The height of a horse is measured in hands, and 1 hand is equal to 4 inches. The measurement should be taken from the ground vertically to the highest point of a horse’s withers.
However, there may be times when you need to know the corresponding measurement in meters, feet, or inches.
The table below will convert the height of your horse into both metric and imperial measurements (feet, inches, and centimeters).
One hand is equivalent to four inches which means it’s fairly simple to work out the number of inches yourself. If you don’t have the conversion table handy, you can use this calculation:
4 x WH + FH = number of inches
WH is the number of whole hands and FH is any fraction of a hand. Here’s how this would work in an example: 14.2 hands (4 x 14 = 56 + 2 = 58 inches)
Here is the height conversion chart for hands, feet, inches, and centimeters:
Why Horses Are Measured in Hands?
Now you know how to convert the traditional hands measurement, you’ll be able to use metric or imperial measures too. But what exactly are hands and why are they used for the measurement of horses?
The answer to this dates back many centuries when people didn’t have rulers or tape measures. Instead, parts of the equine body were typically used as a yardstick.
A foot – which today is 12 inches – was originally quite literally a man’s foot. In the same way, a hand unit of measurement was the width of a man’s hand. It was later standardised to four inches and it still remains as the accepted equine measurement.
This measurement is taken from the highest point of the withers, roughly in the middle, to the floor.
Quite aside from the original lack of measuring tools, it’s been suggested that one of the reasons that hands were used was because horses preferred it.
While some horses may have gotten skittish with a tape measure or other implement held against them, soft hands would have presented much less of a problem. It’s not clear whether this is just an urban myth but it’s a plausible theory!
Fun Fact: The tallest horse ever, a Shire called Sampson, was 21.25 hands!
Also see our horse breed average height and weight chart.