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 sometimes a a lot slighter, daintier animal.

A group of archaeologists and historians trying to find the reality in regards to the steeds that carried knights into battle has concluded that the majority have 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 information and fictional tales of chivalry.

“It seems that issues will not be 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 dimension portrayed in movie and even in exhibitions.”

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

Outram stated the overwhelming majority of medieval horses, together with ones believed to have been utilized in struggle, have been much less than 14.2 arms (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 have been found within the grounds of Trowbridge citadel in Wiltshire, but it surely was solely 15 arms – the dimensions of a small trendy mild using horse.

Outram stated that dimension clearly wasn’t the be-all and end-all for medieval warriors. He stated that there may nicely have been some significantly giant warhorses however armies would even have wanted smaller horses for duties similar to harrying a retreating enemy, finishing up long-range raids and transporting tools.

The analysis group was eager to spell out they didn’t imply to suggest that medieval horse breeders didn’t put big quantities of time, effort and cash into their work. “Within the thirteenth and 14th century particularly the royal stud was an incredible community,” stated Outram. “They have 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 relatively than, say, a farm horse, is tough. They’re additionally hampered by the truth that most fallen warhorses have been hauled off to the knacker’s yard relatively than afforded an organised burial.

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