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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Tue 05 Jul, 2005 4:15 pm    Post subject: native European medieval horses         Reply with quote

I noticed a different post that seemed to be advocating sporting horses in the 17 hands height range for knightly use. I have done some internet browsing and compiled some data over the past week or so. What I found seems to indicate to me that there used to be plenty of smaller horses. A wide range of today's sporting horses (15 hands height range with weight just over 1000 lbs) would probably not have been an embarrassement to many a medieval combatant. Some representative findings below;

One Encyclopedia’s definitions (not mine);
Charger is a “War Horse”
Courser is a “Fleet and Nimble Horse”
Destrier is a “Strong War Horse”.
Steed is “a bold and lively horse”, originally in Anglo Saxon it meant “stallion”

Earlier descriptions of the traits of a good Warhorse or Charger mentioned the capability to have great bursts of speed. Cavalries’ horses that translations of period texts called “Chargers” range from the ancient Parthian, through Carolingian, and high medieval times. Some later (1000 to 1100) medieval quotes I ran across contained phrases such as “riding into their Chargers and Destriers” as if these are somehow different.


Significant numbers of smaller 8 to 12 hand tall horses or ponies were existent in pre-medieval times. http://www.fellpony.f9.co.uk/fells/rom_dark/size.htm
Today, a horse shorter than 14.2 hands is classified as a Pony by several equestrian organizations. Medieval images exist that show riders’ feet hanging very far below the horse’s belly, and actual excavated bits support the idea that this is an appropriate size for ponies and horses that were common around 0 A.D.


Surviving breeds referenced frequently as directly related to original native medieval breeds used for battle include; Destriers - Friesian and Ardennes, and Chargers - Andulusian, Arabian, and Barb. Destriers are increasingly adapted in later medieval periods around 1100 forward. There are of course other draft horses, but tracing factual connections back to tournament or combat heavy charge is not easy for most breeds. There are hundreds of others, but I am trying to represent really prominent and wide spread breeds here.

The Ardennes (up to 1000 kg or 2200 lbs) is a very old and originally abundant breed with historical references to their use including Crusades (ridden by Godfrey De Bouillon.) The origin of the breed can be refuted (English, Flemmish, etc.) but whatever the case, the French/Belgium/ Ardennes location (or Ardennais) breed was praised for draft use by Julius Caesar. It was later used as breeding stock to create draft horses as far as present day Lithuania, but subsequently almost abandoned in favor of Percherons or other crosses of warmbloods with native coldbloods during the crusades. Purity of the present Ardennes line is uncertain as it was repeatedly cross bred by many groups. Most variants (Swedish for example) are actually lighter than the “original” I am giving weight and height for based on surviving ones in Belgium/France. From those accounts of what draft horses were crossed with, it seems most likely to me that many Destriers were actually lighter cross-breeds which were more agile yet still heavy (1600 lb range.) Such versatile crosses are common today (Thoroughbred-Shire for example) and make beautiful but heavy eventing (combination Dressage, Show jumping, Cross Country) horses. Whatever the case, this horse boasts the largest combination of provable weight plus historical use as a Destrier that I could find, and period of use seems more likely to be a function of when they chose to adapt it to war, not availability as many articles on medieval warfare suggest. Typical height, 15 to 16 hands, approaching 2200 lbs.


The Friesian line of today was blended with some Arabian/Andulasian in Spain at around 1500. The purebred version is considered to be lost by 1664, however was considered larger than draft horses such as the French Ardennais. Otherwise the breed descends fairly directly from the original Equus Robustus and was separated from influence of the lines of the English Thoroughbred as well as most of the Eastern breeds. They used to be imported or existent throughout Western Europe, but this declined sometime before 1900. Bays and Grays used to occur, but currently the conformation standards only recognize black. Today Friesians are expected to weigh between 650 to 700 kg (1500 to 1600 lbs.) They are capable of carrying very heavy weight under saddle but have comparatively short legs and stand about 14 to 16.2 hands (56” to 64” at the shoulder.) References to the Friesian line can be dated back to 1251 (Cologne.) Art etches show Friesians in Austrian stables as early as 1568, and they were ridden in battle by kings such as Hungarian king Louis II in 1526, and imported into Prussia as early as 1624. As many as 700 Friesians were used in the 1881 London funeral business. Average Friesians higher speed is typically a moderate trot over a short distance of 325 meters. A record trotting record of 3 minutes 6 seconds for a mile (19 mph) was set in 1886. Some other present day draft breeds such as Shire can supposedly reach speeds near 25 mph.

