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Unsaddling the Secrets of Medieval Horses: From Knights to Famous Warhorses

Horses in Medieval Times: A Vital Resource

Horses have played a significant role in human history. They were not only a source of transportation but also a highly valued asset and often considered a symbol of power.

In the medieval times, the horse was an essential element in military battles and was important for doing daily tasks such as carrying loads or traveling. This article aims to educate readers about the different types of horses used by knights, the role of horses in medieval times, the importance of high-quality destriers for battle, and the characteristics of medieval horses.

Types of Horses Used by Knights

1. Warhorses

In medieval times, knights had access to different types of horses depending on the purposes they served. The two most important categories of horses were the warhorses and palfreys.

Warhorses, particularly the destriers, were the ones used for combat. The destrier was a type of horse that had enough power and size to carry fully armored knights into battle.

They were strong, fearless, and highly trained to withstand the noise and chaos of battle. Other types of warhorses used were coursers, rouncys, Andalusians, Arabians, and Friesians.

2. Palfreys

Palfreys, on the other hand, were horses used for travel and everyday use. They were smaller and lightly built, making them a better option for long rides.

They were also used as riding horses for women and nobles.

Importance of Horses to Knights

Horses played a crucial role in medieval times as they were often the difference between life and death for knights.

A knight equipped with a good warhorse was better protected and could move quickly in battle, making them less vulnerable to attack. The horse was not only seen as a mode of transportation but also an important resource.

Access to a good quality horse allowed knights to rise in the hierarchy and be seen as more powerful. Horses were also given as gifts showing the importance placed on them during this era.

Knights: A Brief History

Knights were considered warriors who were knighted by a monarch. They were expected to uphold the law and provide services to the monarchy, such as military service.

They were also law enforcers who protected the public from danger and crime. Many unmarried knights served as ladies in waiting to the queen, looking after her every need.

As they were highly respected, knights were often relied upon to make important decisions in the king’s court.

The Horse’s Role in Medieval Times

In medieval times, horses played a significant role in a variety of areas.

They were used for travel, daily tasks, and carrying loads on farms, but were most prominent in military battles.

The most important horse in any battle was the destrier.

These horses were usually seen carrying the king or other nobles into battle. They were a symbol of power and strength, and the knights who rode them were often considered the elite of the medieval army.

A good destrier was expensive and difficult to obtain, and owning one served as proof of the knight’s wealth and power.

High-Quality Destriers for Battle

Destriers were the most important horses used during battle, but not just any horse could be used.

The king, nobility, and knights would only ride high-quality destriers. A good destrier needed to be trained for battle, as they had to be brave, fast, and able to tolerate the chaos and noise of conflict.

They needed to be large so they could carry the knight and his armor with ease. Only the properly trained Andalusians, Arabians, Friesians, Percherons, Mongolian horses, Shires, and Marwari horses could meet these requirements.

What is a Destrier?

Destriers were a type of horse used by knights during battle.

They were large enough to carry a fully armored rider with ease, including the additional armor hung on the sides of the horse. These horses were not bred to be used for everyday use and instead focused on their combat training.

They were a status symbol and only the rich and powerful could obtain one.

Common Breeds Used

Different types of horses were used to serve different purposes in medieval times.

Besides destriers, other common breeds were used as well. The Percherons, Andalusians, Arabians, Friesians, Mongolian horses, Shires, and Marwari horses were popular because of their strength, endurance, and speed.

Medieval Horse Characteristics

Medieval horses had strong bones, powerful hindquarters, and short backs. These traits allowed the horse to carry heavily armored knights and move fast on the battlefield with ease.

They were also able to travel long distances without getting tired. Horses were carefully bred and trained for their purposes, which is why they were an essential element in battle.


Horses played a vital role in medieval times, especially during battle. A high-quality destrier was often the difference between life and death on the battlefield and owning one showed the knights’ wealth and power.

There were different types of horses used, including the warhorse and palfreys. Although they were used for different purposes, horses were essential in medieval times, and the breeding and training of them were taken very seriously.

3) Famous Medieval Horses

Medieval times are known for their exceptional horses. Some of these horses have risen to fame and are remembered for their bravery and service to their knights.

Here are some of the notable warhorses that have left their mark on history.


Tencendur was the warhorse ridden by Charlemagne, the first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire during the early Middle Ages.

This horse was known for its remarkable size, strength, and courage. Tencendur became famous for carrying the emperor during his many conquests across Europe.

Llamrei and Hengeron

This pair of horses belonged to King Arthur in Arthurian legends. Llamrei was Arthurs favorite horse, known for its speed and bravery.

Hengeron was more reserved, but was known for carrying Arthur out of many challenging situations. Both horses feature in several stories of the Knight of the Round Table.


Babieca was the famous warhorse ridden by the Spanish hero, El Cid. Babieca was known for being a fearless horse and was a significant factor in El Cids many battles.

