Colt (horse)

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A colt is a male horse, usually below the age of four years.[1][2]


The term "colt" only describes young male horses and is not to be confused with foal, which is a horse of either sex less than one year of age. Similarly, a yearling is a horse of either sex between the ages of one and two. A young female horse is called a filly, and a mare once she is an adult animal. In horse racing, particularly for Thoroughbreds in the United Kingdom, a colt is defined as an uncastrated male from the age of two up to and including the age of four.[3]

The term is derived from Proto-Germanic *kultaz ("lump, bundle, offspring") and is etymologically related to "child."[4][5]

An adult male horse, if left intact, is called either a "stallion" if used for breeding, or a horse (sometimes full horse); if castrated, it is called a gelding. In some cases, particularly informal nomenclature, a gelding under four years is still called a colt. A rig or ridgling is a male equine with a retained testicle or one which has been incompletely castrated.[6]

In the wild, colts are driven from their herds by the herd stallion somewhere between the age of one and two. This may be, in part, an instinct to prevent inbreeding. When driven out, they usually join with other young stallions in a bachelor herd. They stay with this band until they are mature enough to form their own herd of mares. The terms "rag" or "rake" have been historically used to refer to a group of colts, but they have fallen out of modern usage.[7][8]

Colts of different ages
A weanling colt
A weanling colt
A yearling colt
A yearling colt
A two-year-old colt
A two-year-old colt
A three-year-old colt at a racetrack
A three-year-old colt


  1. ^ This definition is preferred by OED, Merriam Webster, Saunders Veterinary dictionary, Websters (with narrow exceptions) and Collins
  2. ^ "Colt | Define Colt at". Retrieved 2012-10-21.
  3. ^ Waterman, Jack (1999). The Punter's Friend. Harpenden, Herts, UK: Queen Anne Press. ISBN 1852916001.
  4. ^ Levine, Marsha Ann; Renfrew, Colin; Boyle, Katherine V.; Research, McDonald Institute for Archaeological (August 26, 2003). Prehistoric Steppe Adaptation and the Horse. McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research. ISBN 9781902937090 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ "colt | Origin and meaning of colt by Online Etymology Dictionary".
  6. ^ Summerhayes, RS, Encyclopaedia for Horsemen, Warne & Co, London & New York, 1966
  7. ^ Barrows, Edward M. Animal Behavior Desk Reference. CRC Press, 2001. p. 296.
  8. ^ Oxford English Dictionary 1933: Rag