Can Horses Eat Crab Apples?

Can Horses Eat Crab Apples? A Comprehensive Guide

Crab apples, known for their vibrant colors and tart flavor, are a common sight in many gardens and landscapes. While they are a delightful treat for humans, horse owners often wonder whether their equine companions can safely consume these small fruits. Can horses eat crab apples?

Crab apples may be dangerous for pets and animals, especially larger ones like horses and sheep who are more likely to consume them in high quantities. However, horses can eat crab apples in moderation if certain precautions are taken. It’s crucial to remove seeds and cores, cut them into small pieces to prevent choking, and closely monitor their intake.

Let’s explore the nutritional value of crab apples, potential risks, benefits, and offer expert insights on this intriguing topic.

Understanding Crab Apples

What Are Crab Apples?

Crab apples, scientifically known as Malus, are a group of apple tree species that produce small, often sour-tasting fruit. They are typically smaller in size compared to regular apples and come in a variety of colors, including red, yellow, and green. While humans occasionally use crab apples in culinary applications, they are not as popular for human consumption as their larger counterparts due to their tartness.

Nutritional Value of Crab Apples

Before we can determine whether horses can eat crab apples, it’s essential to understand the nutritional composition of these fruits. Here are some key nutritional components found in crab apples:

  1. Fiber: Crab apples are rich in dietary fiber, which is beneficial for digestive health in horses. Adequate fiber intake helps prevent colic and other digestive issues.
  2. Vitamins: Crab apples contain essential vitamins such as vitamin C, vitamin A, and various B vitamins. These vitamins play a crucial role in maintaining a horse’s overall health and immunity.
  3. Minerals: They also provide essential minerals like potassium and calcium, which are important for muscle function, bone health, and overall well-being.
  4. Antioxidants: Crab apples contain antioxidants, which can help combat oxidative stress and support the immune system.

Can Horses Eat Crab Apples?

Now that we have an understanding of the nutritional content of crab apples, let’s explore whether horses can safely eat them.

Yes, Horses Can Eat Crab Apples, But…

Horses can indeed eat crab apples in moderation. However, there are some important considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Quantity Matters: While crab apples are generally safe for horses, moderation is key. Feeding them excessive amounts of crab apples can lead to digestive upset and other health issues. It’s recommended to limit the quantity to a few small apples per day.
  2. Quality Matters: Ensure that the crab apples offered to horses are fresh and free from rot or mold. Moldy fruit can be toxic to horses and should be avoided at all costs.
  3. Remove Seeds and Core: Before offering crab apples to your horse, it’s crucial to remove the seeds and core. Apple seeds contain cyanogenic glycosides, which can release cyanide when chewed or crushed. While the amount of cyanide in apple seeds is typically low, it’s best to err on the side of caution and remove them.
  4. Cut into Small Pieces: To prevent choking hazards, it’s a good practice to cut crab apples into smaller, bite-sized pieces before offering them to your horse.

Benefits of Feeding Crab Apples to Horses

Feeding crab apples to horses in moderation can have some potential benefits:

  1. Dietary Fiber: Crab apples provide dietary fiber, which aids in digestion and can help regulate bowel movements in horses.
  2. Hydration: The water content in crab apples can contribute to your horse’s hydration, especially during hot weather.
  3. Variety: Offering different types of treats, like crab apples, can add variety to your horse’s diet and prevent boredom.
  4. Vitamins and Minerals: Crab apples contain vitamins and minerals that can complement a horse’s diet, contributing to their overall health.

Risks and Considerations

While crab apples can be a tasty and nutritious treat for horses, there are also risks associated with feeding them:

  1. Digestive Upset: Overfeeding crab apples can lead to digestive upset, including diarrhea or colic. It’s essential to monitor your horse’s consumption and ensure it remains within a reasonable limit.
  2. Mold and Toxins: Moldy or spoiled crab apples can be toxic to horses. Always inspect the fruit thoroughly before offering it to your horse.
  3. Cyanide Content: While the cyanide content in apple seeds is usually low, it’s still a concern. Removing seeds and cores is crucial to minimize any potential risk.
  4. Sugar Content: Crab apples, like other apples, contain natural sugars. Excessive sugar consumption can be harmful to horses, particularly those with metabolic issues like insulin resistance or laminitis. Monitor your horse’s sugar intake from all sources, including treats.
  5. Choking Hazard: Whole crab apples can be a choking hazard, especially if your horse tries to swallow them whole. Cutting them into smaller pieces can mitigate this risk.

Expert Opinions and Studies

To provide a more comprehensive view on whether horses can eat crab apples, we turned to expert opinions and existing studies on the topic.

Expert Opinions

Veterinarians and equine nutritionists generally agree that small amounts of crab apples can be included in a horse’s diet as an occasional treat. They emphasize the importance of moderation and caution against overfeeding. Removing seeds and cores is a widely recommended practice to minimize any potential risks associated with cyanide content.

Studies on Cyanide Content

While there isn’t an abundance of studies specifically addressing crab apples in horses, there is research on apple seeds’ cyanide content. One study published in the “Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health” examined the cyanide content of apple seeds and their potential toxicity. The study found that while apple seeds do contain cyanide compounds, the amount of cyanide released when ingested is generally low and unlikely to be lethal in small quantities.

However, it’s important to note that individual horses may react differently to apple seeds, and some may be more sensitive to cyanide than others. This further underscores the importance of removing seeds and cores when offering crab apples to horses.

How to Safely Feed Crab Apples to Your Horse

If you decide to offer crab apples to your horse, here are some guidelines to ensure their safety and enjoyment:

  1. Limit Quantity: Offer crab apples in moderation. A few small apples a couple of times a week should suffice as an occasional treat.
  2. Inspect for Freshness: Always inspect crab apples for freshness. Discard any fruit that appears moldy, rotten, or otherwise spoiled.
  3. Remove Seeds and Core: To minimize the risk of cyanide exposure, remove seeds and the core from each apple before feeding it to your horse.
  4. Cut into Small Pieces: To prevent choking, cut crab apples into smaller, manageable pieces. This also makes it easier for your horse to chew and digest.
  5. Monitor Your Horse: Pay attention to how your horse reacts to crab apples. If you notice any digestive upset or unusual behavior, discontinue feeding them.
  6. Consider Health Conditions: If your horse has specific health conditions like metabolic issues or insulin resistance, consult with your veterinarian before introducing crab apples or any treats into their diet.
  7. Balance Diet: Ensure that treats like crab apples do not disrupt your horse’s balanced diet. Monitor their overall sugar intake, especially if your horse has dietary restrictions.


In conclusion, horses can safely eat crab apples in moderation, provided certain precautions are taken. Crab apples offer some nutritional benefits, including fiber, vitamins, and minerals, but it’s crucial to be mindful of the potential risks associated with overfeeding, cyanide content, and sugar intake.

Always prioritize your horse’s well-being by inspecting crab apples for freshness, removing seeds and cores, and cutting them into small, manageable pieces. Additionally, monitor your horse’s reaction to this treat and consult with a veterinarian if you have concerns or if your horse has specific dietary restrictions.

While studies on crab apples specifically are limited, existing research on apple seeds suggests that the cyanide content in small quantities is unlikely to be lethal. However, individual horses may have varying sensitivities, reinforcing the importance of caution and moderation in treating your equine companion to these delicious fruits.

In summary, a few carefully prepared crab apples can be a delightful and nutritious addition to your horse’s diet, enhancing their diet variety and providing them with an occasional treat that they can enjoy safely.