10 January 2022

Medieval warhorses were the size of modern ponies

Modern fantasy fiction portrays medieval warhorses the size of large Percheron work horses.  In reality...
...the vast majority of medieval horses, including ones believed to have been used in war, were less than 14.2 hands (4ft 10in) high, the maximum height of a modern pony.

The researchers examined the bones of about 2,000 horses dating from the fourth to 17th centuries found at castles, a medieval horse cemetery and other archaeological sites in England, as well as combing historical records and fictional stories of chivalry...

One of the biggest they found was a horse from the Norman period, the remains of which were discovered in the grounds of Trowbridge castle in Wiltshire, but it was only 15 hands – the size of a small modern light riding horse.


  1. 14.2 hands is a good sized horse, a typical sized Quarter Horse (cow pony)

    15 hands is a relatively large horse, towards the upper end of a Quarter Horse size.

    Sure there are larger, taller horses, but I think most people would think that 14.2 & 15 hand tall horses are very good sized. (btw hand measurement to to the withers or top of shoulder)

    I think using the term pony, while technically correct, is misleading.

  2. https://www.sarahwoodbury.com/how-tall-are-you/ has some related commentary on the height of humans during the same period. After all, where you have relatively smaller riders, you don't require larger horses.

  3. Turns out all those Medieval miniatures were life-sized after all ;)

  4. Some more about this from the Royal Armouries:

    Up until 2011 the Royal Armouries in Leeds kept their own horses, which were from some (I think) East European breed, which were not just shorter than you'd expect, but stockier as well. But, despite all their whining about statues, Tories fundamentally hate history and culture, and cut the Royal Armouries' budget, so the horses (and associated staff) all went in 2011.

  5. I was under the impression that medieval horses were two coconuts banged together.


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