by Corryn Wetzel/Smithsonianmag.com
In the Lord of the Rings movies, Aragorn and his fellow riders mount massive steeds that tower over their bretheren, and in the more based-on-truth epics, knights’ horses inspire awe or fear in their enemies. But these powerful equines were likely a much slighter, daintier animal, according to new research published in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. By modern standards, medieval warhorses were likely no larger than a pony.
In the largest-ever study of horse bones to date, research by five English universities study examined the bones of nearly 2,000 horses. The specimens, which date from the 4th to 17th centuries, were recovered from 171 unique archaeological sites including castles and medieval horse cemeteries. The team then compared the dataset to samples taken from modern horses to get a clearer picture of the sizes and shapes of the medieval steeds.