A stallion is an adult male horse that has not been castrated. Typically larger and more muscular than female horses or gelded males, stallions are noted for their impressive physique. Stallions are often used as studs for breeding, but may be used for work or competition purposes as well.
A male horse reaches maturity at about four years of age. Prior to this point, the horse is known as a colt and may not have achieved full growth or sexual maturity. Colts are typically gelded in their first year, but modern surgical techniques allow for the gelding or neutering of horses of any age. Since gelding typically reduces aggressive behavior, it may be performed on older stallions after their breeding years have passed. Gelding a colt prevents it from producing offspring, but also may make the horse more responsive to training and easier to handle.
Contrary to popular belief, most stallions are not dominant herd leaders. Instead, the head stallion of a herd will act as a guard and herder, while the dominant mare tends to be the actual leader. Generally, a herd will tolerate only a few stallions before breaking into smaller herds. Dominant stallions reduce competition in wild herds by driving off colts that are approaching maturity.
Temperament is often a consideration when buying or raising a stallion. While not all stallions are difficult to handle, many are high spirited and headstrong, particularly during breeding seasons. There are many different theories on how best to raise and manage a stallion. Some trainers advocate isolating the horse after weaning, to prevent it from building a dominant temper by challenging other young horses. Others suggest that a stallion shouldn't be kept completely away from other horses or animal company, but should be allowed to socialize with a herd for a few hours a day.
A well-trained stallion can be a valuable asset in nearly every area of horsemanship. In addition to breeding stock, certain breeds of stallion make excellent racehorses and are carefully bred to produce even more superior offspring. The strength and musculature of stallions make them excellent workhorses. Many stallions are also used in equestrian competition, such as show jumping.
Stallions are more common in some horse cultures than in others. In the United States and Western Europe, most male horses are gelded to make them more docile, leaving only a few of the finest colts intact to create breeding stallions. In parts Asia, however, horses are rarely gelded and stallions are often the best regarded type of horse for riding and racing.