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War horse of the samurai age

Discussion in 'Asian' started by myouchin, Nov 28, 2022.

  1. myouchin Well-Known Member

    I've never had a particular interest in horses before.However, recently I learned that serious misunderstandings about Japanese native horses are prevalent, and I was curious about this, so I did some research.While the results of the survey were not the best, I did get enough information to correct some widespread misconceptions.I would like to publish that information and consider the samurai war horse.

    The following eight breeds of horses currently living in Japan are considered to be purebred or near purebred native to Japan.These horses are thought to be descended from farm horses and pack horses, not war horses.Horse is called Uma/馬 in Japanese.

    Hokkaidō-washu/北海道和種or Dosanko/道産子

    Of these eight breeds, the only horse that lives in Honsyū/本州 is the Kiso horse.The horses were bred in the Kiso district (Kiso district was part of Minō province/美濃国 until the Kamakura period) of Shinano province/信濃国 (modern-day Nagano prefecture), and are therefore called Kiso horses. The name "Kiso" has no other meaning.And while many people seem to believe that the Kiso horse was the only breed widely available to the Samurai as a war horse, it is not the fact.

    Created by NPO Kiboku-Kai/驥北会

    The right side of this graph is a Japanese native horse that existed until the Meiji era and has since become extinct. Among them, the following 10 breeds inhabited honsyū.


    This graph only represents the situation in the Meiji era, so there is a possibility that there will be more or less than 10 breeds in older times.For example, According to Akihiro Kamachi's research, Engishiki/延喜式, an administrative document from the mid-Heian period, mentions that there were horse ranches operated by the Japanese dynasty in Kōzuke province/上野国,Musashi province/武蔵国,Kai province/甲斐国. But they are not in this graph.

    As another example, the Misaki horse is a descendant of a horse from the horse ranch established by the Tanabe domain in 1697, so there is no Misaki breed prior to the Edo period.However, it is a definite historical fact that several varieties existed in honsyū other than the Kiso horse.

    I don't want to give an easy opinion about the body shape of these extinct horses because there are not many materials to judge.However, there are some concrete records about the size of horses, so it is possible to make a consideration .

    In 1953, 556 human bones and many horse bones were excavated in Kamakura city. Most of the human bones were deduced to be those of the dead from the attack on Kamakura by the Kōzuke province samurai Nitta Yoshisada/新田義貞 in 1333, and the horse bones were deduced to be those of the war horses of the time and a small number of pack horses. Professor Sigeyuki Hayashida investigated these horse bones and estimated their height to be 109-140 cm, with an average height of 129.477 cm.
    In another case, in 1989, a complete horse skeleton was excavated from the ruins of Tsutsujigasaki-yakata/躑躅ヶ崎館, home of Kai's Takeda clan/武田氏.It was estimated to be a small horse, 10-12 years old and 116-126 cm tall.Its height is quite small, but judging from the state of its bones, it is believed to be a riding horse rather than a pack horse.The era is not clear, but it is possible that it was the era of Takeda Shingen/武田信玄.

    2.jpg 3.jpg
    From Kōfu City Board of Education

    Looking at these two cases, it seems reasonable to think that the samurai age warhorses were ponies of the same size as modern Kiso horses.But the horses of the Tōhoku region/東北地方 do not fall into this category.

    The modern Tōhoku region is divided into six prefectures, but in old times there were only two, the Mutsu province/陸奥国 and the Dewa province/出羽国.Together, these two areas are called Ōu/奥羽.

    Japanese native horses are believed to have originated in the 4th and 5th centuries, when the ancestors of the Mongolian native horses were imported to the Kyūshū region/九州地方 via Korea and Tushima/対馬, and then spread throughout Japan.However, it is believed that the Ōu horse was a larger breed, even though the Ōu horse and other native Japanese horses were originally supposed to be one species.It is said that the reason for this is that populations living in cold regions tend to be larger than those living in warm regions, even if they are of the same species.But nobody knows for sure.
    Nambu horse is the representative of Ōu's horses.Nambu/南部 is an area of Mutsu.Minamoto-no-Yoritomo/源頼朝, who destroyed the Ōshū-Fujiwara clan/奥州藤原氏 in 1189, gave part of the Fujiwara clan's territory to Nambu Mitsuyuki/南部光行.This is the origin of the place name of Nambu.The Nambu horse was called Obuchi-no-koma/尾駮の駒 before the Nambu place name was born.Obuchi-no-koma was popular for its large, beautiful physique and gentle disposition, and was a high brand admired by the aristocrats of Kyō/京.Obuchi-no-koma appears in some waka/和歌 of the Heian period.That proves the popularity of Obuchi-no-koma.