Percheron (destrier class) it is known that at two points in history the native mares of the Le Perche region of France were mated with Arabian stallions, first during the eighth century and later during the Middle Ages. By the time of the crusades the Percheron was widely recognized as outstanding for his substance and soundness, as well as for his characteristic beauty and style.


The Arabian:
The Arabian breed is so famous that I will not belabor it. Arabian height is approximately 14 to 15 hands, with weight ranging from 400 to 500 kg (900 to 1100 lbs.) Arabians are still raced today. It is not exaggerating to say that they can go close to 40 mph for a longer distance than most Friesians can trot, but are now outpaced in medium distance races by Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse breeds (both attributed as having the faster/ extant Parthian breed in their lines) in short races. Arabians travel distances on the order of 100 miles length at a speed of 8 mph in endurance competitions. These would qualify as Coursers or Chargers.

The Akhal-Teke
This is an Eastern breed of Turkish origin. I bring them up because there is little doubt from famous quotes that they were desired and probably captured or bought in small numbers, interacted with during Byzantine era, and introduced in other European breeds (argued by its proponents as a possible contributor to the beginning of the Arabian breed.) At least one archeological skeletal reconstruction validates that the breed existed by 600 B.C., and it is estimated that the Turkish were deliberately developing it as early as 1000 B.C. http://www.equiworld.net/breeds/akhalteke/ They were the “horses of heaven” described by Alexander the Great, Darius and others. Translated paraphrases of Roman and medieval era statements include; capable of traveling 1500 km in 10 days, running unbelievably fast, and jumping like cats. Present conformation weight is 900 to 1000 lbs, height 15 to 16 hands. Turkish cavalries have made use of this breed for transport and battle. This horse would have made a good “anything” other than Draft Horse or Destrier.


The Barb:
The Barb is today classified as one of 6 primary oldest types (equus stenonius) of horses known to man, and the best remaining semblance to roman cavalry horses. The present day Barb along North African coast regions is considered (according to several web site associations for the breed that I checked, including African) to be the possible result of horses introduced by Romans around 50 A.D. and Gauls in the 5th and 6th century A.D., into Africa with subsequent mixing with Arabic types. A “roman nose” variant remains in Tripoli. A popular story is that the Moors, from the 7th century on, imported to the Spanish peninsula the Barb horse from Northern Africa, in numbers exceeding 300,000 animals. This is definitely refuted by some who refer to eye witness accounts that the Berbers brought fairly few horses with them and primarily requisitioned Andalusians, while most Arab arrivals were unmounted. http://www.doublebridlefarm.com/breedhistory.htm A moderate amount of interbreeding seems plausible, and Spanish variants of the Barb are undisputably heavier than others. Barbs have one less vertebrae in the back than most breeds, like the Arabian, and a profile with a sloped nose, like the Andalusian. There were bays, blacks, duns and buckskins. The Spanish introduced Barbs and Andalusians into the Americas in 1493, and at least some authentic strains were recognized at the Wilber-Cruce ranch in Arizona, 1989. (Yes variants of Mustangs.) It was wide spread through Libya, Algeria, Northern Africa, etc., and was utilized by marauders/ Bedouins. Bedouins prevented the Barb from intermingling with Arabians, and may have a large part to do with the African breed’s survival. It has slightly longer legs than the Arabian, rounder body, tougher hoofs, and a more blunt/rounded head. The Barb is possibly the toughest breed in terms of overall health/ survival in the desert or mountains, known for unpredictable temper, and has trouble free hooves. Present Barb variants are 14 to 15 hands tall, and weigh 315 to 400 kg (700 to 900 lbs.) These are on the “light riding horse” end of the spectrum, but were historically sought exclusively as mounted combat horses nevertheless. Courser bloodlines could likely include Barb heritage, but it the perfect example of an older breed translated as “Charger” (was referred to as such in translations of the Monk of St. Gaul chronicle of Charlemagne in reference to cavalry horse.) I was unsuccessful at gathering a “typical sprinting speed”, but do know they can compete, over short distances, with Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds which can exceed 43 mph. I found it amusing that some Paso Fino breeders claim latest DNA study indicates that modern Thoroughbred’s actually have stronger Barb ancestory than Arabian.


