Charger Horse Breed- The Ancient Warhorse

Last Updated on March 15, 2022 by Urska

In ancient and medieval times, horses played a main role in wars, the type of horse varies slightly, but they are all known as the charger horse breed. The majority of chargers are heavy, powerful horses, though some are lighter. Each type of charger horse had a specific purpose.

Charger Horse Breed History
Charger Horse Breed: The Ancient Wa...
Charger Horse Breed: The Ancient Warhorse

Throughout history, the warhorse was a prized possession. In Europe, during the Middle Ages, knights and their horses had to wear very heavy armor. All of this additional weight required a powerful, large horse.

While these heavy horses had the strength to carry these knights, they did not have a lot of endurance for fast work. These horses not only had to possess strength, but they also had to have enough bravery to enter a chaotic battlefield, have calm temperaments, and be loyal.

These heavy horses were carefully selected when they were young and were the most valuable type of warhorse.

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Destrier Horse

The charger horse breed isn’t just one type of horse. In fact, a charger horse is one of three types and not a breed at all. The largest, heaviest type of charger is the Destrier. The Destrier is the precursor to the draft horse. It was the largest, strongest, and heaviest type of warhorse.

The majority of Destriers were stallions, as they had a natural fight instinct, which was useful in battle. A Destrier was the most valuable warhorse. Only high-ranking knights had the privilege of ridding a Destrier.

You might have noticed horses depicted in paintings of knights and battles of the Middle Ages. Most of the horses are Destriers. Because these horses did not have huge amounts of endurance, knights only rode them in battle and not across the countryside.

When knights were traveling long distance the Destrier was led at the side of another horse, in order to preserve its energy for battle. It was common to train a Destrier to fight in battle by rearing and striking at opponents that were fighting on foot.

A knight who held a position high enough to own a Destrier also owned several other horses. This is another type of charger called a courser. Buying a Destrier was incredibly expensive.

During the 11th century, large sections of land got traded for just one warhorse. The heavier Destriers came a little later. Another name for these horses is the Great Horse. 

Check out the different types of horses from Medieval times.


The courser was a lighter more blood type of horse. It was similar to a modern-day hunting horse. A courser had more stamina, speed, and agility.

It was also a less expensive horse to buy, so knights often owned more than one. The Spanish coursers were the most prized. However, it was still valuable, and the second most expensive type of calvary horse.

To transmit messages quickly between armies, it was the courser that did this job. It was also the preferred mount of kings who wanted to travel more quickly.

When not used as part of the army, the Courser was the main mount for hunting as it was the fastest type of horse of the time. It was a strongly built horse that enjoyed jumping and enthusiastically carried its rider across the countryside.

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The Palfrey is another type of charger horse. It played an important role in the armies and as a pleasure riding horse. It was a shorter horse than the Destrier and used for everyday riding by knights. These horses had a smooth gait which made them comfortable for long-distance riding.

Even though the Palfrey was an everyday horse, it did not lack quality. The Palfrey’s smooth gait made it the preferred mount of noble ladies. It was also the battle mount for low-ranking knights.

what is a charger horse


When talking about charger horses, we have to take a special look at the Andalusians. The Andalusian was one of the most respected and prized warhorses of the period. This breed was once known as the ‘royal horse of Europe’.

The Andalusian was and still is an athletic, beautiful, and strong horse with lots of agility. It originates in Spain. Not only does it have excellent physical qualities for a warhorse, but it also has an excellent temperament and is easy to train. 

The Andalusian is one of the world’s oldest horse breeds.

What Is A Charger Horse Conclusion

As you can see, the charger horse breed isn’t actually a breed, but a group of horses that played different roles in the armies of Medieval times. Each type was important and valuable in its own right. It is the Destrier chargers that set the foundation for many of the draft breeds that exist today.

Do destrier horses still exist?

No, the destrier horse doesn’t exist in it’s original form anymore. The modern draft breed of horse, known as a Percheron, may have in part descended from the original destrier. However, Percherons are believed to be taller and heavier than the average destrier used to be. Shires are also supposed to be descendants of destrier, but there is some uncertainty around whether or not they can be considered true descendants. 
Modern attempts to reproduce this ancient horse breed involved crossbreeding of an athletic riding horse with a light draft type. The result is a type of horse known as a crossbred that includes both bloodlines of the two breeds. The “Spanish-Norman” is a well-known example. The Warlander is another popular crossbred.

What breed of horse did the knights ride?

The most common medieval war horse breeds were the Friesian, Andalusian, Arabian, and Percheron. These breeds of horses we’re a mix of heavy breeds for carrying armored knights, and lighter breeds for hit-and-run or fast moving warfare.
The Friesian was originally bred in the Netherlands, as a sturdy working horse, for agricultural use, and to pull heavy loads in the fields. Only later they started using the Friesian as a war horse. They were excellent cavalry horses, and served in that capacity throughout the ages. The Friesian is the horse of royalty and nobility. They are also well-liked for their beauty, intelligence, and endurance.
The Andalusian is the most famous breed of war horses. They were originally bred for cavalry, and are known to have been bred by the Visigoths. Today, they are used for both show and performance. 

Is a charger a war horse?

Medieval war horses were commonly known as chargers. There were different types of charger horses – most knights and mounted soldiers were riding coursers and rounceys while the destrier was the most well-known and well-loved war horse of the medieval era.
Why did knights use chargers? The knight used a charger in battle. He used his warhorse in order to gain more power and speed. The horse would charge the enemy with its powerful legs and it would run fast. The knight could easily control the horse and even use it as a shield. Chargers were extremely important for a knight because they were able to help the knight win battles and be victorious in fights.

What kind of horse is a palfrey?

Palfreys were considered to be noble horses with beautiful coats of a silky hair. They were highly valued as riding horses in the Middle Ages. They were used by royalty and nobility throughout the medieval ages and were prized for its speed and endurance.
Palfreys were lighter, more agile, and more comfortable than a warhorse. They were smooth-gaited and were suitable for riding long distances. They were able to carry a rider over difficult terrain. Palfreys were used in the hunt and were often employed in jousts. They were also used in war as cavalry mounts. They had been ridden by knights from early in the Middle Ages until their decline in the 15th century. The Palfreys of the Middle Ages were usually smaller than modern day horses, with a typical height of 14-16 hands.