In every ecosystem, there is a complex set of relationships between species. It is a simple fact of life that some species eat others.

Those that do the eating or hunting are called “predators.” Examples of common predators include lions, bears and foxes.

Those that are eaten or hunted are called “prey.” Examples of prey animals include zebras, fish and rabbits.

Of course, some animals can be considered both predators and prey. For example, a spider hunting for insects is a predator. If a lizard eats the spider, though, it becomes prey.

People usually use the terms predator and prey to refer to animals. However, the same terms can be applied to animal-plant relationships. If a cow eats grass, the cow would be the predator, and the grass would be the prey.

The series of predator-prey relationships in an ecosystem is called a “food chain.” Usually, all food chains start with the sun, which provides light and heat. Sunlight allows plants to make food and grow by photosynthesis.

Plants are a source of food for many animals. Of course, many animals are a source of food for other animals, too.

Some animals — called “carnivores” — eat only meat, while others — called “herbivores” — eat only plants. Still others, such as humans, eat both meats and plants. They’re called “omnivores.”

So where do horses end up on the food chain? Although people sometimes say they’re “hungry enough to eat a horse,” surely there aren’t any animals out there brave enough — or hungry enough — to actually eat a horse… or are there?

Believe it or not, horses are prey animals. Instead of other animals, horses eat mainly grasses and plants.

Horse owners usually feed horses a mixture of grasses called “hay.” Some owners also feed their horses oats or corn. For treats, horses love to eat fruits and vegetables, such as apples and carrots.

What animals hunt horses? Predators of the horse include humans, mountain lions, wolves, coyotes and even bears.

The fact that horses are prey animals helps to explain some of their behaviors. When horses encounter danger, their fight-or-flight response is almost always flight. Quickly distancing themselves from danger allows horses safely to avoid danger most of the time.

Some horse experts also believe fear of predators leads horses to live together in groups called “herds.” Fear of becoming prey also means most horses sleep standing up during the day!


68 Join the Discussion

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    • We love how you explore all the parts of each Wonder, Abby/M.C! There’s more learning to be done by clicking on the links, isn’t there? Have an AWESOME day! :-)

    • That’s a great question, Mike! You can find out more about the sleeping habits of horses by clicking on the “horses sleep standing up” link in the “Did You Know?” section of this Wonder. The link will take you to past Wonder of the Day #56. Thanks so much for visiting Wonderopolis and commenting! :-)

  1. I really like the video that Wills and Addie made. The horses really seem to trust them. How did they earn their trust?

    • That’s a SUPER question, Danelle!

      Wills and Addie are friends with the horses at The Children’s Ranch, and have spent some time getting to know them. The more a person is around a horse, and the more the horse becomes used to that person and their behaviors, the more trust the horse will have in that person.

      Thanks SO MUCH for visiting Wonderopolis today! :-)

  2. Hi, this is iszarik I think horse are predators because they eat grass and kill them so they became predator and prey…

    • Hello, iszarik! That’s an interesting way to think about this Wonder! You sure have on your thinking cap today! :-)

  3. This wonder was absolutely extraordinary! I learned that horses are a prey and before I posted this comment, I thought they were a predator and prey. I was surprised about how many predators hunted them. I didn’t know that horses eat fish. Do horses eat a lot or not very much?

    • Hi, Jack! We’re glad you learned something new and extraordinary from this Wonder of the Day®! Did you know that this Wonder was created by our Wonder Friend, Wills? He’s AWESOME! He’s a kid just like you who WONDERs about lots of things!

      We think horses probably eat a lot. They need to supply fuel to those big bodies of theirs so they can do things that horses like to do, like run and jump! Thanks so much for your comment today! :-)

  4. Hi, this is James from Mrs. Caplin’s fifth grade class, and I thought it was so amazing how we learned all about life science, photosynthesis and some about the food chain in science class. So, I think it is so cool that you mentioned it in the wonder. I think that it is so abnormal that horses sleep standing up during the day! I wanted to know how many different species of horse are there and what kind of food does each one eat? In the video I learned that you have to make the horse feel comfortable with you before you ride it, so when you go horseback riding, it is a lot of work to make them do what you say. I keep forgetting which word means the animal eats plants and which one means the animal eats meat in school. I am going to study that really hard in school to make sure if I have a test on it, I’ll get it correct. I normally forget about herbavores, carnivores, and omnivores, but now I’ll never forget.