Andalusian’s The forerunner of the present Andalusian was famous in early times, and radical proponents of the breed point to evidence of cribbing on ancient fossil skulls to make claims of captivity and possible breeding during the last ice age (5000 B.C. is more typical.) Pre-medieval versions of the breed were both speedy and intelligent entertainment performance horses for Rome (although the now extant Eastern Parthian/Niceaen breed was undisputedly judged faster by the Romans.) The Spanish interbred the original Andalusian with horses of the Moors, the Vilanas (a coarser native stock), the remnant of the horses brought across the Pyrenees from Gaul but previously improved by the cavalry minded Carthaginians. This is the horse that became the modern Andalusian. If you are a fan of the movie series Lord of the Rings, Shadowfax is a prime example of one. They are often all white, and were desired by leaders from Roman (described and praised by Pliney the Elder, remounting breeding stations set up for Rome in Andulasia) through Norman eras. They are famous for having lighting fast responses and being truly reliable, and easy to train/ control. Spanish cavalry considered it to be the most desirable mount for a battle. Generally these are considered similar in statistics to Arabian, and could qualify as a Courser, but seem to be the primary choice for battle by Spanish cavalry. Current conformation is 15 to 16.2 hands, weight 700 to 1100 lbs.


Jennets
The Spanish cross bred the Andalusian, the Barb, the Arabian, the easy riding gait and spotted coats of the horses of the Visigoths to produce the Jennet. Jennets are predominantly spotted or dapple and were sought after for their exotic appearance by Nobles. They appear in Spanish art around 1100 A.D. and most of European art by 1200 A.D. It was the fashion Palfrey of the rich. ---The Spanish Jennet These had one of the smoothest riding gaits. A few modern breeds (perhaps Paso Fino) may claim to be better. Medieval Spaniards used them for traveling relatively long distances (supposedly in full armour according to some current breed sites) to get to the battle field, leading their Andalusian war horses behind.


Some interesting information (not necessarily fact, but worth examining and toying with.)

Long before the Norman Conquest in 1066, Saxon farmers in England were measuring distance in rods and furlongs. The word "furlong", from the Old English fuhrlang, means "the length of a furrow"; it represents the distance a team of oxen could plow without needing a rest. A furlong equals 40 rods, which is 1/8 mile or 201.168 meters. This became a measure of a short sprint race.


In 1066, William the I (Conqueror) put between 2500 to 3,000 horses on 600 to 700 small sailing ships and headed across the channel to England (numbers depend on source.) The boats in the Bayeaux tapestry are extremely small (have been compared with large canoes by those who view it in person) while another work based on scaling cavalry suggests that horses were very large (over half weighing 1300 to 1600 lbs each.) I suspect this is un-resolvable, but written accounts of the battle I have seen so far do not include descriptions of massive horses. The Battle Abbey Roll overseen by William himself http://members.tripod.com/~midgley/battleroll.html accounts for a total of about 5000 men (375 officers), while most current day articles describe it as 9k to 12,000 men. The Normans normally (not sure what happened in cases of very large armies) typically used small cavalry units of 2 groups of 5. Their horses are generally described as short, stocky, and durable. Calvary was unable to break shield walls during most of the battle at Hastings, and instead resorted to a series of feints to draw out scattered individuals who could be more easily slaughtered. After doing this for a large part of a day, the shield wall was too thin to withstand the final attack. “Despite the undoubted skill of the Norman cavalry, they were at a disadvantage and of little use during the initial battle. After the failure of the Norman archers to break the shield wall, they had limited success galloping up the hill, releasing their spears and turning back for another. It was only when the Saxon shield wall was finally broken could the cavalry mop up those housecarls that surrounded the dying or dead Harold and others that remained on the battlefield.” http://www.imh.org/imh/kyhpl2a.html#xtocid165605
http://www.battle1066.com/cavalry.shtml

