Living in the 21st century, it can be hard to imagine how our ancestors did simple things. Today, we have microchips to keep our pets safe and tell one beagle from another. But what about horses? How did we tell them apart in the past and use their physical features for identification? What are technologies available now to track our horses and keep them safe? Here is a brief history of IDing thoroughbreds.


Probably the easiest way to identify a horse is by their color. In this post, we talked about the common colors for thoroughbreds. Colors are great, but they can also be similar between horses, so there needed to be other ways to identify them.

Face and Lower Leg Markings

We’ve also talked about face and lower leg markings before. These additional traits are more than just pretty; they can also help identify the horse. For example, two horses can be chestnut, but one might have a white star, and the other has a sock on the right front leg.


What if your horses are all one color and all the same color? Another way to tell them apart is whorls. This method has been used since ancient times. Also called cowlicks, this is a patch of horsehair that grows in the opposite direction. There’s an entire field of study dedicated to recognizing whorls in horses.


Natural patterns and colors help to a certain extent, but in our modern age, we need definitive proof that we have the right horse in front of us. Enter the art of tattooing. But don’t think that horses are getting sweet sleeves and hearts that say “Mom.” Lip tattoos were the gold standard for a long time.


But the days of lip tattoos are ending as technology evolves. Today, digital tattoos are becoming the norm. Like the microchips we get for our dogs and cats, digital tattoos are based on microchip technology. They get scanned, bringing up the horse’s registration, including all the identifying markings we’ve listed above.

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FollowhorseOlogyonline and on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to learn more about our team, thoroughbreds, and services. Call us at 855-HORSIES (855-467-7437) to set up your visit to our facility.

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