• horse;
  • feces;
  • microbiome


The diversity of the equine fecal bacterial community was evaluated using pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA gene amplicons. Fecal samples were obtained from horses fed cool-season grass hay. Fecal bacteria were characterized by amplifying the V4 region of bacterial 16S rRNA gene. Of 5898 mean unique sequences, a mean of 1510 operational taxonomic units were identified in the four fecal samples. Equine fecal bacterial richness was higher than that reported in humans, but lower than that reported in either cattle feces or soil. Bacterial classified sequences were assigned to 16 phyla, of which 10 were present in all samples. The largest number of reads belonged to Firmicutes (43.7% of total bacterial sequences), Verrucomicrobia (4.1%), Proteobacteria (3.8%), and Bacteroidetes (3.7%). The less abundant Actinobacteria, Cyanobacteria, and TM7 phyla presented here have not been previously described in the gut contents or feces of horses. Unclassified sequences represented 38.1% of total bacterial sequences; therefore, the equine fecal microbiome diversity is likely greater than that described. This is the first study to characterize the fecal bacterial community in horses by the use of 16S rRNA gene amplicon pyrosequencing, expanding our knowledge of the fecal microbiota of forage-fed horses.