Crusaders/ Teutonic knights appear to have interbred extensively from the broadest possible territories. It is speculated (considered fact although I could not find a period account of it) that Crusaders returned to Europe with Arabians between 1099 and 1299, prizing their speed. (Moors have actually been credited as introducing them to Europe earlier in 700 A.D. although breeding efforts are not typically mentioned except for the case of the Percheron.) Crusader orders had numerous stud farms, separated, for the purpose of breeding various heavy, fast, and pack/ utility horses.
http://www.deremilitari.org/RESOURCES/ARTICLES/ekdahl.htm Some breeds they reportedly crossed the Arabian with French stock to produce a wide range of Breton horses http://www.horseforsale.ca/breeds/breton.cfm Godfrey De Bouillon was a direct descendant of Charlemagne and a major leader of the first crusade to Jerusalem in 1096. One of his horses has been described as an Ardennes heavy horse.


The Feudal Lord had to furnish his servants with horses for farming. Illustrations bear out that this was done. http://www.imh.org/imh/kyhpl2a.html#xtocid165605

A “free lance” originally refers to an uncommitted vassal knight with a valet, squire, and 12 men at arms. If his original sponsoring Lord died, he could sell his small company’s service to the highest bidder. (Not necessarily a better fiscal situation than when his lord was alive though.) http://freelancers.faire.net/freelancers.html

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Gary Grzybek




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PostPosted: Tue 05 Jul, 2005 4:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Jared!

Here's a subject I know little about but find very interesting. I also find horses of most breeds very beautiful and fancinating.

Gary Grzybek
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Tue 05 Jul, 2005 6:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared;

Excellent overview of a very complex, and much debated topic. I have to agree with you that the Medieval Destrier was hardly the huge draftie of today... but then, the actual "sport horses" of the joust were probably then, as now, somewhat larger and heavier than the real war horses. But to take a big draft-size horse on campaign for a charger was probably unusual to say the least.

I agree too that heights are greater now than then, though the heights of men aren't necessarily that much larger. Henry VIII's edicts to improve the breeds in England by not allowing the keeping of a stallion of over 14 hands suggests that they must have been rather common... but I would just as much suspect that a Destrier of 17hh would be unusual in the extreme. Just like the Cavalry horses of the mid-19th Century, 15-16hh was probably the norm, with most being much closer to 15hh. I would probably argue too (in support of your theses) that the weight of the destrier was somewhat greater than the more modern Cavalry horse though. The preferred weight of a horse in 1870 was 950-1150lbs, while it is my understanding that 1100-1400lbs was closer for the Destrier. Lots of Arabian blood has made for a much "sportier" horse for the most part. Thus I think some of the reason for the modern move towards the bigger Draft breeds for the heavier look.

I found a picture of a Veronese Military Camp 1435. It shows two horses tethered in front of the provost's tent that evoke a definite "heavy horse" look to them. Funny, they look a LOT like my half-draft! Unfortunately it doesn't want to post here, so I'll just have to say it does...

Check out Firestryker's board for some good discussions of this, too in their Equestrian section:

http://www.wolfeargent.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi

Anyway, good summation, thanks!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
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Ryan A. C.





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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2005 10:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It looks like you and I have been up to the same thing lately. I guess that is only natural considering the only thing I love as much as a good horse is a good blade, lol!

Gordon, you mentioned height being 'a much debated topic'. I was under the impression that surviving horse armours wouldn't likely fit a horse much over 15h? I'm talking about full armours and I wouldn't think light horse would be taller than the 'tanks'. I can't point to any source at the moment, but I'm pretty sure I've seen that stated before.

Weren't Courser's much sought after in later periods, being more highly valued than a Destrier? I would expect they would then be required to sometimes wear plate. If that was the case perhaps an Arabian would not make such a good choice, even though they do have very dense bones? Or, being a more agile horse were they sought after for light cavalry use, since this type was gaining popularity?
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Wed 06 Jul, 2005 11:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ryan A. C. wrote:

Gordon, you mentioned height being 'a much debated topic'. I was under the impression that surviving horse armours wouldn't likely fit a horse much over 15h? I'm talking about full armours and I wouldn't think light horse would be taller than the 'tanks'. I can't point to any source at the moment, but I'm pretty sure I've seen that stated before.

