There is no doubt that the speed and power of a fast car is a joy to behold. Yet, the sight of a racehorse in full flow is also a wonderful sight.
Can horses run faster than cars, or is it the other way around?
The Fastest Speed a Car Can Achieve
This first point is the top speed and this is surely an easy victory for automobiles. After all, the speediest production car was, until recently, the incredible Hennessey Venom GT, which reached 270 mph in 2014 when tested to the limit at the Kennedy Space Center.
Early in 2021, a 1750-hp Tuatara hypercar reached over 286 mph at the same location, having apparently breached 300 mph in the Nevada desert earlier
Of course, technology has come a long way in recent decades. If we go back about a century, the Ford Model T could crank out a top speed of 45 mph. Would a horse have been faster back in those days, or did the car still win?
How Fast Can a Horse Run?
The fastest speed recorded for a horse is 55 mph, so in theory they could have beaten some of the earliest cars for pure speed. However, even by 1899, the land speed record for an automobile was over 57 mph, achieved in France in a Jeantaud Duc Profilée. It has been a long time since a horse could beat the quickest motorized vehicles for speed.
If we look at the average galloping speed of a horse, the difference is even greater. They will generally reach about 27 mph. The record for a thoroughbred horse is the 43.97 mph achieved by Winning Brew over 2 furlongs. The 55 mph record mentioned earlier was for a Quarter Horse sprinting over a short distance.
The American Triple Crown races, Royal Ascot, and the Dubai World Cup are all fast and furious events where the horses race over relatively short distances. For instance, the Kentucky Derby is known as the greatest 2 minutes in sport because this is about how long it usually lasts for.
There is no real comparison with F1 races where drivers maintain a high speed. The record for the highest average speed when winning a race was the 153 mph achieved by Michael Schumacher when he won the Italian Grand Prix in 2003.
Even the most famous and fondly remembered racehorses couldn’t beat a car for speed over a long distance. Secretariat may be the most famous horse of all time and he sped home in the Kentucky Derby in under 2 minutes.
Any race between horses and automobiles would be largely dependent upon the distance run. This is because horses only maintain their best speed for relatively short distances. The longer the race, the greater the opportunity for the car to get ahead.
In terms of acceleration, the fastest car just now might be the Ultima Evolution Coupé, Dodge Challenger SRT Demon, which takes just 2.3 seconds to reach 60 mph from a standing start. It is more difficult to find acceleration figures for racehorses, although experts note that they tend of start fairly slowly and gradually get faster as the race progresses.
The Theory Put to the Test
One example of how these different approaches work can be seen in the test carried out by Mazda. They put together a 60-meter event at Goodwood Racecourse in England. The Mazda MX-5 won by a small distance, thanks to it accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in under 10 seconds.
This confirms that automobiles are faster than horses, even over a short distance. If the race were to go on for longer, you would expect any decent car to pull away from the horse further.