Horses have historically accompanied troops and warriors into the battlefield, even in restricted armed settings. The choice of horse has varied from the agile and nimble breeds capable of lightning-quick strikes to the predecessors of draft horses that were capable of carrying fully equipped knights and their armor into the battlefield. While the importance of the war horse is sometimes overlooked, they deserve a place in history.
Here are 11 breeds of war horses, some of which are extinct and others of which are still popular today, despite the fact that horses are not used on the battlefield nearly as often as they once were.
The 11 War Horse Breeds & Their History
The Friesian is an ancestor of the Destrier, commonly revered as the archetypal war horse. Although the Destrier is no longer in existence, the Friesian remains a popular dressage and riding horse.
The breed originated in the northern Dutch area of Friesland. After being taken to England by Roman riders, it became a popular horse in medieval times, when it carried knights to battle. The popularity of the breed soon dwindled after the Middle Ages and it is believed that, at one point, only two of the breed existed. They were fortunately a male and female and were captured and bred back.
The Andalusian horse has long been a popular breed, and its noble appearance and elegant demeanor guarantee that it is as popular now as it was while transporting monarchs and noblemen into combat in the 16th century.
Originating from Spain and claiming the Iberian horse as its ancestors, the Andalusian was popular with royalty including French king Louis XIV and English king Henry VIII. This breed was used as cavalry horses by both French and English militaries. They are now utilized for dressage and eventing, and their exquisite appearance has made them famous in films and television shows.
The Arabian horse seems delicate, yet it is lightning fast and shockingly robust. They have been used as coursers for thousands of years, initially originating from Ancient Egypt. It gained popularity in Greece, Rome, and the rest of Europe. They were used during the Muslim invasion and spread via the Ottoman Empire.
They have long been used to develop agility and speed into bulkier horse types, and they are largely regarded as one of the greatest contemporary breeds for people seeking stamina and agility.
The huge and powerful Percheron was raised in Northwestern France and was shown transporting knights into combat. It was used during the Late Middle Ages as part of the French heavy cavalry, but following this, they became popular for activities like coach pulling and in agricultural work.
They are now popular as draft horses in the United States, and they are even mixed with thoroughbreds to produce police horses and hunters.
The Marwari horse has been employed by Indian cavalry since the early Medieval Ages. They are brave and incredibly agile, and it was this combination that saw the leader of the Marwar region amass a collection of 50,000 Marwari cavalry horses during the 16th Century.
Today, the breed is rare, although they are crossed with larger thoroughbred horses to give rise to polo and dressage animals. They are also employed in theatrical performances and religious occasions.
The Shire is a massive breed that was originally known as the English Great Horse due to its military ability. King Henry VIII utilized them heavily in his cavalry and he successfully bred taller and larger Shires by banning the breeding of Shires that were shorter than 15hh tall. The resultant horse could readily support the weight of a knight in full armor.
The Shire is now considered uncommon, although it is still used for heavy lifting and hauling, as well as for riding and occasional events.
7. Mongolian Horse
For thousands of years, the Mongolian Horse has been a popular and very efficient Mongolian battle horse. Genghis Khan and his warriors were particularly fond of it and employed it to great advantage. It excelled as a courser, which meant that it was agile, fast, and able to carry out attacks at great speed and in relative silence.
It is still a highly popular breed, with millions of them still living today. It is used for transport, kept for its milk, and is still used for riding and racing.
Hailing from the Thessaly region of Greece, the Thessalian horse stood approximately 15hh, they are considered surprisingly short for their historical stature. The breed is well known historically for being the breed of Alexander the Great’s famed horse, Bucephalus. The horse was so adored that after its death, Alexander created the city of Bucephala.
While it was commonly assumed that the breed had been extinct, many Thessalian specimens have been unearthed, however they are exceedingly uncommon and difficult to find.
The Destrier was the forefather of today’s draft horses. It was large and very strong, capable of carrying a fully armored and laden knight into battle, and still able to charge the enemy. The breed would have been fearless, ignoring the sound of hammering armor and the fog of combat. Destrier war horses were usually stallions, because they were naturally more aggressive, although this was dependent on country and rider.
The Destrier no longer exists in its original form.
Palfreys were also ridden by knights throughout the Middle Ages, albeit they were mostly utilized for transportation rather than combat. They were smaller than Destriers and provided a more pleasant and smooth ride over long distances. While not being employed as often in combat, they may cost as much as the highly regarded Destrier war horse.
The Destrier, Palfrey, and Courser horses were not breeds as we know them now, but rather sorts of horses with similar features. A Destrier could be thought of as a war horse, a courser as a strike horse, and a palfrey as long-distance transport.
The courser was small, light, and agile. They were used as a highly mobile unit and were preferred to heavy cavalry horses for rapid strikes. These horses were ridden without armor and were often deployed for specific missions and quick attacks.
War Horse Breeds
People have long had an affinity to horses, and as well as using them for riding, racing, and eventing, they have been deployed to work in agriculture, transport, and a host of other fields. War horses are still utilized today in terrain where tanks and other vehicles cannot be deployed, as well as in certain third-world nations, despite the fact that most of the breeds were deployed on battlefields hundreds or thousands of years ago.
Featured Image Credit: Pixabay
What breed of horse was a destrier?
Destriers, or warhorses, had to be big and strong enough to wear armor and carry fully armored knights into battle. Friesians, Percherons, Andalusians, and Arabians are among of the most frequent breeds employed by knights.
Why aren t horses used in war anymore?
With the introduction of new, more lethal weapons throughout the years, the value of horses in battle declined. The development of powerful bows and arrows that could pierce horse armor, as well as the introduction of guns, meant that horses were no longer invincible.
Are war horses extinct?
While attempts have been made to raise horses of comparable size to medieval horses, medieval battle horses have gone extinct. A knight (if he could afford it) would often have many horses. There are four sorts of horses that would be employed by an army during a conflict.
How much was a destrier horse?
War horses were more expensive than normal riding horses, and destriers the most prized, but figures vary greatly from source to source. Destriers are valued between seven to 700 times the price of a regular horse. In 1298, Bohemian King Wenzel II rode a horse worth a thousand marks.