When I did my BSc dissertation looking at horses sizes I included the
medieval period. The sizes ranged from around 11 hands to just over 16 hands
with the mean at 13 hands 2 inches. Whlist this was not a particularly
extensive study, I think it shows there were some larger animals around in
the medieval period but the majority were smaller.
I suspect that we haven't found many because they were high status animals
that would probably not have been buried with food refuse. I suspect also
many would have died 'in service' so wouldn't be found at settlements.
(Anyone fancy excavating one of the medieval battlefields?!). Therefore a
discrepancy between literary and archaeological evidence is likely although
I suggest that where the sources talk about large horses, they are only
speaking in terms of size relative to the 'normal' medieval horse/pony of
around 13-14 hands.
The idea of studying the armour is one that has also occurred to me although
I haven't got round to it yet! It might well be more informative than the
limited number of bones available. The Royal Armouries at Leeds would
probably be a good place to start.
Hope that helps a little
----- Original Message -----
From: "Jo Wilson" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Saturday, May 03, 2003 12:05 PM
Subject: [ZOOARCH] Medieval warhorses
> I'm looking at medieval horses for an MA project, and was wondering if
> knew of any zooarchaeological evidence for large warhorses during this
> The sources all refer to the breeding of very large horses to carry
> warriors, but in all of the animal bone reports I've looked at, the horse
> remains seem to have belonged to animals that were no more than New Forest
> size. Can anyone help, or is there just a disagreement between the textual
> archaeological sources here?
> Many Thanks
> Jo Wilson