CHIEF RABBI, HACHAM SHAUL KASSIN 5681 – 5779 / 1921-2018

Past Articles:
ITS AMAZING! EXPLORING THE MYSTERIES OF THE ANIMAL KINGDOM

By: Efraim Harari



Do Horses Sleep
Standing Up?

Horses snooze while standing up, but in order to fall into a deep sleep, they need to lie down — though they usually don’t do that for very long, since on average, horses only need around two and a half hours of deep sleep a day. Most of this sleep occurs in many short intervals of about fifteen minutes each.

Horses don’t like sleeping on the ground, anyway. In the wild, horses are prey animals. A horse off its feet is more open to attacks (and it takes horses longer than most other animals to pull themselves up), while a standing position is safer, as the horse is always ready to run away if a predator approaches.

In horse herds, when a group of horses needs to lie down to sleep, at least one horse usually remains standing, in order to keep an eye out for any potential threats.

I See You!

Horses have
the largest eyes of any land mammal.

Torah Connection

The horse plays a big role in the Gemara and Midrash. One of the traits of the horse that is discussed is its sleeping habits. The Gemara in Berachot(3b) states that David Hamelech would not sleep longer than a horse, even at night.

The Gemara in Sukkah(26b) discusses the amount of time that a person is allowed to sleep during the day:

Rav said: It is forbidden for a person to sleep during the day longer than the amount of time that a horse sleeps. And what is the amount of time that a horse sleeps? It is for sixty respirations (breaths).

Abaye said: The sleep of the master, Rabbah, is like that of Rav, and that of Rav is like the sleep of Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi. And that of Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi is like that of David Hamelech, and that of David Hamelech is like that of a horse. And that of a horse is sixty respirations.    

Rashi states that one who sleeps for longer than this amount of time during the day is neglectful in his Torah study, for it is a far greater sin to give up Torah study during the day than at night. Therefore, according to Rashi, one should limit his sleep for the evenings.

There are varying opinions as to how long “sixty respirations” is, ranging from three minutes and twenty seconds, to thirty minutes, to three hours.

A  Closer  LOOK  At…

How Horses Are Able
to Sleep While Standing

Horses are able to snooze while standing because their bodies were created with a special feature called the stay apparatus. The way the stay apparatus works is as follows: When a horse is standing at rest, it is able to lock its kneecaps with ligaments (the elastic bands that connect bones at the joints) and tendons. With these soft tissues locking the bones together, the horse does not need to exert any energy to use its muscles. This allows the horse to be completely relaxed and able to doze while standing. Horses even use their stay apparatus while they are awake, to avoid becoming tired.

So, the next time you drive past a horse farm and you notice a horse standing with its head down and its lower lip drooping, be extra quiet – because that horse is probably napping!

A Little Riddle:

Q:Why do cowboys ride horses?

A:Because the horses are too heavy for them to carry!