After El Cids death, he was buried alongside his faithful companion.


Chetak was the trusty horse of Maharana Pratap, the ruler of Mewar, India.

Chetak was known for his size and bravery, and he carried Maharana Pratap in several battles. Legend has it that in the Battle of Haldighati, Chetak carried the injured Maharana Pratap out of the battlefield, sacrificing his own life in the process.


Marengo was Napoleon Bonapartes famous warhorse who served him in several battles. Marengo was a brave and reliable horse and carried Napoleon through some of his most significant military campaigns, including the Battle of Marengo.

4) Cavalry, Defined

Cavalry is a term used to define soldiers who fight on horseback. During medieval times, cavalry had a significant advantage in warfare due to their mobility and the increased speed with which they could fight.

Cavalry units were made up of knights, and these knights rode on heavy warhorses, armed with lances, swords, and other weapons. The cavalry played a crucial role in many medieval battles.

They could quickly move around the battlefield, attacking and retreating as needed. The cavalry’s rapid speed made it challenging for foot soldiers to keep up, giving it a significant tactical advantage.

In addition to their military function, cavalry units were also used for reconnaissance and communication. Scouts on horseback could easily survey enemy positions, while messengers could travel quickly to deliver vital information to other units.

The role of cavalry changed with the introduction of firearms, which made it difficult for knights to fight on horseback. Nevertheless, cavalry units continued to serve as vital components of armies, even in the face of modern warfare.

Today, cavalry units are still found in some armies around the world, and the tradition of the cavalry lives on as a reminder of the bravery and skill of medieval knights.

5) Frequently Asked Questions

Horses played a significant role in medieval times, and there is still much interest in them today.

Here are some frequently asked questions about horses in the medieval era.

Breed of Horse Used as Destriers

The breed of horse used as destriers varied, as different regions and knights preferred different breeds.

However, destriers were usually stallions that were large enough to carry the weight of a fully armored knight. Stallions were usually preferred because they were more aggressive and could better handle the chaos of battle.

Some of the more commonly used breeds for destriers were Andalusians, Friesians, Arabians, Percherons, and Mongolian horses.

Knights and Horses

During medieval times, knights had access to different types of horses that were used for different occasions.

For battle, they used warhorses such as destriers, coursers, and rouncys. These horses were trained for combat and were specially bred to carry the weight of a heavily armored knight.

Knights could travel long distances on their warhorses, and their speed was a significant advantage in battle. For daily use and travel, knights used lighter horses known as palfreys.

Palfreys were smaller and more agile than warhorses, making them ideal for long rides or traveling in less than ideal conditions. The knight could also use them as riding horses when out hunting as they were quieter and did not scare the prey away.

Knights and Friesians

Friesians were one of four main breeds used during the medieval times. They were raised in the Netherlands and were often used as warhorses due to their strength and agility.

Friesians were intelligent and quick learners, making them ideal for training as war animals. They were also used for travel and carrying loads due to their endurance and strength.

Types of Horses Used by Knights

During the medieval era, knights used a variety of horses to serve different purposes. The largest horse breed was the Percherons, which is still recognized as one of the best heavy draft horse breeds in the world.

Percherons were often used as warhorses because of their size and strength. Destriers were also commonly used as warhorses, as they were large enough to carry the weight of a fully armored knight.

Other breeds used as warhorses were coursers, rouncys, and Andalusians. Coursers were fast and nimble and were used by knights who preferred maneuverability over raw power.

Rouncys were versatile and well-rounded horses that were used for many purposes, including daily use and traveling. In addition to warhorses, archers preferred a different type of mount.

They commonly used coursers for their speed and agility. These horses were well-suited for archers because they allowed them to move around the battlefield quickly.

In conclusion, horses played an integral role in medieval society, particularly in the military. Different types of horses were used for various purposes, from carrying loads to travel and combat.

Stallions, including breeds such as Friesians, Percherons, Andalusians, and Arabians, were often used as destriers due to their strength and courage on the battlefield. The use of different types of horses by knights depended on the occasion, and they often had multiple horses available to them for different purposes.

In summary, horses played a vital role in medieval times, and different types of horses were used for various purposes, from carrying loads to travel and combat. The destrier was the most well-known type of warhorse, and breeds such as Friesians, Percherons, Andalusians, and Arabians were often used.

Knights had access to different horses for different occasions, with palfreys used for daily use and traveling. Percherons were the largest breed, used as draft horses, whereas archers preferred coursers.

The FAQs covered topics such as the type of horse used as destriers, which included stallions, knights and their horses, and the commonly used breeds. Horses in the medieval period were important resources, and owning a good quality horse could signify wealth and power.

The article aims to educate readers about the significance and variety of horses used in the medieval period, showcasing how these animals were an integral part of society.

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