Weren't Courser's much sought after in later periods, being more highly valued than a Destrier? I would expect they would then be required to sometimes wear plate. If that was the case perhaps an Arabian would not make such a good choice, even though they do have very dense bones? Or, being a more agile horse were they sought after for light cavalry use, since this type was gaining popularity?


It is debated, since there are those who still are convinced of the massive size of the Medieval Destriers. (Lloyd Clark will now jump in and say "But I LIKE my Percheron! Big Grin ) But I agree that the Destrier is not terribly tall... 15hh is probably about right, though some may well have been upwards of 16. But probably no taller. Indeed, I would suspect that the "Coursers" and "Destriers" were probably of about the same height, but of much different builds. Rather like a running back compared to a lineman (and for much the same reasons, in fact).

It doesn't seem as though the Coursers were ever fitted with armour, since often enough even the Destriers weren't, due to costs and availability (though protecting a $50,000 investment with $25,000 worth of armour seems like a good idea to me, especially since you can use the same "insurance policy" on other $50,000 investments....) but barding was pretty much out of use for the battlefield by 1600. As the pace of battle sped up, horses had to as well.

It is my opinion that for the most part the different types (as opposed to breeds) were kept pretty much separated into their own specialties, with Destriers being reserved for Heavy Horse (and pretty much only for battle at that) with the Coursiers and such being used for more general purposes like scouting and raids. Sir Roger Williams in his "Brief Discours on Warre" makes note of the division of labour, as do other authors. If you want to make a raid (or "Cavalgade" as Sir Roger puts it) then use light horses capable of long marches. For charging other Horse, use a Charger.

Anyway, it's a complex subject with probably as many opinions as there are interested parties, just like with swords, LOL!

Cheers,

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Thu 07 Jul, 2005 4:50 am    Post subject: First mention of armour on horses?         Reply with quote

I ran across an account of a Roman (Marcus Licinius Crassus) around 53 AD period who encountered Parthian cavalry. They hid heavy cavalry in woods. After spreading the Romans with light cavalry feints, the heavy Parthian cavalry came out and cleaned up. What interested me was that written accounts and artwork indicate that these Parthian "heavy cavalry" horses had some type of chainmail like armour. That breed is now extinct, but I do not know of any claim that it was massive or heavy. This makes the added weight of armour seem surprising.
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Ryan A. C.





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PostPosted: Thu 07 Jul, 2005 5:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Through all accounts, and my personal throw at logic, horses were a deal smaller way back in the early A.D. The fact that the horses were armoured is interesting considering their size, but then again, I'm helping my cousin with his Welsh Pony and she can carry a lot more than my weight.

She's about 9.5hh at around 500-600lbs, good legs, good back, and willing.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Thu 07 Jul, 2005 6:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As far as horse armour is concerned endurance might be as important as short term strength.

A bigger stronger horse might be able to bear heavier armour but if it has low endurance it might fade sooner. It may, when fresh, display more speed in a charge.

The smaller but tough horse might be slower and less impressive but might be able to go all day.

I will leave it to Gordon and the other real horse experts to comment on my guesswork.

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Mike Pospichal





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PostPosted: Thu 07 Jul, 2005 9:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ran across this page: http://www.imh.org/imh/bw/spanor.html and thought it might be interesting to see what you guys make of it.
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Thu 07 Jul, 2005 11:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Cool link, Mike, thanks!

I would suspect that the "Spanish-Norman" horse such as this in fact IS about what the Destrier should look like. Pretty round, but not all that tall. The push for height is pretty recent, after all, and the BIG drafties like the Shire and Clydesdale are late-18th and 19th Century breeds, really.

What is cool is that shortly after I bought my new horse (he's a Belgian/Percheron/Quarterhorse mix) another horse, a registered Spanish-Norman was put out in his pasture with him. At first, I couldn't tell the difference! It was WEIRD, let me tell you! Both big-boned, wide but not extremely tall (right about 16hh) horses, with big heads and thick, full manes and tails (and both Bays). Needless to say, I rather like the idea of the Spanish-Norman being the modern equivalent of the Destrier!