    As the samurai class began to rise, the Nambu horse came to be highly regarded as a warhorse.The Nambu horse was a "high brand" for the samurai as well. One of the most famous samurai, Minamoto-no-Yoshitune/源義経, also rode the Nambu horse.Two horses, Seigaiha/青海波and Tayūguro/太夫黒, are recorded as Yoshitune's war horses.How Yoshitune got these horses varies by document, but both are Nambu horses.Yoshitune was under the patronage of Fujiwara-no-Hidehira/藤原秀衡, lord of Ōu from around 1174 to 1180.So it is natural that his horse is a Nambu horse.According to Genpei-jyōsuiki or Genpei-seisuiki/源平盛衰記, Seigaiha has a height of 142.2cm and Tayūguro has a height of 139.3cm.
    There are other documents about the height of warhorses during the genpei war.
    1尺=about 30.3cm

    Heiji-monogatari/平治物語 (established in the first half of the Kamakura period)

    Taira-no-Shigemori/平重盛:Kurouma/黒馬or horse with unknown name(142.2cm over/4尺7寸あまり)
    Minamoto-no-Yorimasa/源頼政: Kinoshitakage/木下鹿毛(136.3cm/4尺5寸)

    Genpei-jyōsuiki(established from middle Kamakura period to Nambokuchō period)

    Imakidera-Mitsuhira/今城寺光平:Ōkurige/大栗毛(145.4cm over/4尺8寸あまり)
    Wada-Yoshimori/和田義盛:Shiranami/白浪 (143.9cm/4尺7寸5分)


    Azumakagami/吾妻鏡or東鑑(Completed around 1300)

    Hatta-Tomoie/八田知家: horse with unknown name(145.4cm/4尺8寸)
    Fujiwara-no-kunihira/藤原国衡:Takadateguro/高楯黒(145.4cm over/4尺8寸あまり)

    Among them, Ikezuki and Takadateguro are Ōu's horses, but the breed of the others is unknown.Chichibukage may be Musashi's horse.All of these horses are over 140cm tall except Tayūguro and Kinoshitakage. It is clearly larger than the average height of modern Japanese native horses.Some horses are reaching Arabian Horse standards, although not exceeding Pony standards.While these horses should be considered uncommon and exceptionally well-built, we should not ignore the fact that concrete figures show that not all samurai rode small warhorses.

    Heiji-monogatari-emaki・Shinzei-no-maki/平治物語絵巻・信西の巻:Kamakura period:From Seikado Bunko Library
  2. myouchin Well-Known Member

    Let's move forward in time.Four horses with a height of 160.5 cm (5尺寸) appear in Taiheiki/ 太平記(established during the Muromachi period), a gunki/軍記 based on the domestic conflict of the Nanbokuchō period. But the Taiheiki tend to grossly exaggerate the number of soldiers and the dimensions of their weapons.Taiheiki is a famous book, but it is not very reliable, so it would be better not to trust 160.5cm.Considering the reliability of historical documents, the numerical values written in Genpei-jyōsuiki and Heiji-monogatari may also need to be considered.

    Numerous warhorses of renowned samurais have been recorded in the Sengoku period. Among them, however, there are only a few examples where the height of the horses is known.

    An episode of Kōyō-gunkan/甲陽軍鑑 (established in the Tensyō era, the original is lost), a record of the Takeda clan,Takeda Nobutora/ 武田信虎owned a horse named Onikage/鬼鹿毛 (147.8cm).Nobutora's son Harunobu/晴信(Shingen) asked his father to hand over the Onikage, but Nobutora refused.

    Oda Nobunaga's/織田信長biography, Shinchō-kōki/ 信長公記(completed in the early Edo period), records that in 1575, Date Terumune/, 伊達輝宗warlord of Mutsu, presented Nobunaga with two hawks and two horses (Ganzekiguro/ がんぜき黒and Shiroishikage/白石鹿毛).Nobunaga was particularly fond of Shiroishikage and was very pleased with this gift.Terumune received many luxurious thank-you gifts from Nobunaga.

    Mogami Yoshiaki/最上義光, warlord of Dewa, is also recorded to have offered horses to Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu/徳川家康.This fact proves that Ōw horses were a "high brand" even in the 16th century.However, it seems that Nambu Nobunao/南部信直 presented two hawks to Nobunaga but not the Nambu horse.
    The Shinchō-kōki are highly regarded by modern historians and rank among the highest for reliability.However, the heights of Terumune's two horses are not written.In 1581, Nobunaga held a grand military parade (called uma-zoroe/馬揃え) with famous horses from all over Japan at Kyō, but the article about this does not mention the height of the horses.It is indeed a pity.

