with Horse and Hound

How Horses Sleep

by Bill Fish

sleeping horse

Do horses really sleep standing up or must they lie down? Can they dream like humans do? How many hours of sleep do they need on a daily basis? How are horses’ sleeping habits the same or different compared to those of other large animals?

Like cattle and some other animals, horses are capable of sleeping in a standing position. Sleeping while standing is beneficial because it tricks potential predators into thinking the animal is awake and less vulnerable. The ability to sleep while standing is due to a series of leg ligaments and bones called the “stay apparatus” that allows certain large animals, such as giraffes and zebras, to lock their legs.

Horses do not do all of their sleeping standing up. Horses engage in light sleep while standing, but cannot experience REM sleep unless they lie down. Horses regularly take short naps while standing throughout the day, which is likely the reason some people assume horses always sleep standing up.

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