how fast can a horse run a marathon?

This article (obviously satirical) claims a horse won the NY marathon with a time of 48 minutes.

Obviously, the article is a joke. But assuming a horse did enter a marathon, how fast could it run? Is a time of 48 minutes anywhere in the bounds of plausibility?

Normally a 2-mile race is long for horses, but I was surprised to find this reference to endurance races of 100 miles, fastest time 11 hours 18 minutes. That scales to something like 3 hours for marathon. I wouldn’t have thought a horse could run that long. Clearly a horse that runs a marathon and stops would be faster than a pace to go 100 miles, but just as clearly not as a fast as a world-record 2-mile race, which would scale to about a 48-minute marathon.

Here is a race of horse vs. man in 22-miles, not quite a marathon but close enough for jazz. Sometimes the fastest man beats the fastest horse.

You will find other threads from time to time that discuss the ability of a man to run down virtually any animal, given enough time. The human body has a great ability to shed heat, and I don’t think horses are especially good at it.

The pace of a 100-mile endurance race is mostly trot, with walk breaks. Certainly not a fulltilt gallop like a thoroughbred race. Different breeds are also used – arabians or 1/2 arabs predominate in endurance races.

3 hours for a marathon sounds about right - The trot is the most efficient, sustainable gait for distance, and is about 8 miles an hour.

Horses may run it more slowly than man if the conditions are right, according to the studies of Persistence Hunting at least. I read that the only animal that can run as long as humans is the dog or wolf, in cold weather. But in the heat, man wins out due to lack of body hair, and thus the ability to keep cooler.

I think you have misunderstood the nature of the Tevis Cup.

The race takes place over 24 hours, not 11 hours. The official time may be 11 hours, but that time only includes when the horse was actually moving, not the times when it had stopped to sleep, eat and have medical checks. The horse credited with an 11 hour time left the starting line at 5 am and crossed the finishing line at C10 pm, for a total time, start-to-finish of 17 hours.

So that is an actual average speed of C9.5 km/h, which scales up to a 4.5 hour marathon.

Needless to say even that is very likely to be a serious overestimate. It’s like trying to estimate the potential human marathon speed by allowing runners to complete 42 X 1, 000 m races over a week and concluding that this scales up to an hour and a half marathon time.

No, more like an hour and a half to two hours, which is not terribly faster than a top human competitor.

It’s worth noting that the horse is being ridden. While this is a slight disadvantage in that the horse is carrying more than its own weight, it also means that a human is controlling the pacing of the horse, which is a huge advantage for distance racing. Wild horses would (if they actually could be induced to run in the right direction) probably run at short to medium bursts of high speed and wear themselves out before they reached anything like 20+ miles.

As far as I am aware, horses will run more slowly than a man over any long distance, not just sometimes.

For example the human equivalents of the Tevis Cup routinely see times of C15 hours, well ahead of the C17 hour times recorded for the horses.

We’ve been through this before on these boards. Kangaroos, pronghorns and possibly camels, amongst others will comfortably outdistance a man. There is no lack of animals that can outdistance a man, the surprising thing for most people is how short the list is and how many animals aren’t on it.

The reason humans perform better in the heat isn’t primarily because of a lack of hair, though it doubtless helps. We perform better in the heat because we sweat and have a very high surface area to take advantage of that.

Also note two things: the race is somewhat shorter than a marathon, and the horses apparently once again are only being timed based on when they are moving, so are effectively getting at least one 10 minute rest break.

Yeah, but how do we compare with dogs?
One episode of Man vs Beast had an Olympic sprinter (not marathoner) matched up against a giraffe and a zebra. He beat the giraffe handily and was beaten by the zebra, but a false start was called. In the rematch the zebra–anyone who follows the ponies knows that horselike creatures are extremely competitive–the zebra has figured out this is a race and, in a canter and not even galloping, trashes the human and, in a final bit of humiliation, takes time for a hind kick of derision.

I loved that show! Even better was the tug-of-war between a sumo wrestler and an orangutan half his size. She didn’t break a sweat.