    Portrait of Date Terumune (1544-1585):Edo period:From SENDAI CITY MUSEUM

    Hakuraku-hikan/伯楽 秘 鑑, (the original is lost) a document from the Edo period, explains the 23 horse-producing areas in Japan divided into military and civilian use.Of these twenty-three horse ranches, Nambu domain/南部藩(Morioka domain/盛岡藩), Satsuma domain/薩摩藩, Tosa domain/土佐藩, and two bakufu ranches in Bōsō /房総(Shimōsa/下総, Kazusa/上総, and Awa/安房 are collectively called Bōsō. Modern Chiba Prefecture), a total of five, are military.Nambu-horse is rated the best here as well.
    According to the commentary by The Kiso Horse Conservation Association, in 1665, officials in charge of the Kiso ranch purchased 30 female Nambu horses to improve the Kiso horse breed. However, since no male stallion was introduced, it did not appear to be effective.Although the source is not indicated in this commentary, if this is true, the breeder recognized that the Nambu horse was a superior breed to the Kiso horse.It can be said that Nambu-horse is a breed that represents the samurai age warhorse in terms of quality.

    Bokubazu-byōbu/牧馬図屏風:Azuchi Momoyama period:From TOKYO NATIONAL MUSEUM

    This is a horse ranch painting by Hasegawa Tōhaku/長谷川等伯.Japanese horse ranches used natural terrain to confine horses. In these ranches, horses were kept in a semi-wild state.Tōhaku is from Noto province/能登国, so the horse in this picture is probably a Noto horse.

    Time passes through the Samurai Age and advances into the Meiji Era.There are two examples of horses from the Tōhoku region (Ōu) whose heights are known with certainty. They are Kinkazan-go/金華山号 and Sakari-go/盛号.

    Kinkazan (148cm) born in 1869 is a horse of Meiji-tennō/明治天皇 (called goryōba/御料馬).There are other goryōba in Meiji-tennō, including Hatsuki/初来,Takasago/高砂,Tomozuru/友鶴 (all three horses from the Tohoku region), but Kinkazan was tennō's most beloved.Kinkazan, who died in 1895, was stuffed and can still be seen today.

    From Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery

    Born in 1872, Sakari is 151cm tall. This is beyond the scope of ponies.In 1885, a European-style horse race was held for the first time in Japan, and Sakari participated in this race.And Sakari won this race, which included Thoroughbreds, by a large margin. Sakari won the race the following year as well.Sakari, who died in 1904, has a full skeleton preserved.


    Sakari-go's photo. Source is unknown.The two photos are reversed left to right, but both are believed to be the same.

    In my opinion, considering these two examples from the late 19th century, the figures given in Heijimonogatari, Genpei-jyōsuiki and Azumakagami are not exaggerated and can be trusted.136.3-148.4cm is a realistic number unlike Taiheiki's 160.5cm.Jinten-ainōshō/塵添壌 嚢鈔, an encyclopedia of the Muromati period, specifies how to measure the height of a horse and states that not a few horses are over 145 cm.Kokon-yōrankō/古今要覧稿, an encyclopedia from the Edo period, defines 121cm as a small horse, 136.4cm as a middle horse, and 151.5cm as a big horse, stating that horses over 151.5cm are very valuable.Horses that are on par with Arabian horses or that exceed pony standards should be considered special horses that are not common.However, Japanese horses are not made in TOYOTA factories, so there are individual differences in physique and height.Some humans are short and some are tall. It's the same with horses. It's a matter of course.It is a clear error that samurai ride thoroughbreds, but there is no reason to believe that all samurai must ride short-legged small horses.I would like to conclude this, but to be fair I must add one more important piece of information.

    Veterinarian Hideo Murai's research indicates that in the Edo-period there are records of a small number of foreign horses imported from Portugal and the Netherlands and used to improve the breed of native Japanese horses.Date clan/伊達氏 imported six perusya-uma/ペルシャ馬 (probably Arabian horses) in 1620 and several in 1636.The eighth shōgun, Tokugawa Yoshimune/徳川吉宗, has purchased a total of twenty-eight foreign horses nine times and gifted them to horse ranches nationwide.One of the horses was given to Nambu domain and lived to be 9 years old.Nothing is known for certain about the results of the breeding process, but it is possible that Kinkazan and Sakari have some Arabian horse blood in them.Hideo Murai's research was published in 1992, but it is unclear if any new facts have emerged since then.




  3. Tecumsea PlanetFigure Supporter

    Thank you for the exhaustive research and sharing such an interesting article.

    myouchin likes this.
  4. Tommy Brown Active Member

    Video on Takeda Shingen/武田信玄 horse army

    Video on Takeda Shingen/武田信玄 horse army
  5. myouchin Well-Known Member

    Oh・・・you tube・・・I didn't watch it all the way through, but it's a very casual, beginner-friendly video. You'd be better off reading a better book.
  6. Tommy Brown Active Member

    It is funny that you don’t want to talk about the video. Please explain to the PF members in simple English what are the videos about.

    I have read books on Japanese horses. Of course there are eight Japanese breed horses in nowadays Japan.

    Here is an article on Japan breed horses.

