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Destrier War Horses - Middle Ages

Updated on February 20, 2011

Destrier - Common War Horse

During the middle ages, a knight would own many horses. For travel purposes, he would own a palfrey or an ambler. War horses were much bigger and stronger. The most prized war horse was the Courser, but only the richest knights could afford them. For most knights, the Destrier was the standard war horse.

The Destrier war horse was quite strong as it needed to not only carry the knight with armor, but also would have it's own armor. The knight would often ride another horse or walk beside his war horse until he was ready to do battle. This would keep the horse from becoming overly tired before battle. The horse was not noted for it's endurance and would tire quickly.

The Destrier war horse was also fairly intelligent and would be trained to help the knight in battle. The horse would learn to respond to pressure from the knight's thighs allowing the knight to keep his hands free for battle. The horse could kick and even bite upon command. They would also be trained to trample fallen foes.

The war horse would usually wear leather and metal armor to protect itself in battle. This armor would include protection for head, neck, body and the chest. The rear of horse was generally protected by padded cloth to reduce weight. The head armor for the horse would often be decorated by the knight to make the horse appear more intimidating.

A Great Warrior Horse

Destrier horses were rumored to be able to endure great injuries and pain during battle. They would often be capable of continuing to fight after being stabbed or shot with arrows. They were often loyal to their owners and would often stay near a fallen knight and try to protect him. For it's prowess in battle, it was often referred to as the Great Horse.

The Destrier horse wasn't the tallest breed, instead it was noted for its broad body and heavy physique. It could jump, spin around, or stop quickly. Economically, it was valued at around 4 times the value of a regular horse or 12 times the value of a cow.

The word Destrier is derived from the Latin word dextarius, which some scholars suggest as meaning right handed. However, other words derived from dextarius like dexterity suggest that it may have meant agile. The Destrier was definitely an agile horse compared to other horses.

Today, there is no official Destrier bloodline. The Destrier may not even have necessarily been a pure breed, but more of a type of horse. On the other hand, the Shire horse bloodline is considered to have been descended from them, although the Baroque horse is considered to be the most similar.

Bayeux Tapestry displays Destrier horses

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