The Horses

The horses in the Bayeux Tapestry were designed by horse lovers and connoisseurs.

 

Those who designed the Bayeux Tapestry were obviously horse lovers and connoisseurs in the art of riding and fighting on horseback. This fact was revealed by a close examination of some 200 embroidered horses. There is no distinction between English and Norman horses in the Tapestry, altought traditions were different on either side of the Channel. Norman horses were small, as was confirmed in written sources : theses were selected and crossed with horses from Spain which had Arab blood. Destriers can be distinguished from palfreys (used to travelling) and packhorses (used for carrying goods).

The horses are drawn with extreme precision, including the tack: browband, noseband, crownpiece, bit, and reins. The wooden saddle - fastened with a girth across the horse’s belly - has a pommel at the front and a cantle at the back. Riders are depicted in the saddle, their legs outstretched, and their feet in stirrups, which were in use since the Carolingian times. 

The horses are mostly depicted in motion. The different gaits are easily recognised: the walk, trot and canter. In the scenes of the Battle of Hastings, the different gaits can be observed in the horses actively engaged in combat. Some rush headlong at the enemy, some are struck by the Hoursecarls’ axes, some are rearing up and others collapse.

 

 

 

Pierre Bouet and François Neveux
International experts on the Bayeux tapestry

 

Further reading:

The Bayeux Tapestry by Pierre Bouet and François Neveux
Hardback due out in October 2013, éditions Ouest France