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Why Are Horses Measured in Hands?



Why Are Horses Measured in Hands

Horses are majestic creatures that have long been used for transportation, farming, and even for sports. They come in different sizes and shapes, and each breed has unique characteristics that make them special. One thing that horse lovers and breeders commonly use to measure horses is “hands”.

Why Do We Measure Horses in Hands?

Firstly, let’s define what a hand means in the context of horse measurement. One hand is equivalent to four inches or 10.16 centimeters. To measure a horse’s height in hands, a measuring stick is placed at the highest point of the withers, which is the section of the horse’s back located between the shoulder blades.

Ancient Times

The use of hands as a unit of measurement for horses can be traced back to ancient times. It is believed that it originated from the ancient Egyptians, who used it to measure horses for their chariots. The term “hand” was derived from the width of a man’s hand, which was approximately four inches. This measurement was later adopted in Europe and became the standard unit of measurement for horses.

Precise Measurement

Using hands as a unit of measurement has several advantages over other methods. For one, it provides a precise and consistent measurement that can be easily understood by breeders and buyers of horses. It also allows for easy comparison of horses of different breeds and sizes, which can be helpful in breeding programs and competitions.

Another reason why hands are used to measure horses is because horses’ sizes can vary greatly, even within the same breed. Horses can range from ponies, which are less than 14.2 hands, to draft horses, which can be over 18 hands. Using hands as a measurement ensures that horses are classified accurately and consistently, regardless of their size.

Lastly, measuring horses in hands has become a standard practice in the horse world, and is recognized by equestrian organizations worldwide. It allows for uniformity in competitions, record-keeping, and breeding programs. It also makes it easier for breeders and buyers to communicate their horse’s size precisely.


Horses are measured in hands because of its origins in ancient times, its precision as a measurement tool, its ability to classify horses accurately regardless of size, and its recognition as a standard by the equestrian community.

Whether you’re a horse breeder, buyer, or enthusiast, understanding the use of hands as a unit of measurement for horses is important in ensuring that accurate records are kept, and that horses are properly classified and understood.

I am Tommy, an avid equestrian who is passionate about the lifestyle. Writing for an equestrian blog has been a lifelong dream of mine, as I have been around horses my whole life. My mission is to share all the knowledge and experiences I have gathered throughout the years in order to help others reach their goals in this amazing sport. My dedication and enthusiasm towards horses and all things related to them never cease to amaze me!

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