The size, composition and distribution of the equine population of Scotland and the five northernmost counties in England were estimated through a series of mailed questionnaire surveys of sentinel veterinary practices and horse owners. An estimated 96,622 equine animals were kept by an estimated 26,114 owners. The mean (sd) age of the population was 11.0 (7.5) years (range one month to 37 years). Thoroughbred or thoroughbred-cross animals were the most numerous, constituting 30 per cent (95 per cent confidence interval 27 to 33 per cent) of the total population. The ratio of males.females was 1:1.