    Anyways, I will do my best to comment later and thank you for the new facts, James

    • Your comment is AMAZING, James! We’re so glad you liked this Wonder of the Day® about horses! It was made by a GREAT Wonder Friend of ours, Wills! He will be happy to hear that you learned so much today! :-)

  5. Hi, I’m Matthew from Mrs. Caplin’s room. I thought this wonder was very interesting. I did not know that spiders were both a predator and prey. I wonder if a squirrel could be a predator, too. Why do horses sleep standing up? Also why would horses sleep in packs and not alone like we do?

  6. Dear Wonderopolis,
    In science class, we are learning about life science. We just learned about food chains and how it starts with the sun.

    Anyways, I think this wonder includes marvelous wonder words. I know horses stand up when they sleep, but does any other animals stand up while sleeping? Do you also know what type of horse is the most fast? This was a fascinating wonder.

    • We’re so happy to hear that you liked this Wonder and its Wonder Words, Sarah! It sounds like you are learning a lot in Mrs. Caplin’s class this year, too! There are other animals that can sleep standing up. Animals that have hooves (like horses and cows) seem to be the ones that sleep standing up the most, though! :-)

  7. Hey, Wonderopolis! This is Ryan from Mrs. Caplin’s class, and I have never even started to speculate that horses are prey! I have always thought of horses as predators! Now, I can use that whenever I need it in a project or something like that. I’m wondering, if wolves eat horses, what eats wolves? Go, Wonderopolis!

    • What a great comment, Ryan! We’re glad you learned some new facts about predators and prey from this Wonder of the Day®! Did you know that wolves are considered a “top” predator? That means they are REALLY high up on the food chain! They are carnivores and must hunt to eat. We know that some scavengers (like vultures) might eat a wolf once it is already dead, but we don’t know of any predator that hunts or eats wolves. :-)

  8. Hi, this is Srikar from Mrs.Caplin’s class. I thought this wonder was really cool. Isn’t it so weird that horses sleep standing up? I never knew horses were an animal of prey. I always thought that nothing could eat a horse. Can’t any horse outrun any lion or cougar? I know horses are really fast, so how can they catch them?

    • Thanks for leaving us this awesome comment, Srikar! Horses are really fast once they get going, but predators often use the element of surprise to sneak up on the horse. This gives the horse very little time to try and run away. Sleeping while standing up does help keep the horse on its feet for an attempt at a quick getaway, though! Large cats, like lions and cougars, can run pretty fast, too! Especially if they are hungry! :-)

  9. Wow, great wonder! Without Wonderopolis, I never would of thought of that question. I never knew that people who eat meat and plants are called omnivores! I’ve never even heard of that interesting word! After reading that wonder, I wish I could know what the largest animal predator is! I think that would be a great fact to know. If you already know, could you tell me? It might help me in my science unit that my class is doing right now.

    • Your question made us WONDER, too, Colin!

      We did a bit more research, and found that different resources consider different animals to be the largest predator! We did find a lot of information that says POLAR BEARS might be the largest land predator, but we’d need to do some more WONDERing to be sure. Several large whales and the Great White Shark were mentioned as the largest sea predators. We did find a cool link that lists Animal Planet’s “Top 10″ predators. Here’s the link: We thought it was fun to learn more about predators! :-)

  10. One more thing…I just want to say this wonder is very clever. I would not have thought of it even with 100 years time! I wonder how people think of these things? I am also wondering about how many pounds does a baby deer weigh? Go, Wonderopolis!

    • People WONDER about things all the time, Ryan! We know you do, too (like about baby deer)! Our Wonder Friend, Wills, simply wondered about horses being predators or prey. Then, he made this Wonder of the Day®! Did you know you can tell us what YOU’RE wondering about any time you like? It’s easy! Just click on the “nominate” link at the top of every page in Wonderopolis and fill in the boxes. We can’t wait to hear about all the AWESOME things you are thinking about! :-)

  11. I cannot believe that horses are prey! I noticed that most food chains start with a plant and slowly progress to bigger animals! Go, Wonderopolis!

