What’s the Horse Population of the United States? It Depends on Who You Ask!
Since different figures circulate regarding the United States horse population, the American Horse Council (AHC) in June of 2020 clarified statistics from three different sources to avoid confusion and misunderstanding of the data.
Three major organizations collect and publish data regarding the U.S. horse population, each with different target audiences and different definitions.
1 The most comprehensive number comes from the 2017 National Economic Impact of the U.S. Horse Population conducted by the AHC Foundation. This survey shows 1,013,746 horse owners that own or lease farms that house 7,246,835 horses in the U.S.
2 The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Statistic Service (NASS) recently completed a census that counts horses on working farms. This definition excludes boarding, training and riding facilities, as well as any other operation that fails to generate a minimum of $1,000 in annual sales of equine products, which is defined as “breeding fees, stud fees, semen or other.” The NASS survey reports a total of 459,526 horse farms in the U.S. with an agricultural population of 2,847,289 horses.
3 In addition, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) publishes a report on pets. While horses are defined in this report as “livestock,” the AVMA study does ask owners about all types of animals in their care and thus publishes the number of horses reported. That number is 1,914,394 horses.
4 The Food and Drug Administration utilized both the AVMA survey and information from USDA’s periodic surveys of farm animal populations to estimate the U.S. horse population at 3.8 million. FDA explained that population estimates are important for helping government scientists determine potential eligibility for drugs to be used for “minor uses.”
As AHC President Julie Broadway notes, “While NASS and AVMA statistics serve important purposes, only the AHC Foundation’s study most closely reflects the total horse population in the U.S.” (None of these surveys include wild horse data.)
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