As far as strengh goes, it's pretty much just as you say, Jean. The larger horse has a LOT of strength and muscle for the short haul, whereas the wiry horses, ESPECIALLY those with lots of Arabian blood in them, aren't able to necessarily carry that much stuff, but can go for EVER. (Great commentary on that in "Chasing Villa" by Col. Frank Thompkins. He was in command of the 13th US Cavalry in chasing Pancho Villa over Northern Mexico, and had a lot to say on the subject of horses. His own rather small Arabian out-performed most of the larger "American" horses in the tough climate and long marches of that campaign) A good Arabian horse is the best horse on the planet: unfortunately most are nuts.

Somewhere in a box I have a book on Roman Cavalry, and they certainly met their match and then some in the form of the Persian/Parthian Cataphracts! The Persian/Parthian Armoured Cavalry, supported by the numerous horse-archers, was probably one of the most effective weapons systems ever, and was the one thing that the Romans just couldn't steam-roller with their heavy infantry. At least according to my admittedly shallow research on the subject. Still, the Cataphracts were impressive as all git, and it wasn't until the hordes of Muslim light cavalry overwhelmed them at Khadisiya that the form was overthrown. However, I note in the other thread going on now on Eastern Armour that there was still Heavy Horse of the Cataphract type in the Turkish army at Mohacs in 1526.

Anyway, off the soapbox and out to the pasture to play with lances and swords on my horse! ;^)

Cheers,

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Thu 07 Jul, 2005 2:48 pm    Post subject: Spanish Norman breed origin         Reply with quote

Overall, I like the article and the resultant horse as well.

I really was not a Spain nut when I started researching for this post. However, after gathering the information and studying it I have the feeling it should be awarded "best international breeder/distributor of the last 2000 years award." Most of you will not care about the following. However, bear in mind that accounts of early Roman cavalry entering spain with 1000 to 1300 cavalry and returning with 2000 or more horse are repeated. Additionally, Spain was probably the most pro-active breeder working with horses over the entire range of Western Europe from 0 A.D. through the middle ages.

Once again this article : http://www.imh.org/imh/bw/spanor.html echoes the widely propagated story that Barbs were introduced into Spain by Moore invasions. The name Barb is actually derived from Berber (Moore.) A better name would be something like "native wild Iberian horse." Unfortunately, Barb is a misnomer. Archeological examination of skeletal finds has indicated that the horses originated in Iberia (lower Spain/Portugal specifically) and did cross into North Africa by land bridge during the last ice age. There are extensive color coded maps indicating presence of primary breeds by location and dates for those who are careful enough to look. DNA exmaination of current surviving wild horses throughout Spain and descendants in South America, Germany, etc. (200 horses have been tested) have only identified one horse (yes, a single digit low number) which has any Eastern origin (was actually Tarpan lineage in the case of a Sorraia.) Additionally, the North African Barb was universally discrimated against as far as breeding efforts in Arabic areas, but utilized as a cheap alternative to what were considered finer horses. Modern DNA testing supports the fact that Arabic peoples were highly successful in preventing the Iberian origin horses from stealing other breed's mares.

Authors who have actually studied this closely describe the Moore invasion as "possibly returning native stock to native country", not introducing something non-native. Physical traits/ conformation study and comparisons, DNA proveable lineage, and well researched historical work do not support the idea that ancient blood lines of Spanish stock (primarily Andulasion and native wild Iberian horses) were improved thorugh introduction of Eastern blood lines. One can make a good case that a possible "re-invigoration" may have occured following the Moore invasions, with Spanish horses that had not been widely cross bred.

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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Thu 07 Jul, 2005 3:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting stuff, Jared! Lots of new information to digest. Thanks!

Cheers,

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada
http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/
http://historypundit.blogspot.com/
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Jan, 2009 9:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have a minor update related to some background on the Friesian breed.