  12. Hello, this is McKenna from Mrs. Caplin’s class. This wonder was extremely interesting because right now in science, we are talking about predators, prey, and food chains. Going into this wonder, I already had a lot of background knowledge from life science. I learned a lot of new and very interesting facts. For example, I learned that horses are the prey and not the predator, and I also learned that horses sleep standing up throughout the day. Before I go, I have one question. Do any other animals sleep standing up?

    • We’re super glad that you used what you already knew about predators, prey and food chains to learn even MORE from this Wonder, McKenna! You and your MC classmates have really made us proud with your smart comments today! Animals that have hooves are often associated with sleeping while standing up. This means that cows can sleep this way, too! :-)

  13. Hi, this is Samia from Mrs. Caplin’s class. Tonight for homework, we had to leave a STRONG comment.

    I learned horses are prey not predators. Instead of eating other animals, horse mainly eat grasses and plants. That’s really interesting. I was wondering, are humans predators or pray? I’m curious about this, because we hunt animals and eat them, but we could be eaten by animals like sharks and lions and bears. I was also wondering, that since horses are not predators and they are prey, what are some of their predators? I also learned that all food chains usually start with the sun, which provides light and heat.

    I really liked this wonder and thought it was very informative and interesting.

    • We think your comment is very strong, Samia! Way to go! You’ve done some pretty smart WONDERing about humans being predators or prey. We can see both sides thanks to your comment! Because many of us eat so many different types of plants and animals, humans are considered to be at the top of the food chain. But, when we are not in our normal environment and unprotected (say, like in the middle of the jungle, or on a safari), we could easily become prey to certain animals. Thanks for sharing what you learned with us today! :-)

  14. This wonder was extremely exciting and I enjoyed reading it so much! I had no idea that so many animals ate the horses, such as mountain lions, coyotes, and bears! I didn’t even know that those animals would be able to attack a towering horse! I would like to know how many total horses have been eaten by these animals? This would be fantastic if you could find this out for me! I also didn’t know that horses would eat zebras! I was so surprised by this! I didn’t even think that horses would eat any animals! I enjoyed playing the food chain game and I had no idea that certain things such as mushrooms and bacteria could make the whole food chain start all over! This was a fantastic wonder, and I think that you did a phenomenal job at creating this wonder!

    • Hi, Jack! Our friend, Wills, DID do a GREAT job at helping to create this Wonder, didn’t he? That is him you see in the video! We’re glad you learned so much about horses from visiting this Wonder of the Day®! We want to mention that we’re pretty sure horses don’t eat zebras. Zebras are prey animals just like horses are, and they both mostly eat plants and grasses. We know there was a LOT of information to learn about in this Wonder, so we wanted to make sure we explained that part a little better for you! :-)

  15. Hi, this is Sara from Mrs. Caplins class! I never knew horses were predators and prey! How can horses sleep standing up? It would be way too hard for me. The Food Chain game was great, I didn’t know that every animals diet could be traced back to plants. I guess that’s why plants are so important. I knew there was such thing as herbivores and carnivores, but I never knew there was such thing as a omnivores. I’ve gone horseback riding many times, so I know quite a bit about horses. The food they eat is definitely not appetizing for us, but it definitely is for the horses! This wonder was very interesting, and it connects perfectly with what we are learning in life science. We are learning about the food chain and predators/prey. This wonder is definitely something I should look at if we have test. It talks all about the things we are learning. Thanks for such an awesome wonder!

    • Well, thank YOU for such an awesome comment, Sara! We’re glad you already knew some things about predators, prey and food chains before you explored this Wonder, so that you could learn even more when you visited it! Thanks so much for sharing about the horse food and how it is not appetizing to humans. We’re so happy that you liked this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  16. Hi, this is Haley from Mrs. Caplin’s class!! I thought this wonder was really interesting! I learned that horses were prey and not predators, and they were hunted by humans, mountain lions, wolves, coyotes, and bears. I used my backround knowledge from life science about photosynthesis, food chains, and ecosystem to help me comprehend the wonder! I can connect to this wonder because I adore horseback riding! I remember learning about carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores from third grade life science! I am curious, are horses omnivores, carnivores, or herbivores?

