4 October 2022 The Future is the Product of the Past

According to new research, medieval warhorses were shockingly diminutive in height

Medieval warhorses are often depicted as massive and powerful beasts, but in reality, many were no more than pony-sized by modern standards, a new study shows.

Horses during the period were often below 14.2 hands high, but the size was clearly not everything, as historical records indicate huge sums were spent on developing and maintaining networks for the breeding, training, and keeping of horses used in combat.

A team of archaeologists and historians searching for the truth about the Great Horse have found they were not always bred for size, but for success in a wide range of different functions – including tournaments and long-distance raiding campaigns.

Researchers analyzed the largest dataset of English horse bones dating between AD 300 and 1650, found at 171 separate archaeological sites.

The study, published in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, shows that breeding and training of warhorses was influenced by a combination of biological and cultural factors, as well as behavioral characteristics of the horses themselves such as temperament.

Medieval European horses were about the size of a pony, with an average length of 14.2 hands (approximately 142 cm).
Medieval European horses were about the size of a pony, with an average length of 14.2 hands (approximately 142 cm).

Depictions of medieval warhorses in films and popular media frequently portray massive mounts on the scale of Shire horses, some 17 to 18 hands high. However, the evidence suggests that horses of 16 and even 15 hands were very rare indeed, even at the height of the royal stud network during the 13th and 14th centuries and that animals of this size would have been seen as very large by medieval people.

Researcher Helene Benkert, from the University of Exeter, said: “Neither size nor limb bone robusticity alone, are enough to confidently identify warhorses in the archaeological record. Historic records don’t give the specific criteria which defined a warhorse; it is much more likely that throughout the medieval period, at different times, different conformations of horses were desirable in response to changing battlefield tactics and cultural preferences.”

The tallest Norman horse recorded was found at Trowbridge Castle, Wiltshire, estimated to be about 15hh, similar to the size of small modern light riding horses. The high medieval period (1200-1350 AD) sees the first emergence of horses of around 16hh, although it is not until the post-medieval period (1500-1650 AD) that the average height of horses becomes significantly larger, finally approaching the sizes of modern warmblood and draft horses.

 The longest recorded Norman horse was found at Trowbridge Castle in Wiltshire and is estimated at around 15 hands (1.50 m), similar in size to small modern light riding horses.
The longest recorded Norman horse was found at Trowbridge Castle in Wiltshire and is estimated at around 15 hands (1.50 m), similar in size to small modern light riding horses.

Professor Alan Outram, from the University of Exeter, said: “High medieval destriers may have been relatively large for the time period, but were clearly still much smaller than we might expect for equivalent functions today. Selection and breeding practices in the Royal studs may have focused as much on temperament and the correct physical characteristics for warfare as they did on raw size.”

Professor Oliver Creighton, the Principal Investigator for the project, commented: “The warhorse is central to our understanding of medieval English society and culture as both a symbol of status closely associated with the development of aristocratic identity and as a weapon of war famed for its mobility and shock value, changing the face of battle.“

University of Exeter

Banner
Related Post

The first Dutch Neanderthal’s ‘Krijn’ face was reconstructed

7 September 2021

7 September 2021

World-renowned “paleo-artists” Kennis brothers have reconstructed the face of the first Neanderthal in the Netherlands. After more than 50,000 years,...

13th-Century skeletons Unearthed in Annaea Mound

8 May 2021

8 May 2021

At the historical Kadıkalesi archaeological site in Turkey’s western Aydin province’s Kuşadası district, a total of five skeletons thought to...

A 1900-year-old stele was discovered in Turkey’s ancient city of Parion

5 August 2021

5 August 2021

A 1,900-year-old grave stele was found during excavations in Parion, an important ancient port city, near Kemer village in the...

Unique 2700-year-old mosaics unearthed in illegal excavations

17 November 2021

17 November 2021

Two 2700-year-old mosaics, which are thought to belong to a Roman rich man and symbolize magnificence, were found in a...

Archaeologists unearth human spines threaded onto reed posts in Peru

5 February 2022

5 February 2022

Archaeologists have found almost 192 examples of human vertebrae threaded onto reed posts 500 years ago in the Chincha Valley...

The Cairo University archaeological mission unearths the tomb of Ramses II’s royal treasurer at Saqqara necropolis

1 November 2021

1 November 2021

Archaeologists working at the Saqqara necropolis have unearthed the tomb of Ptah-M-Wiah, a high-ranking ancient Egyptian official and head of...

The Famous Cueva de Ardales cave in Spain was used by ancient humans for over 50,000 years

8 June 2022

8 June 2022

Cueva de Ardales cave in Málaga, Spain,  famed for the extensive prehistoric art on its walls was excavated for the...

Archaeologists Unearth Cisterns at Izmir’s Ancient “City of Mother Goddess”

2 June 2021

2 June 2021

In the ancient city of Metropolis, in western Turkey, in the province of Izmir, something that played an important role...

Artificial Intelligence Project That Will Revolutionize Archaeology

5 April 2021

5 April 2021

Polish Scientists to opening a new era in archeology They plan to use artificial intelligence to detect prehistoric cemeteries, castles,...

Archaeologists discover a 4,000-year-old ancient city in the Iraqi Dhi Qar region

20 July 2021

20 July 2021

An astonishing find was made by archaeologists in Iraq‘s Dhi Qar province, where an ancient settlement estimated to be 4,000...

Columns in Lagina Hecate Sanctuary Rise Again

19 February 2021

19 February 2021

Lagina Hecate Sanctuary is located in Yatağan district of Muğla. It is an important sacred area belonging to the Carians...

Egypt’s Tanis bronze figurines shed light on ancient commerce

19 July 2021

19 July 2021

A research team told that the newly discovered 3,000-year-old bronze figurines recently unearthed in Tanis, Egypt, can answer questions about...

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Celebrates 151th Anniversary of Its Establishment

13 April 2021

13 April 2021

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the few museums in the world, celebrates the 151st anniversary of its establishment....

Stone-arched tunnel discovered near Achaemenid dam in southern Iran

4 February 2022

4 February 2022

A cultural heritage protection team has recently discovered a stone-arched tunnel located near an Achaemenid embankment dam in southern Iran....

The very unknown ancient city of the Mediterranean; Syedra

3 July 2022

3 July 2022

Known as Turkey’s holiday paradise, the Antalya region is a treasure when it comes to ancient cities. Close to the...

Comments
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.