But it appears that the horses of this era were actually the size of a pony – much smaller than their modern descendants, according to the the largest study ever on horse bones.
“The warhorse is central to our understanding of medieval English society and culture both as a status symbol closely associated with the development of aristocratic identity and as a weapon of war famous for its mobility and value. shock, changing the face of battle, “Oliver Creighton, professor of archeology at the University of Exeter and principal investigator of the project, said in a press release.
The study, published in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, examined the size and shape of 1,964 English horse bones from between 300 AD and 1650 AD found at 171 separate archaeological sites. Researchers compared these bones with the bones of modern horses to understand how animals changed over time.
On average, horses from the Saxon and Norman periods (5th to 12th century) were less than 1.48 meters (4.9 feet) or 14 hands tall – modern ponies size standards. One hand measures 4 inches (10.2 centimeters) and the main unit measures the height of horses and ponies.
The study suggested that the 16 and even 15-handed horses common today would have been considered very large by medieval peoples.
Alan Outram, professor of archeology at the University of Exeter and co-author of the study, said medieval warhorses such as steeds, which charged in battle, could have been relatively large for the period . But they were clearly much smaller than we expected for such tasks today.
“Selection and breeding practices at royal studs may have focused as much on temperament and physical characteristics correct for warfare as on raw size,” he said in the statement.
During the Middle Ages, horses had different martial purposes and may have been bred with those tasks in mind, according to the study. The steeds, which could also be intended for display or tournaments as well as charging, were larger, with smaller horses known as rouncies and trotters needed to cover long distances in campaigns. military mounted.
The study also noted that medieval archaeological sites often have less horse bones compared to earlier Roman and Iron Age sites. This is probably due to the fact that medieval horse carcasses were often treated differently from other animals in tanneries, where hides are refined for leather, and rendering yards – where old animals are sold for meat.