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A Dothraki khalasar in the central plains of Essos, which can include tens of thousands of horses and riders.

A White Walker rides an undead wight-horse in "Oathkeeper".

Horses are four-legged mammals which have been domesticated throughout the known world for use as beasts of burden, mounts in war, or simply for transportation.

Horses are prominently used as war mounts by the armored knights of Westeros, whose heavy horse charges can devastate many times their number of infantry.

There are some farmers in the Gift who breed horses for the Night's Watch.

In the desert climate of Dorne in southern Westeros, the Dornishmen have developed a unique breed of horse: the Dornish sand steed. They are splendid beasts that can run for a day and a night without tiring. A knight wearing full metal plate armor would bake in the hot desert sun, so Dornishmen wear only light armor, and thus their horses are bred for extreme stamina instead of strength.

In Essos, the Dothraki mounted hordes of the central plains center their entire culture and society around their horses. They sweep across the plains in large clans called khalasars, which can include tens of thousands of riders and their horses. Unlike the knights of Westeros, the Dothraki favor fast, unarmored cavalry, allowing for lightning-fast strikes and greater mobility.

Even the White Walkers from the lands far Beyond the Wall in Westeros have been observed riding undead wight-horses that they have resurrected.[1]

Prominent horses

  • Blood - a stallion belonging to Ramsay Snow.
  • {Dancer} - a young horse belonging to Bran Stark, specially trained to respond to commands from his arms along after Bran's legs are paralyzed. Slain in the Sack of Winterfell by Ramsay Snow.
  • Stranger - a stallion belonging to Sandor "The Hound" Clegane. A large and fast warhorse with an aggressive temper.
  • The {silver} - a magnificent silver mare given to Daenerys Targaryen by Khal Drogo as a gift on their wedding day. Died in the Red Waste.
  • The {red} - a magnificent stallion rode by Khal Drogo. Sacrificed by Mirri Maz Duur under the pretense of restoring Drogo's life.
  • The {Mountain's horse} - a black stallion used by Ser Gregor Clegane during a tournament until it faced Loras Tyrell, who was riding a mare in heat and which caused the horse to buck Clegane off. Clegane responded by taking his sword and cleaving the horse almost in two.


Behind the scenes

  • Sound effects artist Jeffrey Wilhoit explained that to record the sound of horse hooves hitting a surface, he actually had horse hooves made out of fiberglass cones with silicone inside, " they're cuppy, but they're not quite like the coconut shells in Monty Python."[2]

In the books

Horses are ubiquitous in the medieval societies present in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels. Only a few cultures do not rely prominently on horses, often due to an island location. The Iron Islands in particular make little use of horses, instead traversing their islands in boats, though they do have a least a few horses on the isles for basic transport. The ironborn do not make use of horses as mounts in warfare. Similarly, horses are uncommon in the Free City of Braavos, because it is a city of canals (somewhat like Venice or Bruges in real life) spread out across many small islands linked together by bridges. In the Free City of Volantis, the inhabitants prefer to use a species of dwarf elephant (which lives in its warmer southern climate) to draw carts, which fill the city. Normal large elephants are also not uncommon in Volantis, though horses can also be seen there.

Horses are rare Beyond the Wall due to the harsh climate making it difficult to support them, but a few characters such as Tormund mention that they have ridden horses. Still, the wildlings have so few horses that their war bands mostly operate on foot. The Giants, however, ride mammoths.

Daenerys's silver did not die in the Red Waste in the books, but continues with her to Slaver's Bay. When Daenerys does obtain the Unsullied in Astapor in the TV series, she acquires a new, similar silver horse without explanation.

Bran's specially trained young horse Dancer explicitly died during the Sack of Winterfell.

Jaime does not name any of his horses, since he has seen too many die in battle, and this is harder when they are named. He is amused, though, that his squire Lewys Piper starts calling his palfrey and destrier "Honor" and "Glory", and lets the names stand.

A male horse which has been castrated is known as a "gelding" ("to geld" being another way of saying "to castrate"). Castrating a male horse makes it less hormonal and easier to handle. Uncastrated horses are known as stallions, which typically do not grow as tall as geldings but can also be more aggressive. Young male horses are called "colts". Female horses are known as mares, while young female horses are known as "fillies".

The books give considerably more detail about what specific types of horses are ridden by different characters, based on the historical terms for the use of horses in warfare, not classified precisely by breed but by appearance and purpose:

  • Destrier - the largest, most majestic breed of horses, used by wealthy knights in Tournaments. They can be used as war horses, but it is considered a waste to risk the life of such an expensive animal.
  • Courser - lighter than destriers, but still a very large and powerful horse. Coursers are the breed most commonly used by wealthy knights in warfare, and also in tournament jousts.
  • "Charger" - generic and interchangeable term for a "war horse", of any breed.
  • Palfrey - bred for stamina, palfreys are not intended for warfare but for long riding journeys. Even wealthy knights and royalty will use palfreys for long-distance travel.
  • Garron - specifically bred for cold, snowy climates and rough terrain, which even destriers and palfreys would have difficulty with. Frequently used by the Night's Watch at the Wall and beyond as well as by the Northern mountain clans.
  • Rounsey - a strong and capable horse, but a mutt not produced by formal breeding. Frequently used by poorer knights, squires, mounted men-at-arms, and sometimes as pack animals.
  • Stot - an inferior horse. Both rounseys and stots have no specific breeding. Unbred horses are judged to be a "rounsey" if they turn out strong, but as "stots" if they turn out to be runts incapable of heavy work.
  • Pony - a breed that is intentionally small when fully grown. Usually intended for riding by children of the nobility.
  • Mule - hybrid offspring of a male donkey and a female horse, valued for their endurance at non-combat tasks. They are meant for labor, and they can be ridden, but not for combat (the offspring of a male horse and a female donkey is known as a "hinny", but is smaller and less strong than a mule, and thus not bred as often).
  • Dray - also known as "plow horses", they are strong and meant for heavy labor. They are strong enough to be ridden, but usually are not a good choice for combat.

A particular breed of horse in the narrative somewhat equivalent to the Arabian horse is the Dornish sand steed: intended as war horses, but bred for stamina instead of strength, meaning that they cannot support the weight of a fully armored rider. Due to Dorne's desert climate, the style of warfare used by the Dornishmen developed differently from the rest of Westeros. Armored knights riding heavy armored horses would quickly bake in the desert sun and suffer from thirst. Warfare in Dorne therefore developed to center around light, fast attacks by smaller numbers, so that they will not overheat or exhaust the available water supply. At most, a Dornish rider would only wear light armor, thus Sand Steeds are not required to support this much weight. Sand Steeds are smaller and narrower than normal warhorses, slim even compared to palfreys (also bred for stamina), but are very graceful. Famed for their stamina, Sand Steeds can run a day and a half without tiring.

The Jogos Nhai nomads, who live in the plains north of Yi Ti, ride bizarre horse-like animals called "Zorses". They are rarely encountered in Westeros or even the Free Cities. Several members of the Brave Companions sellsword company ride zorses, and when they take Tywin Lannister's contract to come to Westeros to fight in the War of the Five Kings, they bring their unusual mounts with them. The World of Ice and Fire sourcebook made clear that zorses are not real-life zebras; rather, the Jogos Nhai produce them by breeding regular horses with a strange striped horse-like animal from southern Yi Ti (i.e. actual zebras). Zorses are sterile, in the manner of mules. Indeed, in real-life "zorse" is actually the official term for a horse-zerbra hybrid.

See also