Medieval warhorses no bigger than modern-day ponies, study finds | Archaeology

In movies and literature they’re normally depicted as hulking, foot-stomping, snorting beasts however a brand new study has claimed that the medieval warhorse was usually a a lot slighter, daintier animal.

A workforce of archaeologists and historians looking for the reality in regards to the steeds that carried knights into battle has concluded that almost all had been most likely solely the dimensions of a modern-day pony.

The researchers examined the bones of about 2,000 horses courting from the fourth to seventeenth centuries discovered at castles, a medieval horse cemetery and different archaeological websites in England, in addition to combing historic data and fictional tales of chivalry.

“It seems that issues are usually not fairly as they’ve normally been portrayed,” stated Prof Alan Outram, of the College of Exeter’s archaeology division. “In fashionable tradition, warhorses are sometimes depicted as the dimensions of a shire horse. It actually wasn’t like that. Most medieval horses are surprisingly small. There are only a few which are the kind of measurement portrayed in movie and even in exhibitions.”


Illuminated manuscript web page depicting warhorses within the crusades, in outdated French. {Photograph}: North Wind Image Archives/Alamy

Outram stated the overwhelming majority of medieval horses, together with ones believed to have been utilized in warfare, had been much less than 14.2 fingers (4ft 10in) excessive, the utmost top of a contemporary pony.

One of many greatest they discovered was a horse from the Norman interval, the stays of which had been found within the grounds of Trowbridge fortress in Wiltshire, but it surely was solely 15 fingers – the dimensions of a small trendy gentle using horse.

Outram stated that measurement clearly wasn’t the be-all and end-all for medieval warriors. He stated that there would possibly nicely have been some notably massive warhorses however armies would even have wanted smaller horses for duties equivalent to harrying a retreating enemy, finishing up long-range raids and transporting gear.


The analysis workforce was eager to spell out they didn’t imply to indicate that medieval horse breeders didn’t put enormous quantities of time, effort and cash into their work. “Within the thirteenth and 14th century particularly the royal stud was a tremendous community,” stated Outram. “They had been spending far more cash on horses than folks.”

There’s nonetheless a lot work to do. The stays of only a few, if any, horses have been discovered on battlefields so figuring out which animal was a warhorse fairly than, say, a farm horse, is troublesome. They’re additionally hampered by the truth that most fallen warhorses had been hauled off to the knacker’s yard fairly than afforded an organised burial.

The following steps embrace analysing findings at a web site in Westminster, extra study of horse armour and analyzing the DNA of bones to search out out extra about one in every of historical past’s most iconic creatures.

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