Were the medieval warhorses no longer the size of horses by modern standards?

Ancient culture exhibits a keen awareness of medieval warhorses as giant and powerful mounts, but medieval pictorial and textual evidence remains controversial. In the latest study, archaeologists from the University of Exeter and elsewhere analyzed archaeological data sets of British horse bones from 171 unique archaeological sites dating from 300 to 1650 AD. The results show that the breeding and training of warhorses is influenced by a combination of biological and cultural factors, as well as behavioral features of the horse’s own temperament.

Medieval War Horse.

The medieval warhorse as we are known was a large horse. Depictions of medieval warhorses in movies and the mass media often depict giant mounts the size of Shire ponies, some 17 to 18 inches tall.


In fact, evidence suggests that 16- and even 15-handed horses were indeed rare, even at the height of the Royal stallion network in the 13th and 14th centuries, and animals the size of This would be the medieval people who were considered great.

Dr Helene Benkert, a researcher in the Department of Archeology at the University of Exeter, said: “Not only the size, nor the robustness of the limb bones, is sufficient to confidently identify warhorses in the record. archeology.”


“Historical records do not give specific criteria for determining how a warhorse was.”

“It is more likely that during the medieval period, at different times, different shapes of horses were bred in response to changing battlefield tactics and cultural preferences.”

The Truth about Medieval War Horses.

The tallest recorded Norman horse was found at Trowbridge Castle, Wiltshire, estimated to be about 15 inches tall, roughly the size of small modern light-riding horses.

The High Middle Ages (1200-1350 AD) saw the first appearance of horses about 16 arm-spans tall, although it was not until the post-medieval period (1500-1650 AD) that the average height of the new horse became considerably larger, eventually approaching the size of modern warhorses and draft horses.


Professor Alan Outram, also from the Department of Archeology at the University of Exeter, said: “The medieval tall obstructions may have been relatively large for that time period, but were clearly still much smaller than they were. one can expect for comparable functionality today”.

“The practice of selection and crossbreeding in the Royal Breeds may have focused as much on temperament and exact physical traits for warfare as they did on raw size.”

“The warhorse is central to our understanding of medieval English society and culture, both as a status symbol associated with the development of aristocratic identity, and as a prominent weapon of war. reputation for mobility and impact value, changing the course of battle,” says Professor Oliver Creighton, also from the Department of Archeology at the University of Exeter.

Rate this post