses could even stand for a few years without even getting tired according to The Washington Post.
When horses feel safe, they do sometimes take short naps on the ground. Safe, for a horse, means familiar grounds and other ‘guard’ animals that will be able to alert them in time should a predator appear.
When surviving in the wild, animals have different defenses against predators trying to kill and eat them. For example, the poison dart frog uses the venom its body creates to harm anything trying to kill it. And the stick insect, which uses their appearance to blend in with the natural surroundings.
Horses aren’t poisonous, and they can’t blend into their surroundings as well as a stick insect, and while speed is their best defense, they can’t stand up quickly.
Solution: The super power to sleep standing up.