    Japanese Native Horses
    Breed Organization Information
    Japan Equine Affairs Association
    1-2 Kanda Surugadai Chiyoda-ku

    About the Breed
    Although there is still some controversy over the subject, it is generally believed that horses did not exist in Japan during the Paleolithic, Mesolithic or Neolithic periods (Stone Age, Jomon and early YaYoi eras). It is also believed that all Japanese native horses are descended from animals brought from the mainland of Asia at various times and by various routes. Domestic horses were definitely present in Japan as early as the 6th century and perhaps as early as the 4th century.
    Since that time the horse has played an important role in Japanese culture. Horses were widely used in warfare until the introduction of firearms in the late 16th century and horsemanship was one of the skills prized by the warriors who founded the Samurai class. Horses had an important symbolic role in Japanese religion and even today at certain shrines a sacred white horse is stabled. Oddly enough horses were not widely used in agriculture until the Meiji Era, oxen being preferred in most areas for working fields and rice paddies. Oxen also provided traction power, pulling wagons and carts. Horses, on the other hand, were widely used as pack animals to carry goods on the highways and for use in steep mountainous regions. People of the upper classes also rode them.
    Throughout the centuries since they were introduced, various breeds of horses developed inJapaneach adapting to the local environment. These horses were in general relatively small. As a result, various rulers and powerful leaders attempted to increase their size and strength by selective breeding and by importing foreign horses. Records from theEdoperiod indicating the importation of horses by the Dutch to be given as gifts to the Shogun. Although we cannot be sure, these animals, generally referred to as “Persian,” may have been Arabians or perhaps a variety of Turkmen. Several improved breeds became popular inJapanincluding the Nambu, Miharu and Tosa breeds all of which have become almost extinct. During the early years of the Showa Era (1932) systematic breeding based on local Japanese bloodlines resulted in the creation of theKushirobreed which has apparently totally disappeared.
    Especially during the Meiji Era larger purebred horses from Europe andNorth Americawere imported to increase the size of Japanese horse and make them more suitable for military use. To encourage this the government introduced training classes throughoutJapanto increase the use of horses in agriculture. The goal was to motivate farmers to breed larger horses to ensure a supply for the army. Foreign breeds imported included Thoroughbred, Anglo Arabs, Arabs, Hackney and several draft breeds including Belgian and Bretons. Two recognized breeds, Kandachi horse ofAomoriand theYururiIslandhorse ofNemuro,Hokkaido, are the descendants of native horses crossbred with larger European horses. The result of these many importations was the almost total disappearance of local Japanese breeds except in very remote areas or on islands. InJapantoday there are eight recognized native breeds all of them identified with a particular region and each displaying some differences in color size and conformation.

    Breed Characteristics
    Japanese native breeds share a number of characteristics: they are all technically ponies inasmuch as all of them stand under 14.2 hands (147 cm). Their heads are relatively large, the neck is carried horizontally, their manes are thick and flowing. In general, when viewed from the rear the croup is rather wide at the top, narrowing toward the legs. (This is felt to resemble an old style hat woven from grasses and is called, amigasa jiri.)
    The most common colors are bay, brown, chestnut, roan and cremello. They do not, in general, have white markings on legs or face but a black dorsal stripe is extremely common. All of these local breeds are known for their endurance, their ability to survive on poor food and in severe weather conditions and they all share the characteristics of having extremely tough hooves.

    Japanese Native Breeds

    Misaki Horse

    This breed has it origins inMiyazakiPrefecture. The modern herd of 88 animals now ranges on thecapeofToi. They average 12.2 to 13 hands (130 – 135 cm) in height. They first appear in history in 1697 when the Akizuki family of the Takanabe Clan took animals then grazing wild under its protection and created a stud farm. The system was based on giving the breeding stock full freedom and rounding them up once a year presumably to select horses for training and to check on health as well as perhaps castrate males thought unfit for breeding. The same system is used today; once a year animals are corralled at which time inoculations are given and the animals sprayed or dipped to eliminate insect pests. This breed has been designated a National Natural Treasure and the herd has become the focus of tourism.

    Tokara Horse

    These horses which are today found in several natural parks inKagoshimaPrefectureare the descendants of two dozen native horses brought toKyushufrom Kikai Shima about 1890. The breed was bred onTokaraIslandand at one time was quite numerous throughout theKagoshimaregion. However, the numbers decreased drastically during World War II and the breed was preserved only by strenuous efforts. The resulting horses have, under more care and selective breeding, become larger than the original which stood some times only 11 hands (115 cm) at the withers. In an attempt to preserve the breed in a near original form a number of animals have been taken to Nakanoshima in the Tokara island where they range freely during the year and are rounded up for pest extermination, inoculation and veterinary treatment once a year. The breed has been designated a Prefectural Natural Treasure. The are today 116 head of the Tokara breed.

