Why Do Horses Crib?

Cribbing among horses is known for centuries, but it is still a mysterious phenomenon. During cribbing, a horse bites solid objects with the help of its incisor teeth. When their urge comes, they’ll bite anything, including trees, fences, and even their keepers.

Reasons Why Horses Crib

This habit involves the arching of its neck and contracting of the lower neck muscles. Cribbing practice has been studied by researchers, and the exact cause is still unknown.

Therefore, we can only discuss the probable causes along with other popular beliefs among horse keepers. Following are a few such studies and opinions on horse cribbing and their implications on horses’ health. Take a look.


One of the authentic opinions about cribbing that many researchers put forward is that it is caused by genetic mutation among species of horses. Studies have shown that cribbing is related to genetic coding and thus transfers from adults to their offspring.

This practice is neither considered a developed habit nor a disease. This means that no matter what you do, you cannot prevent a horse from cribbing if it is in its genetic characteristics.

According to reports, 3-5% of all horses display such behaviors regardless of the changes in their diet, physical activities, and living environment. However, this reason doesn’t seem to hold true in many other cases like the ones described below.

Developed Habit

Horse keepers believe that cribbing is nothing more than an addictive habit. What this means is that regardless of its source of origin, it is gradually developed over time.

This theory explains that horses can learn and develop this habit due to several reasons. However, they can be prevented from cribbing at the very early stages when it starts to showcase such symptoms at an early age.

If you cannot prevent it in due time, it will become a permanent habit that cannot be reversed. It is an annoying habit for most keepers. You have to be patient if you want to help your horse in giving up this habit.

Digestive Issues

This is one of the most common beliefs among many horse owners that horses crib due to their digestive issues. They believe that it’s the diet of a horse that triggers this behavior. What supports this theory is that most cribbing horses only crib after eating.

They don’t perform this practice during any other time. The only problem with this belief is that this cribbing doesn’t stop even if you change the horse’s diet.

No matter what you do, it is challenging to identify and prevent the digestive issue. The lack of evidence in such a case then leads to further studies in this regard.

Psychological Issues

Horses are tough animals; still, they are sensitive to several mental issues. Cribbing is one of the habits that is associated with their psychological imbalance. Many believe that they start cribbing in the case of extreme boredom.

Why do Horses Crib

They are social animals, and therefore you must keep them in a unique social environment. They must be given enough time and space to interact with each other in an environmentally friendly manner.

Also, keep in mind that diet and physical activities play a crucial role in affecting the psychology of horses. Therefore, you have to manage all such factors collectively for their perfect upkeeping.

Social Impact

Horses showcase their emotions through their body language. They’ll make unusual noises and jump around to communicate their feelings. If a horse is frustrated due to social seclusion, he may start cribbing as a result.

It is therefore vital that you take high care of a horse’s social environment. It must be kept among other healthy horses so that it does not develop any cribbing habit. You must also keep in mind that preventing them from breeding for a prolonged period may also end up in the cribbing habit.

Stress And Energy Release

Horses are one of the most energetic animals and have been used for extreme physical tasks for centuries. However, in modern times, the situation has changed. Their physical involvement and applications have been reduced drastically.

Now they are only seen in a few sports and farming activities. Sometimes they do not release their energy levels because of continuous stalling. This inevitably leads to stress buildup which is not a good sign for the physical and mental well-being of horses.

Lack of exercise can also lead to several issues, and cribbing is one of them. It is an action through which they release their stress and energy. This is not a healthy activity, so horse keepers should be careful about their diet and exercise.


There is another common belief among horse keepers that horses learn cribbing from each other. This theory is not supported by most researchers but there is some evidence that supports these claims.

People believe that if you keep a healthy horse near a cribbing horse, it will also start cribbing gradually. If one of their horses starts cribbing, they isolate it from the rest.

This is not a healthy practice as the cribbing horse will find it even more difficult to give up this habit. Because of such beliefs, people are hesitant to buy the animals that deal with this issue.

Final Thoughts

Cribbing results in the over-development of certain lower neck muscles in horses which is not healthy for them. They find it very difficult to move their necks in certain directions.

These muscles also make it difficult for them to chew and swallow their food. We have concluded that once this practice is adopted by the horses, it is extremely difficult for the horse to leave it.

It becomes increasingly difficult to sell a cribbing horse at a valid price. Therefore, necessary measures must be taken so that cribbing signs can be identified and prevented at the early stages. Only then, you’ll be able to safeguard them from this unhealthy practice.