    This was a extraordinary wonder!

    • What a SUPER comment, Haley! We’re amazed at the amount of background knowledge you already had before visiting this Wonder of the Day®! Way to go!

      We think horses are herbivores because they eat a diet of mostly grasses and plants. They probably eat a bug or two that gets into their food occasionally (bugs have to eat, too!), but we don’t think that classifies horses as omnivores. :-)

  17. Hi, this is Olivia from Mrs. Caplin’s class!! I thought this wonder was phenomenal and I learned SO much! I didn’t know that horses were prey animals and I knew they ate grass and hay, but I never really thought grass was considered prey. I also played the Food Chain game and learned that sometimes the biggest, fiercest animal is not always at the top of a food chain. Sometimes it is bacteria or even mushrooms!! My older sister has always been interested in horses, and horses aren’t my favorite animal, but Wonderopolis has enriched my knowledge about horses. I am going to share some of this new information with my older sister and find out if she knew anything else. Using my background knowledge, I already knew that horses sleep standing up, but I also did the link for the wonder about horses sleeping standing up. From that video, I learned that horses sleep standing up because if a predator comes horses can evacuate quickly. I learned a lot from this Wonder of the Day!

    • We really liked your comment, Olivia! Thanks for sending it to us! Thank you for sharing this Wonder with your sister, too! We love to hear about families learning TOGETHER while visiting Wonderopolis! :-)

  18. Hi, Wonderopolis! I never knew that if ANY thing eats something they are called predators. So I guess every body is a predator because every body eats. I think this is cool because we are learning life science in school. I can connect with this because one time I was watching a sparrow eating bugs in my back yard. But then a hawk came and ate him. Who is at the top of the food chain?

    • What a great personal story to connect you to the information in this Wonder of the Day®, Alex! We think humans are at the very top of the food chain. What do you think? :-)

  19. Hey, this is Betty from Mrs. Caplin’s class, and I think this was an extraordinary wonder of the day. I learned so much. I learned a lot of vocabulary words like carnivore and herbivore, and I also learned the word omnivore. I am going to put these incredible, humongous, big, fat, chunky words into my word study spiral. Oh, yeah, you don’t know what’s in there, so let me tell you. Mrs. Caplin tells us to collect big vocabulary words and put them in our word study spiral (Mrs.Caplin calls it ws for short) so we can look back and use them in our writing. If I need your big vocab words in my writing, I will definitely use them. One of my favorite facts was that horses sleep standing up during the day. Personally, I think that is crazy unusual. By the way, this Wonder was as Wonderful as my summer vacation!

    • Your word study spiral sounds like a very helpful tool for writing, Betty! Mrs. Caplin is an AWESOME teacher and Wonder Friend! We’re glad you learned some new, incredible words from visiting this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  20. Hi, this is Harshitha from Mrs. Caplin’s class.
    I didn’t know that there some words such as Predator, Food Chain, and Ecosystem. I wonder if the horse is a predator and prey because horses eat plants and that means it’s a predator and it is also eaten by other animals like tigers, lions, etc. We are learning about the life cycle and this wonder helps me to understand the words ecosystem and organisms. Thank you for your information. It really helped me in life science.

    • We’re happy to know that this Wonder helped you in your life science studies, Harshitha, and that you learned some new words, too! :-)

  21. I learned that a horse is an herbivore. I am glad that I learned that, because I always thought that a horse was a carnivore. How much do horses eat a day? Keep up with the extraordinary wonders!

    • Hi, Jack! There are so many different sizes of horses in the world, from really tall to really small! When we did some more WONDERing about your question, we found that horses generally eat 1.5% to 2% of their total body weight in dry food each day. However, horses that have just had a baby can eat as much as 3% of their overall weight in dry food each day. They need more fuel for their bodies so they can take better care of their babies! :-)

  22. Hi, Wonderopolis! I’m Wyatt from Mrs. Caplin’s class. In science, we are learning about plants and food chains. I loved the video. The white horse was adorable. I loved playing the food chain game because I liked the little video when I was finished . I was surprised that horses were hunted and are considered prey. Also in science, we learned about the parts of the flower and about photosynthesis. I have background knowledge about horses, because I’m from Kentucky and the Kentucky Derby is a big horse race. It is located in Churchill Downs. My mom screams for the horse she wants to win, but that horse mostly doesn’t win. The horse that wins the race gets a blanket made of roses. Can horses swim? Thanks.

