CP Editorial: Horses are companions, not livestock

At the end of a long day, pet lovers will cuddle with their cat, dog or other companion animal for comfort. But, sitting down and hugging on a horse? That might be difficult. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, “… companion animals should be domesticated or domestic-bred animals whose physical, emotional, behavioral and social needs can be readily met as companions in the home, or in close daily relationship with humans.” This definition clearly describes horses. The species is domesticated, and a horse’s needs are met by people as companions. I firmly believe that horses are companion animals and not livestock.

Equine have been present in the world for more than 50 million years, according to The American Museum of Natural History’s website. The horse became domesticated around 6,000 years ago. This is when people began to use them as “beasts of burden,” which is an animal that is used for heavy workloads, pulling, hauling and transportation. As people worked with these animals, they developed an emotional connection.

I was raised on a large beef cattle operation where the presence of horses was non-existent. As a young child, like many, I dreamed of having a pet pony one day. Yet, as I grew older and found my true passion for beef cattle and pigs, my dream of owning horses slowly came to a close. As I found my passion for true livestock, I realized that, except where used for herding cattle, horses have few utilitarian roles and instead contribute more to the owner’s emotional well-being.

However, The Missouri Equine Council, “…supports the legal definition of all domesticated equines to remain as livestock and opposes the current social trend of referring to them as pets or companion animals.” I must once again contradict this statement with my opinion that horses are companion animals. Under the federal tax law horse breeders and owners are considered farmers. I can agree with this to some extent because horses are a large animal breed that can be reared on a farm or ranch.

I can separate horses into two main categories: work and recreation. I think work horses can be considered livestock depending on the severity of work. Granted, the majority of horses in today’s society are used for recreation. According to the American Horse Council, “there are 281,000 horses in Missouri, over 70 percent of which are involved in showing and recreation.” Yet, of the nine million horses within the U.S., only one-third is used for recreation, according to the American Horse Council.

It is important to note that horses are not used as terminal animals for their products. Horses are not legally used for meat, but there are by-products from them such as glue and horsehair. This again takes away from the livestock perception for me. If the animal cannot be harvested for a greater whole product, then I don’t think they are livestock.

According to the American Horse Council, the equine industry provides a “$102 billion impact on the U.S. economy when the multiplier effect of spending by industry suppliers and employees is taken into account. Including off-site spending of spectators would result in an even higher figure.” That being said, while a lot of money is spent on horses, it is difficult to profit off of a horse. This also reinforces the definition of horses as companion animals because it is also hard to make a profit from a companion animal such as a dog or a cat.

I will credit horses for their aid in evolving the human race. Throughout the years, though, I think horses have evolved from livestock to companion animals as the emotional connection between horse and human became more important than the ability to use horses as work animals. Horses are great animals for us to be connected with, but to classify such a pampered species as livestock is wrong in my opinion. The large animal breed can be used for work or play, yet to me I still see them as companion animal. People will always have a connection to horses, and I will always think of the species as emotional companion animals.

Laura Bardot

About the Author Laura Bardot

I knew how to drive a tractor in a field long before I knew how to drive a vehicle on the road. I hail from a century farm in Lonedell, Missouri, and have always had a deep-rooted passion for agriculture. I grew-up on my family’s large commercial beef cattle operation and was active in the local 4-H club and FFA chapter during my youth. I am excited to be writing for Corner Post for my third semester. Corner Post has provided me with several great writing opportunities for stories in the past and I look forward to the stories that come from this semester.