The horses of Westworld

(Don’t worry, this is spoiler-free.)

I’ve fallen all the way down the rabbit hole of fan theories about HBO’s Westworld, which is currently my favourite show. With so many online conversations about what’s really going on and how it’s going to turn out, I don’t see much point in adding my speculation, but there are lots of other details I really enjoy about the show.

One random thing I love is that the horses never get shot.

I hate having to watch the animal brutality in movies and series involving horses and violence (e.g. Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings), even though the focus is seldom on the animals’ suffering, but in Westworld the bullets never hit horses. There are loads of scenes with multiple characters firing rounds, killing plenty of hosts but leaving the horses untouched. Two characters even use gatling guns without a single horse being harmed.

It’s unrealistic, but in the context of the park it makes sense. The horses are all machines, presumably so that no one has to deal with real animals, who would need food, water, rest, medical care and so on, all of which would spoil the guests’ fun and require a lot of menial labour from the staff. Robot horses would also do as they’re told, so they can all be used by guests who aren’t skilled riders, and hosts don’t have to be programmed to deal with the temperaments of actual animals.


If the horses got shot, the Westworld staff would have to repair them. They could do this easily, but why waste time and resources on that? The guests aren’t there to hurt animals – the ones who come to the park to indulge their suppressed brutality want to inflict their cruelty on people. Plus, wounded or dead horses might leave guests stranded. It’s more convenient for everyone if they’re safe from most forms of harm.

As we’ve seen, the ‘smart’ guns or bullets can injure or kill hosts but not humans. They also seem to be coded for accuracy: guests and hosts can all take out a target with one shot, which usually hits the heart or left shoulder, and while hosts could shoot accurately because they’re robots, the human guests wouldn’t all be so good at it. So the guns/bullets and arrows are coded, I’m guessing, to avoid shooting horses.

This is no doubt a minor detail to some, but for those of us who worry more about whether the dog is going to make it than the main character, it makes Westworld that much more enjoyable.