    • Thanks for sharing your personal connection to this Wonder, Wyatt! It must be very exciting to see the Kentucky Derby in person! We bet those horses are so majestic! We have seen some horses swim before, but we’re not sure if they all do. We will have to do some more WONDERing about that one! :-)

  23. Hi, it’s Jillian from Mrs. Caplin’s class. Your wonder today was extraordinary and it really got me thinking a lot. My favorite thing I learned today was that horses are really the prey and the predator. When I tell my big brother that he is going to think I’m smart. This was a brilliant wonder, and I’ve learned many new facts.

    • We think you’re smart, too, Jillian! All of our Wonder Friends are super smart! We’re glad this Wonder got you thinking…that makes us happy to know! :-)

  24. Hello! This is Leah from Mrs. Caplin’s fifth grade class, and I loved today’s wonder.
    I always knew horses stood up, but it never crossed my mind that they did that because they were afraid. I thought it was so cool that you did predators and prey for your wonder, because I could make many connections. In science, we’re studying the food chain, which involves some predators and prey. We are also studying plants and flower,s and in the wonder, I read about photosynthesis, and I also found that word in the vocab list.
    I also liked the video and learned a bunch in there, too, like how you need to make the horse comfortable before you ride it, so it isn’t scared or uncomfortable. I could understand because when I was really little, I just hopped on the back of a horse and the horse started to run. It was bad. When I read your magnificent wonder, I liked how you used a word and then used context clues to help people understand the meaning.
    I was just wondering where do wild horses live today?
    I learned a lot, so thanks a lot!

    • Your comment was really awesome, Leah! We can tell you took a long time to think about the things you learned from this Wonder and how you could make personal connections using your past experiences. We hope you were OK when the horse took off with you on its back when you were younger…that sounds like it was super scary!

      We know that there are wild horse populations in several areas in the western United States, as well as on islands near Maryland and Virginia in the eastern United States. It’s pretty cool to think that we have WILD horses living in America, isn’t it? :-)

    • That’s a GREAT question, Chloe! Wild horses must always be on the lookout for some of their natural predators, like wolves, large cats and bears! Wild horses don’t really have any prey…they eat grasses and plants! :-)

  25. I have two horses and a mini pony, also a donkey Im glad I don’t live by tigers and lions! I LOVE my horses and donkey I have a hobby farm at my house.

    • WOW, how very cool, Chelsie! Your hobby farm sounds like a WONDERful place. It’s cool that you take care of your horses, miniature pony and donkey! Thanks for sharing your comment with us! :)

  26. I already new horses were prey because I have some, plus I have had my horses ever since I was 1 year old and now she’s old but I will ALWAYS LOVE her. Many tigers are predators to horses.

    • Thanks for sharing your comment with us today, Wonder Friend! We bet it’s very cool to have horses of your own– do you help take care of them? We hope your horse is doing well, she sounds WONDERful! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Are horses predators or prey?
  • What is a food chain?
  • How are carnivores, herbivores and omnivores different?

Wonder Gallery

horse_shutterstock_62325733Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Think you can put a food chain together? Test your food chain knowledge by playing the fun Chain Reaction game at EcoKids! If you like online games, you can also try The Food Chain Game.

If you’re up for more of a challenge, though, create a real food chain. What did you have for breakfast this morning? Can you trace it backward to create a food chain?

For example, if you had milk, that milk most likely came from a cow. Most cows eat grass. Grass grows using energy from the sun. Of course, if you had soy milk, your food chain will look different!

See? It’s easy! Challenge a friend or a family member to create their own food chain based on what they’ve eaten recently.


Still Wondering

Check out Science NetLinks’ Cycle of Life 1: Food Chain lesson to learn more about how almost all kinds of animals’ food can be traced back to plants and that the sun is often the ultimate source of energy needed for all organisms to stay alive and grow.


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Wonder What’s Next?

Ever wonder how your mom always seems to know what you’re thinking? Tomorrow in Wonderopolis we’ll explore the many superpowers of M-O-M!

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