5 Things You've Always Wondered About Miniature Horses


You know they're tiny, adorable and popular with the citizens of fictional Pawnee, Ind., but here are some things you might still be wondering about miniature horses.


Despite some persistent myths to the contrary, mini horses are not directly related to the ancient eohippus, which stood just 1 to 2 feet tall. Those, and other prehistoric precursors to the horse, have been extinct for many millions of years. Instead, the modern miniature horse was specifically bred for its size several times throughout history, with the first known example dating to the 1650s when King Louis XIV of France kept mini horses in his menagerie at Versailles. In other instances, the smallest horses have been bred to one another for the sake of creating circus novelties, workhorses for the narrow mines of both England and America, and most recently as popular pets.

The first recorded mention of a mini in America came in 1888, when a lone mini measuring just 31 inches tall at the withers (the top of the shoulder) was discovered amongst a heard of Shetland ponies. He was given the name Yum Yum.


Technically, any member of Equus caballus under 14 hands 2 inches (a hand is four inches) is classified as a pony. But because most minis display a typical horse phenotype with physical features like longer, thinner legs, they are classified as horses and not ponies. The height cutoff for a mini is 38 inches for the American Miniature Horse Association (AMHA) and 34 inches for the American Miniature Horse Registry (AMHR). Anything taller than 38 inches is a Shetland pony. And at exactly 38 inches? He can be registered in both AMHR and American Shetland Pony Club (ASPC).

There is no bottom limit for their size, although many of the most extreme examples have their growth stunted by a form of dwarfism that can cause significant medical complications. The smallest living horse, as recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2006, is Thumbelina, a miniature sorrel brown mare from St. Louis, Mo. who measures 17.5 inches.


Just like smaller dogs tend to live longer than larger breeds, mini horses, on average, outlive their normal-sized brethren. Their average lifespan is around 30 years old, and the oldest known mini was a dwarf named Angel, who was just under 2 feet tall and lived to be over 50. Plus, they need less food and require less space than normal-sized horses.



Plenty of people keep them as pets. They can't be ridden by anyone except a small child, but they are able to pull carts and buggies with adult drivers.

Because of their compact size, mini horses are potential candidates for serving as guide animals. In addition to appealing to horse-lovers, using minis in place of dogs has several benefits, including their longer life spans, which means they can serve as a guide and companion for over 30 years. Not every mini has what it takes to be a guide horse, however. Even before training can begin, the horses must pass an intelligence test to ensure that they have potential.

Other minis have found work as volunteers in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. There are several horses owned and employed by the Sheriff’s Department, where their job is to accompany officers to events at schools and libraries to help ease the introduction of law enforcement to children. Another popular use for minis is to visit hospitals as a therapy animal.


Unlike many animal roles, Li'l Sebastian was played by a single miniature horse named Gideon, who has also appeared in Hart of Dixie, Daddy Day Care and a slew of commercials. When he's not working, he lives on a 150-acre ranch in Piru, Calif. Gideon's trainer, Morgan Bateman of A-List Animals, still has the eulogy and funeral pamphlet—full of actual Li'l Sebastian trivia—following the fictional horse's memorial service. Now, Gideon's living on a ranch with other movie horses, waiting for another call from Hollywood.

Sploot 101: 12 Animal Slang Words Every Pet Parent Should Know

For centuries, dogs were dogs and cats were cats. They did things like bark and drink water and lay down—actions that pet parents didn’t need a translator to understand.

Then the internet arrived. Scroll through the countless Facebook groups and Twitter accounts dedicated to sharing cute animal pictures and you’ll quickly see that dogs don’t have snouts, they have snoots, and cats come in a colorful assortment of shapes and sizes ranging from smol to floof.

Pet meme language has been around long enough to start leaking into everyday conversation. If you're a pet owner (or lover) who doesn’t want to be out of the loop, here are the terms you need to know.


You know your pet is fully relaxed when they’re doing a sploot. Like a split but for the whole body, a sploot occurs when a dog or cat stretches so their bellies are flat on the ground and their back legs are pointing behind them. The amusing pose may be a way for them to take advantage of the cool ground on a hot day, or just to feel a satisfying stretch in their hip flexors. Corgis are famous for the sploot, but any quadruped can do it if they’re flexible enough.


Person holding Marnie the dog.
Emma McIntyre, Getty Images for ASPCA

Unlike most items on this list, the word derp isn’t limited to cats and dogs. It can also be a stand-in for such expressions of stupidity as “duh” or “dur.” In recent years the term has become associated with clumsy, clueless, or silly-looking cats and dogs. A pet with a tongue perpetually hanging out of its mouth, like Marnie or Lil Bub, is textbook derpy.


