According to a new zooarcheological study, medieval warhorses may have been a little less Sleipnir, a little more My Little Pony. Contrary to the popular image of gallant steeds as big and powerful, back in ye days of olde many were probably closer to the size of modern-day ponies (under 14.2 hands or 4’10” high), researchers found after examining the bones of 1,964 horses found between 300 and 1650 A.D. in England.
The study posits that horses reaching heights of 15 or 16 hands were rare, and would have been seen as relatively big. For comparison, the average horse nowadays is approximately 15.2 hands, according to the authority known as animals.mom.com.
“Most medieval horses are surprisingly small. There are very few that are the sort of size portrayed in film or even in exhibitions,” Alan Outram, a University of Exeter archeology professor and one of the study’s coauthors, told the Guardian.
These findings suggest that we have to add “horse size” to the long list of historical inaccuracies in medieval epic films. To help you wrap your head around the mind-boggling difference between a horse-sized warhorse and a pony-sized warhorse, here are some data visualizations created using advanced imaging software:
What a stark contrast. How vastly different our understanding of history might be if we had all grown up with the knowledge that great battles may have been fought on dinky, adorable little ponies.