When the Romans slaughtered the women and children of the Tenceteri (described by Tacitus as the greatest Cavalry tribe known in the conquest of Gaul, never captured..so the Romans tried to kill off their population instead), they ended up moving West across the Rhine near Cologne. Just North of the Tencteri, were the Sicambre. The two tribes and their names continued to be recognize into the 15th century within the duchy of Cleves. The Tencteri and Sicambri continued to breed horses and provided war breeds to the Ripuarian Franks (King Clovis I himself being called in slang a Sicabre by Gregory of Tours when describing his baptism.) I never had a good description of their horses until recently, but Vegetius described the horses of their region, Julier's horses, as massive and more impressive than the horses of Friessland. The Freissland breed is also speculated to have resulted from crossbreeding of the Julier's breed and some Flemmish horses (about right for the time frame of the appearance of the ancient Friesian breed.) Bear in mind the modern Friesian was diminished with Andulasian and other breeds, such that the modern 15 to 16 hands and 1300 lb weight is smaller than what it once was in those days. Anyhow, the ancient stock of the Tencteri/ Julier region was utilized by Merovingian/ Carolingian and later Germanic-Teutonic knight breeding programs for the heavy draft war horse. I've patched together a comparative illustration of the three side by side based upon scale estimates in "The Origins and Influence of the Thoroughbred Horse" from the Cambridge biological series. I'll keep looking for a fosil example and extrapolated size-weight.



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Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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James R.Fox




Location: Youngstowm,Ohio
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PostPosted: Fri 02 Jan, 2009 7:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sirs-If I remember right,(at 70 ) the Morgan horse was used for cavalry up untill the early1900's. I know they are still bred for use by the Amish, the farmer who lived beside my parents did it.They couldn't pull the load of a Percheron, but they can move fast and have lots of endurance. ( Nothing like having your horse stop for a break in the middle of a battle,alot of people got killed when that happens)
Ja68ms
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Jan, 2009 11:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

James R.Fox wrote:
Sirs-If I remember right,(at 70 ) the Morgan horse was used for cavalry up untill the early1900's. I know they are still bred for use by the Amish, the farmer who lived beside my parents did it.They couldn't pull the load of a Percheron, but they can move fast and have lots of endurance. ( Nothing like having your horse stop for a break in the middle of a battle,alot of people got killed when that happens)


I agree 100%, and was thinking of suggesting the Morgan as a good representative guess of what the best dark age war horses might have been like. Morgans are claimed to be an American breed (the first "Justin Morgan" born in 1789 was a pure fluke with no deliberate breeding intention or logical explanation.. just an accident.) They are typically close to 15 hands, but quite robust, agile, and surprisingly strong for their size. Courage and temper of one I have briefly cared for while the owner was gone was as good as any other animal I ever interacted with.

There are a lot of Frankish-Saxon burials in which a warrior was buried with his horse decapitated. (Sutton Hoo mound 17 has a male youth with a gelding.) In a majority of cases, if skeletal data has been reconstructed for purposes of an estimate of height at the withers, the horse burial skeletons turn out to be between 135 cm and 140 cm (about 14 hands) tall. This probably does not surprise anyone here, who I think generally assume modern horses to be larger through breeding and development efforts to optimize them for human riders. What I have been pursuing is the theory that someone has always desired and strove towards breeding an elite war horse, since B.C. times. The late medieval species were very likely a continuation of efforts that had been ongoing for over a 1000 years. In the case of the Germanic tribes, they eventually ended up near the Hainalt region and East Prussia side of Germany (breeding for the Teutonic's order.) The results from those areas' efforts today include breeds such as the Hanoverian and Trakehner breeds (seldom as short as 16 hands, often near 17 hands, but very docile and sporting horses!)

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Xan Stepp




Location: Ithaca, NY
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PostPosted: Fri 02 Jan, 2009 12:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Honestly, this is a topic that I don't know much about, but I would like to ask a question/point out a possible omission.

I currently live in Iceland, and the Icelanders are very proud of the unique character of their native horses which have supposedly been bred true since the Viking Age and represent, almost exactly, the type of horses which were present in Scandinavia, and possibly England at the time of Settlement.

Should the Icelandic horse show up as a breed discussed here, particularly as it may be representative of early medieval horses?

Deyr fé, deyja frændur
deyr sjálfur ið sama;
en orðstír deyr aldregi
hveim er sér góðan getur.
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Jan, 2009 12:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think there is evidence that clearly goes both ways but I think breeding stronger horses for heavier loads of man and armour is important as well. As we know generally what a horse can carry it should seem we can arrive at a weight rather easily of the horse. Typically I have been taught 25% for carry capacity, I have heard 30% before but 20-25% seems fairly common in articles I have read on the subject. I think by the 15th you would have had to seen much stronger and well built horses, not per se forced to be taller only but they'd have to be able to deal with the addition of their armour and that of their rider.