    Miyako Horse

    Miyako jima has been long noted for horse breeding and the Miyako breed goes to at least the 13th century. Until 1960, when a motor road was constructed the Miyako horse was the major form of transportation on the island. In 1907, a number of larger horses of European and American origin were introduced and the average size of the breed increased to as much as 13.3 hands (140 cm). The original breed seldom grew taller than 11 hands (115 cm) and in modern times efforts are being made to restore the breed to its original form. The herd of 21 has become a tourist attraction and is often used for instructional purposes in the local high school. This breed also has been designated as a Prefectural Natural Treasure.


    Also known as Dosanko, this breed is descended from several local breeds imported from Tohoku in the 15th century when Japanese immigration toHokkaidobegan. Today there are about 3,000Hokkaidohorses. Most of them are allowed to roam freely in large grazing areas during most of the year, being rounded up for pest control and treatment once a year. Others are being raised on farms under more controlled conditions. This breed is somewhat larger than many Japanese local breeds, standing from 12.2 to 13 hands (130 – 135 cm) at the withers. They are extremely hardy and strong and can survive and even thrive under very severe conditions. Today they are used for trail riding, packing and harness. Many Hokkaido Washu are natural pacers.

    Noma Horse

    The smallest of Japanese local breeds is the Noma horse, native to the Noma region of Imabari inEhimePrefecture. It stands only 10.3 hands (110 cm). It is said that in the 17th century Lord Hisamatsu of Matsuyama Han charged local farmers with the breeding of horses. The smallest of these, the ancestors of the present breed, were particularly useful as packhorses on steep mountainsides and on remote islands. There are today 47 Noma horses being kept by several stud farms in the region. They are used as riding horses for children and as subjects of study in local schools.

    Kiso Horse

    There are records of horses being raised systematically in the Kiso region ofNaganoPrefectureas early as the 6th century. The region was able to produce, according to legends, 10,000 cavalry mounts for Kiso Yoshinaka?s army. The Kiso horse is medium sized, standing about 13 hands (135 cm). During theEdoera, spanning the period 1600 to 1867, the Kiso was once again used for war and was bred actively for this purpose. The population of the Kiso horse rose to more than 10,000 at that time. The breed is being preserved in the region centering on Kaida mura inKisoCounty,NaganoPrefecture. There are today 117 Kiso horses, which are often seen in processions in local festivals. They are also used as riding horses.

    locales of kiso.jpg
    Sampling locales of Kiso horses

    Taishu Horse

    This breed developed in the steep and hilly country of Tsushima inNagasakiPrefecturewhere horse breeding was known as early as the 8th century. This medium-sized horse which stands about 12 hands (125 cm) was particularly useful as a packhorse in rough country and was also used for timber haulage. It is said to be a calm and easily handled horse. A picture of the Taishu Horse being ridden by a farm woman often symbolizes its calm disposition. The remaining 79 Taishu horses have become an object of interest for tourists.

    Yonaguni Horse

    This native breed was developed in Okinawa on theislandofYonaguni. The breed is small, standing about 11 hands (115 cm). Two small herds of about 108 horses remain on the island ranging free and are rounded up once a year for inspection, removal of pests and inoculation. It is interesting that the people of this island developed a special type of bridle called omogui, which required only a single rein for control. Today the horses are used for instructional purposes in local schools and for recreational riding.

    Origin of Kisouma
     Kiso horses have various origins, but they are said to be Mongolian grassland horses, and medium-sized horses are said to have entered theKoreanPeninsula from the Yayoi period to the Kofun period. However, this medium-sized horse is not the Mongolian grassland horse itself, but is thought to have been greatly influenced by the Talban-type highland horse.
     Tarban-type highland horses are said to have existed in the western part of present-day China, and are said to have entered China around the time Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty acquired fast horses such as Hanketsuma, Senrima, and Tenma. 
     In the Han DynastyChina, grassland horses that inhabited northernMongolia were bred and are believed to have been crossbred with introduced highland horses. It is said that the average height of the pure Mongolian grassland horse was 131cm, and it seems that there was not much difference in height from the former high-purity Kiso horse.
     Japanese native horses are divided into small horses (Miyako horses, etc.) and medium-sized horses (Kiso horses, etc.), but it is said that they are genetically very similar and cannot be distinguished into the two types of small and medium horses.
     Therefore, it is believed that the Kiso horse originated from Mongolian Chinese horses, and that it has adapted to the harsh natural environment and uses of the cold mountainous highlands over many years to become the Kiso horse that it is today.
     When a Mongolian exchange student came to the horse riding center before, he said, "If you mix with Mongolian horses, you won't understand."

    Establishment of Kisoma
    Kisouma, which appears in Japanese books, is described in the "Wakan Sansai Ezu" (532), in which horses were grazing in Kiriharamaki, which is said to have been around present-day Kamizaka,NakatsugawaCity,GifuPrefecture. There is a record that ``20 horses were presented'' during the reign of Emperor Tenji (665).
     It is said that 100 mares were bred at Kiriharamaki, and 60 foals were produced each year.
     * There are various theories about Kiriharamaki, but it is reasonable to think that the birthplace of Kisoma was Kiriharamaki in Kiso.