Cat laying on desk chair.
PoppetCloset, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you’ve ever caught a cat or dog poking the tip of its tongue past its front teeth, you’ve seen a blep in action. Unlike a derpy tongue, a blep is subtle and often gone as quickly as it appears. Animal experts aren’t entirely sure why pets blep, but in cats it may have something to do with the Flehmen response, in which they use their tongues to “smell” the air.


Mlems and bleps, though very closely related, aren’t exactly the same. While blep is a passive state of being, mlem is active. It’s what happens when a pet flicks its tongue in and out of its mouth, whether to slurp up water, taste food, or just lick the air in a derpy fashion. Dogs and cats do it, of course, but reptiles have also been known to mlem.


Very fluffy cat.
J. Sibiga Photography, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Some pets barely have any fur, and others have coats so voluminous that hair appears to make up most of their bodyweight. Dogs and cats in the latter group are known as floofs. Floofy animals will famously leave a wake of fur wherever they sit and can squeeze through tight spaces despite their enormous mass. Samoyeds, Pomeranians, and Persian cats are all prime examples of floofs.


Dog outside barking.

According to some corners of the internet, dogs don’t bark, they bork. Listen carefully next time you’re around a vocal doggo and you won’t be able to unhear it.


Shiba inu smiling up at the camera.

Speaking of doggos: This word isn’t hard to decode. Every dog—regardless of size, floofiness, or derpiness—can be a doggo. If you’re willing to get creative, the word can even be applied to non-dog animals like fennec foxes (special doggos) or seals (water doggos). The usage of doggo saw a spike in 2016 thanks to the internet and by the end of 2017 it was listed as one of Merriam-Webster’s “Words We’re Watching.”


Tiny kitten in grass.

Some pets are so adorably, unbearably tiny that using proper English to describe them just doesn’t cut it. Not every small pet is smol: To earn the label, a cat or dog (or kitten or puppy) must excel in both the tiny and cute departments. A pet that’s truly smol is likely to induce excited squees from everyone around it.


Hands holding a puppy.

Like doggo, pupper is self-explanatory: It can be used in place of the word puppy, but if you want to use it to describe a fully-grown doggo who’s particularly smol and cute, you can probably get away with it.

10. BOOF

We’ve already established that doggos go bork, but that’s not the only sound they make. A low, deep bark—perhaps from a dog that can’t decide if it wants to expend its energy on a full bark—is best described as a boof. Consider a boof a warning bark before the real thing.


Dog noses poking out beneath blanket.

Snoot was already a dictionary-official synonym for nose by the time dog meme culture took the internet by storm. But while snoot is rarely used to describe human faces today, it’s quickly becoming the preferred term for pet snouts. There’s even a wholesome viral challenge dedicated to dogs poking their snoots through their owners' hands.

12. BOOP

Have you ever seen a dog snoot so cute you just had to reach out and tap it? And when you did, was your action accompanied by an involuntary “boop” sound? This urge is so universal that boop is now its own verb. Humans aren’t the only ones who can boop: Search the word on YouTube and treat yourself to hours of dogs, cats, and other animals exchanging the love tap.

Carnivorous Hammerhead Flatworms Are Invading France

It’s no hammerhead shark, but the hammerhead flatworm has become a real menace in France. Or at least a menace to earthworms, as Earther reports.

Believed to be an invasive species from Asia, the hammerhead flatworm was only recently recorded in France, as is documented in a new study (titled "Giant worms chez moi!") published in the journal PeerJ. However, based on reports, photographs, and videos sent in by citizens across the country, scientists determined the pests have gone undetected for nearly 20 years. This came as a shock, especially because the worms can measure more than a foot in length.

In recent years, three species of the carnivorous worm have quietly taken over French gardens and have even been spotted in metropolitan areas. Some species immobolize their prey with tetrodotoxin, the same powerful neurotoxin that makes pufferfish so poisonous. The worms secrete digestive enzymes, allowing them to dissolve earthworms and slugs their size.

Jean-Lou Justine, co-author of the study, says their eating habits are a concern. "Earthworms are a major component of the soil biomass and a very important element in the ecology of soils," Justine tells Earther. "Any predator which can diminish the populations of earthworms is thus a threat to soil ecology."

Archie Murchie, an entomologist who was not involved in the study, told The Washington Post that the worms will continue to spread in step with global trade. The worms were also seen in overseas French territories, including one worm with a blue-green hue that is probably a newly detected species, Murchie tells the newspaper.

[h/t Earther]


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