War Horses – Top Breeds Revealed!

Last Updated on January 21, 2022 by Fabiola L.

Have you ever wondered what types of horses were used for battle? Let’s find out all about the best breeds of war horses!

What Is A Battle Horse?

Horses have been used in battle for many thousands of years. Using a horse in battle gave the rider the advantage of speed, strength, stamina, and height. A soldier mounted on horseback was thought to be equivalent to ten-foot soldiers!

In ancient times and the middle ages, war horses were used on the battlefield in combat. During World War I & World War II, they were more likely to be used to haul weapons and machinery.

What Types Of Horse Did Knights Ride?

A knight was one of the highest ranks of noblemen and would require an exceptional battle mount. A knight’s mount was expected to be very grand, and the largest and strongest horses were selected for knights to ride.

The type of horse ridden by a knight was called a Destrier. Strictly speaking, this was not a breed of horse but had certain traits and characteristics. Destrier horses were very large, and are the predecessors of some modern-day draft horse breeds.

A knight’s horse needed to be very strong not only for battle but also for tournaments designed to settle wagers and demonstrate the strength and skill of the rider. In the middle ages, jousting contests were very popular, where riders would attempt to knock each other off their horses with a long pole.

Destrier horses needed to be very strong as they needed to carry a large amount of weight. The knight would wear a suit of metal armor, to prevent injury during battle. The horse was also required to carry its own metal armor.

The combination of the Destrier horses’ large size and the weight they were required to carry meant that they could not cover the ground quickly. So, a knight would often also have another horse called a Courser. This was a fast and nimble mount, able to turn quickly and run at high speeds for long distances.

war horses breeds

What Are The Best Breeds Of War Horses?

As well as horses selected especially for knights and noblemen, many other horses were required for the cavalry to ride. In times of war, it was normal for men to be called up to fight, and some of these would have brought their horses with them.

This meant that a farmer’s horse would need to be very versatile. As well as carrying a rider into battle, it would need to plow the land, pull a wagon, and be an every riding horse for the farmer and his family. Therefore, it was not uncommon to see a range of different horse breeds on the battlefield.

Here are some of the breeds of war horses most commonly found on the battlefield in ancient times and the middle ages:

  • Arabian

If you wanted a mount with exceptional endurance and stamina, then you couldn’t go wrong with an Arabian! These speedy and courageous horses were favored for battle in ancient Egypt, especially for long journeys through the desert. Although very fine in build, and not particularly tall, these elegant horses were deceptively strong and very nimble.

  • Friesian

The Friesian horse was highly regarded as a battle mount during the middle ages. This breed is of a medium height and build, and is very athletic for a draft-type horse. They are also level-headed and calm, but with a stubborn determination.

  • Percheron

Now one of the most famous draft horse breeds, the Percheron was once highly favored as a warhorse. This horse was not built for speed, but it more than made up for it in strength and stamina! A Percheron could carry an armored rider or pull heavy artillery with ease.

  • Andalusian

The spirited Andalusian horse was the favored mount of kings and noblemen across Europe in the middle ages. This medium build of the horse was spirited and athletic and carried many monarchs into battle.

What Breed Of Horse Did Alexander The Great Ride?

Alexander the Great was a fearless Greek leader who built an enormous empire during ancient times. His prowess in battle was legendary, and he accomplished this with the help of just one horse. But what type of horse did Alexander the Great ride?

The mount of this magnificent warrior was an equally magnificent horse named Bucephalus. This horse had a formidable reputation as an unrideable beast until Alexander came along and tamed him. The partnership endured and survived many battles together, from conquering Greek cities to battlefields as far afield as India.

Bucephalus was reported to be much taller than most other battle horses and cost around three times as much as the average horse. Alexander described him as a horse that came from the “best Thessalian strain”, meaning he was very well-bred. He was also striking in appearance, with a jet-black body and a white star on his forehead.

What breed this magnificent horse was remained somewhat unclear. He came from the Thessaly region of Greece, which was renowned for breeding beautiful horses. Breeding stallions from this area included Scythian, Persian, and Ferghana bloodlines.

There is also a long history of Persian Arabians in this area, as well as the Akhal-Teke breed. History books describe Bucephalus as closest in appearance to the Akhal-Teke, but we will never know for sure how this wonderful horse was bred.

One thing that we do know is that Alexander the Great worshipped his courageous warhorse, and even named a city after him!

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Summary

So, as we have learned, many different breeds of horses have been used in the battle over the centuries. The type of horse varied according to whether it was ridden by a knight or someone of a lower rank. Some breeds of war horses were also expected to carry out other duties such as farm work or hauling heavy loads.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on war horse breeds! Does your horse look like a warhorse from the middle ages? Or could you imagine your pony charging courageously into battle? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!

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