    Medieval Kisoma
     The history of Kiso up to the Middle Ages is not clear, but it is believed that by the middle of the Heian period, the Kiso Kodo had already been passed, and villages had been established, and Kiso horses had begun to be raised as station horses. However, Kisoji was still a dangerous road for horses in those days, as "horses stepped on the boardwalk and fell to the bottom of the valley."
     Around the time of Yoshinaka Kiso (1155), Kiso horses were bred not only along theKiso Highway but also in villages in the hinterland, and horse-breeding areas began to form. At that time, the Kaneto Nakahara residence of the Kiso clan was located in Shinkai, Kisofukushima, and Ohara (the area of ​​the present-day Kisokoma plateau) at the foot of Mt. It seems that he planned to increase the production of Kiso horses in order to revive the Genji clan, and it seems that a considerable number of horses were produced around the time of Yoshinaka's rise. However, it seems that there were not enough horses to subjugate the Taira clan, and in 1181, Yoshinaka invaded Hida from Kaida village across theNagaminePass on the border of the village and commandeered horses while driving out the Taira clan.
     The reed-haired horses that Yoshinaka and Tomoe Gozen are said to have ridden do not exist in the Kiso horses of today, but at that time, white reed-haired, moon-haired, and same-haired horses were common.
     In theKamakura period, Kiso gradually gained fame as a famous horse and production area, and it is said that warlords from various countries sought Kiso for its superiority. It is believed that Kiso was a natural fortress and was never invaded by other countries until the Warring States period, and Kiso horses were mainly involved in farming horses in mountainous areas and transportation on highways.
     The center of Kiso horse breeding at that time was from Agematsu Town to Mt. Otaki Mitake in the north to Kiso Village, and Kaida Village, where Kiso horses are bred the most today, is said to have been established in the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (around 1336). there is By that time, the Hida Highway, later called the Kamakura Highway, had already been opened, and it is believed that the people who settled in Kaita Village began breeding Kiso horses. In particular, Hiwada, the former Takane Village of Ono County, adjacent toKaidaVillage, was theterritory ofJirozaemon Hiwada, a local ruling family, during theKamakura period. presumed to have had an impact.
     In the Warring States period, Kiso was in a state of war for a while, and it was time for Kiso horses to show up.
     In 1504, the army of Shigeyori Miki of Hida crossed theShirasuPass from Mino-Kashimo and invaded Otaki with Hida horses, and the Kiso forces were finally routed. In the 18th year of Tenbun (1549), it was attacked by the Takeda forces ofKaiProvince, but was repelled by the fortifications atToriiPass. In 1554, Harunobu Takeda attacked Kiso again, and the Kiso forces were defeated, and Yoshiyasu Kiso made peace with the Takeda clan. Next, in 1560, Jirozaemon Hinata of the Hida Miki family crossedNagaminePass from Hiwada and attacked Nishino,KaitaVillage, but the Kiso forces drove them out atNishinoPass. After that, in 1582, he was attacked by the Takeda clan when he heard about Yoshimasa Kiso's rebellion, but he repelled it with the support of the Oda clan. In this battle, it is said that even the Koshu army, which had an excellent cavalry corps, was unable to resist the Kiso army riding Kiso horses in the steep mountain battle of Kiso, and even Takeda Tenmaya fell from his horse and was injured. The Kiso horses, which were raised in the climate of Kiso, are thought to have been able to move up and down hills at high speed during mountain battles, and to be eclectic.
     The term 'Kezuke', a term used in the ancient tribute system, first appeared in Kiso in 1568, followed by 1584 in Kiso. In Yoshimasa's letter, there remains a fact that he collected annual tax (livestock tax) called 'Motsuki no Monosei'. Therefore, from theKamakura period onwards, the Kiso family is thought to have collected annual taxes through the Ketsuki-uma system, and from the fact that the horses were used as a source of funds for the feudal lords, it can be inferred that the Kiso horses were an important product of the Sengoku period. A considerable number of Kiso horses must have been bred at the end of the period. Later, this system was recognized by the domain in the early Edo period for the Yamamura clan, who ruled Kiso, and it existed until the end of theEdo period as a privilege of the magistrate.
  7. Tommy Brown Active Member

    Continued from previous post

    It has been debunked that during the Sengoku period the Takeda Calvary did not ride the big horses instead the Kiso size horses.

    Here is an article on horses of the Sengoku period:

    What kind of horse was the horse of the Sengoku period when the Takeda cavalry was active?


    When it comes to the power of battle scenes in historical dramas, it's definitely the cavalry assault scene. Speaking of cavalry in the Sengoku period, the Takeda cavalry is very famous, but it is no exaggeration to say that the appearance of the cavalry advancing in formation is the flower of the battle scene.
    By the way, the horses that are often used in Taiga dramas are actually quite different in type and size from the horses that existed in the Sengoku period. We're not going to crush your dreams here, but let's take a look at what actually happened.