As far as horse armour being small.... not sure that is fair. The Warwick Shaffron at the RA is massive. I have spent a fair amount of time around horses and think that would have been some horse. Not saying it had to be a draft horse as they tend to be somewhat more calm and slow than I'd think useful for war but once you start below 1000 you are getting to a point where you hit the animals carry capacity you get further from what is a likely candidate. Your horse not only has to carry you and your stuff but through the entire battle at somewhat quick speeds and the route afterwards. A guy maybe 150 with 30-40 pounds of armour, then some more for tackle etc you can easily see a horse under or around 1000 carrying but once the horse gets the 150 man plus 60-70 armour and his own 70-90 in armour that adds up fast and quickly more than the carry capacity with well over 300 pounds.

In the end Andrew Ayton has done more work in this topic than anyone I can think of and his numbers make sense to me. I tend to distrust 99% of what I read online, especially on searches as they are not subject to reviews most of the time. I think the idea that massive 1900-2000 pound horses were average is off the mark but in the same breath so are the light weight ones in the other direction, at least for an armoured man and especially for a armoured mount. The idea is not to squeak by with the horse that could barely carry you and your kit but one you can fight and run the other guys down on. Time frame is important as well. Breeding clearly becomes very important in the late medieval period and the likely reason was for hefty horses breed to still have some speed and fire but with the advantage of added strength required by better and heavier armour.

RPM
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Jan, 2009 2:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Xan Stepp wrote:
Should the Icelandic horse show up as a breed discussed here, particularly as it may be representative of early medieval horses?


My original intent was to speculate about the characteristics of medieval era war horse breeds by looking at the more popular ancient breeds (with known references for being used in earlier military) that they had to work with. Icelandic introduction and breeding is considered to have been done with ponies introduced in the 9th century (at least according to common sources.) Feel free to find examples of how these were the breeds they used for their style of warfare! It might make sense to select breeds that could have been easily transported on longboats. At the moment, I don't know what the military background was for the original Icelandic breeding stock.

Also, I sought to better convince myself what the "heavy draft war horse" really was. (I no longer subscribe to the idea that it was like a Clydesdale. More likely it was something versatile and suitable for moderate farm use, or for riding. The Morgan is an o.k. comparative guess in my current opinion.)

We can also now go backwards with DNA analysis and link heredity of current breeds that happen to be in different regions. DNA analysis of Icelandic horses has been summarized along the following http://iceryder.net/origin.html. Basically, at the bottom it implies that the current Icelandic breeds contain very little DNA relationship to the other breeds I had seriously considered. (It is still fully open to debate though. The Barb or what Americans call a Mustang is a good example of what was probably a pony sized horse, that we know saw use in harsh terrain. If you can demonstrate it was true for the Icelandic originals.. please do!)

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!


Last edited by Jared Smith on Fri 02 Jan, 2009 3:17 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Jan, 2009 3:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Randall Moffett wrote:

In the end Andrew Ayton has done more work in this topic than anyone I can think of and his numbers make sense to me.


Thanks for the reference. I just perused a short two page article by him, and his numbers make sense to me as well. As I originally said, average horse-pony skeletons of early medieval era were more pony sized (8 to 12 + hands.) Those found in late dark age to early medieval burial graves with obvious warrior status equipment are increasingly studied and being shown to be about 14 hands tall, without numerically significant deviation. At that time, those would have seemed like "big ones" to those who saw them. If we could see a resurrected one today, we would probably think it was just an average riding horse compared to other current breeds. On the other hand, if we see a horse of 16.5 hands today (about the same percentage difference), we would perceive it as "pretty big!" In the mean time, I'll keep looking around for the archeological skeleton dimensions of a historical specimen, that might surprise us.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Jan, 2009 11:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ayton's Knights and warhorses is very good as well if you can find it. I agree though that there had to be an increase in size from early then to high then to late medieval horses as their use and needs increases.

I think the issue with finding arch evidence for warhorses in the Christian era will be hard as horse burials stop being done with their owners. This means that all high to late medieval horse skeletons you find will likely have no association to knights or other mounted soldiers.

We have loads of site reports with bones but the hard part is finding what they mean in their context.

RPM
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