Very weather dependent. Dogs are exceptional distance runners. Wolves will happily sustain 20km/hr for >10 hours if they have to. There’s no way a human would even be in the race. But once the temperature goes up it’s a different story.

Below C25oC my dog will keep pace with me over a 20 km run, then get home, have a drink, and expect me to throw the ball for him for the next hour so he can get some exercise. Once the temperature goes much above that, performance rapidly declines, and above 30oC he can’t manage more than 5km or so at above a walk.

Did anyone doubt the outcome of a man vs horse sprint?

While entertaining because it proves that an ape is smarter than a sumo, that is the lamest demonstration of strength I’ve seen.

You’ve got a human with the absolute minimum body mass:muscle ratio vs an ape. And the ape clearly has experience in using the setup, because it’s bracing with its feet against the platform, while the human for some reason stands up so he can’t use his legs at all.

There’s just no comparison there. Humans have much stronger legs than apes, and apes much stronger arms. So the wrestler could win only if he could bring his legs into play. Yet he adopted a stance that only allowed him to use his upper body. Hell, if I adopted the position the ape had I would have once against the wrestler.

It would have been interesting to see what happened if the human had been smart enough to actually adopt the optimum position. You’re in a tug of war, you’re on a platform with a brace point for your feet. What kind of moron doesn’t use it?

Were our quarter horses bred from wild horses originally? I know they’re fastest at running a quarter mile.

The kind who read the script. :slight_smile:

But overall I agree with all your points.

All horses are descended from one species of wild horse (Przewalski’s wild horse is believed to be the ancestor of all domestic horses). All the variation you see between breeds was developed by humans.

The Quarter horse was ultimately founded in the Southwestern US as an all-purpose ranch horse and racer. It’s foundation stock is mostly Spanish barb (often those bred by Native American tribes) and Thoroughbred.

Quarters are such fast sprinters because they tend to be more compact and muscular than other breeds used for racing. They have incredibly powerful haunches and a short fast stride, not long like a Thoroughbreds.

There are no “wild horses” per se in the United States - all the mustangs are feral domestic horses of largely Spanish descent mixed in with whatever else got let loose and never came back. They are not direct descendant of any wild breed - except insofar as their European ancestors were ultimately descended from wild horses.

The original stock of Quarter Horses is British Thoroughbred and Arabian, later crossbred with mustangs and Native American breeds.

Very few breeds of dogs can do this. Obviously, you have to discount the toy breeds, and other small dogs, but even among the larger dogs there are few that can outrun a human in anything approaching comfortable temperatures. Golden Retrievers, for example, suck as a rule, and I have serially exhausted three on my same run. Few can even run 20 km/hr for any real distance. OTOH, my boxer could run 20+ miles, at a good pace (sub 7 minute mile) and still frolic after a drink. Still, she’d crap out early if the temperature “climbed” to 60 F, and she was never much of a downhiller. An ultra running friend of mine had a Malamute, which is a very wolf like breed. Basically, on a sunny day, if it isn’t below 50 - 60 F, we have the advantage. (Figure that, the species that evolved for dry, moderate to warm northeast Africa, can beat a creature evolved for cooler, wetter climes under warmer, drier conditions.)

From my observation, two legs are a big advantage over four downhill, and equally disadvantageous uphill. I think humans handle the sun better, because our surface area exposed to the sun is small relative to our surface area that can be used for cooling. We handle dry weather better, because we can drink on the move, and carry water. If we do not have water to carry, sweating actually works against us over any distance risking dehydration.

So, the answer is very course and environment dependent.

Of course, another advantage the chaser has over the chasee is the ability to set the agenda. Stay close enough so they can cannot stop for any drink or food, while the human has the brains to plan ahead and bring enough food and drink for an extended chase, and I suppose there’s a definite advantage.

IIRC the joke about “piss like a racehorse” was that the horse will burn off a lot of the stored energy in a one-mile sprint - then need to discard the byproducts. Add to that the amount of sweat required to cool off that giant body, figure in a fur coat and surface area ratio, and I suppose the horse will hit limits sooner than a human. Horses after a good race are soaking wet. All that water probably needs to be replaced…?

Since there is another newer thread on this same topic that is currently active, to avoid confusion I am closing this one.

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