    Thoroughbred horses used in historical dramas
    A muscular cavalry, no, just looking at it excites me, doesn't it? The stout physique and gallant running figure are indescribably delightful. However, the horses used in Sengoku dramas are thoroughbreds. Thoroughbreds are light breed horses that have been improved for racing. They are between 160cm and 170cm tall, and can easily run at speeds of 60km/h or more.
    In other words, Thoroughbred is a breed that was improved as a racehorse in modern times, so it did not exist inJapanduring the Warring States period. So what kind of horses were there inJapanduring the Sengoku period? ?

    Let's take a look at representative Japanese native horses
    Shinano is the base of Takeda Shingen. Today's Naganoprefecture. In the Kiso region of Shinano, there is a production area of ​​"Kisouma" , which is a native breed ofJapan . This is one of the reasons why the image of the Takeda cavalry has grown even more, and the fact that Shinano and Kai were horse-producing areas is also there.

    Kiso horses are 125cm to 135cm tall. It is small and stocky, and is classified as a horse breed called a pony.

    The horses of the cavalry during the Sengoku period
    Yes, that's right. The figure of a pony like Kisouma mentioned above is the most realistic. This is because horse bones from the Sengoku period have been excavated, and it is known that the bones were about the size of a modern pony. So, I think it's a reasonable line to think that it was almost the same breed as Kiso horses, or that they were riding Kiso horses.
    That said, Kiso horses can run at 40km/h, though not as fast as thoroughbreds, and can carry luggage. In other words, they are superior to infantry when it comes to mobility. The Takeda cavalry has an image of being fearsome in its charge, but it overwhelms the enemy with its mobility. It is exactly the "wind" of Furinkazan.

    And above all, even if the reality is Kisouma, if the image in our heads is wonderful, that's fine. The most important thing is to think history is great, not disappointing. Don't fake it. Besides, what if all the horses in the cavalry scene in the historical drama were historically made ponies? I think everyone would probably say go back to thoroughbred.
    Small horses Kiso breed were preferred during the Sengoku period. That's why people of higher rank used to ride smaller horses. Yoshitsune's horse was also small. Mongolian horses with strong legs are suitable for terrain with little flat land likeJapan. Even inEurope, it seems that they avoid using big horses as much as possible when crossing mountains. It seems that the use of donkeys and mules was more common in rugged terrain. There may be individual differences, but the Arab race is weak. Besides, it would be dangerous if a horse with a large body ran wild in a narrow space. Although not directly related, I also recommend reading "Forgotten Japanese" by Tsuneichi Miyamoto. There is a scene where you meet farmers returning from shopping in the mountains. They all ride horses, but they don't have stirrups. When Miyamoto wondered why, he found that in the mountains, especially when it was dark, he often got caught in tree branches and fell off his horse. Therefore, it seems that it was better to fall from the horse without using stirrups and not get hurt.

    At that time, the average height of men was less than 150 cm, so there was no problem. Mongolian horses have a long body and short legs, but there are considerable individual differences, and relatively large ones (the standard height of the back from the ground to 120 cm) were used for military purposes. It is one size larger than a pony (about 100 cm tall), and is strong enough to be used as a farming horse, so it seems that it was able to do its best even with an armored warrior on it. By the way, horses were not castrated inJapan, whether for military use or livestock, so there were many ferocious horses. It is said that it is like a wild beast, so it was quite useful in war, wasn't it?

    Japanese horses from the old days were such small horses. It seems that hills and hilly areas were a good fit for the short-legged soldiers of the time. With long-legged thoroughbreds, you can imagine that they broke their legs at the Battle of Hiyodorigoe and were useless.

    Koyodai Kiso horse ranch (紅葉台木曽馬牧場)
    8529-86, Narusawa, Minamitsuru District, Yamanashi 401-0320, Japan
    Koyodai Kiso horse ranch offers Japanese-style horsemanship as one of the uses of Japanese native Kiso horses. Also hold yabusame and Samurai horsemanship.

    KisoCounty, Nagano Prefecture
    Interview Takeru Nakagawa, fromKisouma-noSatoParkHorseRidingCenter

    Sato website

    Kaida Local museum

    Links to Sengoku horses






    Refer to attach pdf file on:

    Population Statistics and Biological Traits of Endangered Kiso Horse

    I rest my case.

    Attached Files:

  8. myouchin Well-Known Member

    Sounds like you researched it well.OTSUKARESAMADESU.

    I watched the video at double speed.The content of the first video was all within my knowledge.The second video contained just a little bit of information I didn't know.Both of the two videos claimed that the Samurai warhorses were pony-sized, but the second video mentions that there were 145 and 147 cm horses and that Napoleon's horse was 145 cm.Others talked about the controversy over whether cavalry existed in the Sengoku period.There is no particular error in its content, so I have nothing against it.Is that okay?

    I have a question for you.You cite many references, but since you don't write your own opinion, I have no idea what you are trying to assert.Do you want to argue with me about samurai warhorses?If so, I suggest you clarify the points of discussion and your opinion on them.
  9. PropBlast Moderator

    For those who wanted this thread moderated I see no reason to delete certain posts. It looks like we are having a good healthy discussion. We might not agree with others so don't let your emotions spoil what could be a great bit of research and history for people interested in this subject matter.
    Martin64, myouchin and Nap like this.
  10. Nap Moderator


    Agree there

    Martin64 and myouchin like this.
  11. Tommy Brown Active Member

    I am not arguing with you. From your comment “You'd be better off reading a better book.” which I already have and I am presenting my side of research on Samurai war horses just like what you had done.

    From my research they all indicated Samurai war horses were pony size likely to be the Kiso breed which has historically been used for agricultural as well as military purposes.
    The horses of the Kiso breed is very robust and can live on simple diet. The have a large and heavy head as well as a wide forehead. The neck is short and thick. The trunk is long, the mane is heavy and so is the tail. Its hooves are tough and well-shaped so hard that it does not need to be horseshoed. Their legs are short and sturdy and can steadily climb up and down narrow and steep mountain trails.

    In 2015 tests were conducted by NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation and shortened from Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai), on the short-legged, heavy-set, shaggy-haired native Kiso horse (131 cm high), compared with a modern bred horse (152 cm high) and found that the pony-like Kiso was faster and more agile than expected. Carrying a 62kg rider in full armor and weapons, traditional Abumi stirrups and Kura (saddle) making 92kg in all, and using a purebred Kiso horse, the type used by the samurai, they discovered that the horse could gallop 100m in 12.03 seconds, a fraction faster than a modern bred Sawago horse, which managed 12.07 seconds. In the Figure 8 test, the smaller native horse was found to be more agile, and able to make a tighter turning circle.

    As for the endurance of native Japanese horses, a test done by the Nihon Kacchū Kiba Kenkyūkai (日本甲冑騎馬研究会, Japan Armoured Equestrian Research Society) established that a trained Kiso horse was able to run for 1 km with an average speed of 21 km/h carrying an armoured rider, and it was able to run for about 3.5 km before being exhausted.

    We are all just base on research. Unless we can go back to the different periods in a time machine, we are unable to truly identity which horse breed the Samurai were really mounted on.

    ありがとうございます (arigatô gozaimasu)
  12. myouchin Well-Known Member


    Okay, you must have some opinion, but if you won't reveal it then there is no argument between us.It may be a pointless act, as no argument can be made, but I will summarize my opinion and make it easy to understand.

    1:Several varieties other than Kiso horse were definitely present in Honsyū.
    2:The average height of those breeds is about the same as that of modern Japanese native horses.
    3:But some special horses were clearly larger than average height.

    The three main points of my argument are these.If you want to object, feel free.But I think there is little room for discussion. It is impossible to deny No.1 in particular.

    Next I need to talk about one topic.Your reference contained extremely important information.It's this part. The specific number "more than 10,000" is written here.

    There are records of horses being raised systematically in the Kiso region ofNaganoPrefectureas early as the 6th century. The region was able to produce, according to legends, 10,000 cavalry mounts for Kiso Yoshinaka?s army. The Kiso horse is medium sized, standing about 13 hands (135 cm). During theEdoera, spanning the period 1600 to 1867, the Kiso was once again used for war and was bred actively for this purpose. The population of the Kiso horse rose to more than 10,000 at that time. The breed is being preserved in the region centering on Kaida mura inKisoCounty,NaganoPrefecture. There are today 117 Kiso horses, which are often seen in processions in local festivals. They are also used as riding horses.

    In terms of quality, it is my opinion that Nambu horse is the best representative of Samurai Age warhorses.Next I considered which breed represented the Samurai Age warhorse in terms of quantity.And I speculated that it might be Kiso horse. But I could not find any evidence for it."more than 10,000" solved this problem. My guess was wrong, but a new fact came to light.

    Excerpt from Akihiro Kamachi's book (Japanese history moved by "horses"/「馬」が動かした日本史).Translated by DeepL.

    There are no records for the ancient and medieval periods, but there are reliable data for the late modern period.In 1910, when the Korean Peninsula came under Japanese rule with the "Annexation of Korea," there were approximately 39,000 horses being raised in the region that is now North Korea and South Korea combined(Korean Governor-General's Department of Agriculture, Agriculture in Korea, 1924 edition).According to government statistics, there were approximately 1,560,000 horses in Japan in the same year. This is 40 times more than in the Korean area.Statistics on the Japanese side date back to the beginning of the Meiji period , and the number remains in the 1,000,000 head range, so it can be assumed that the Edo period was about the same level.

    Based on statistics from the beginning of the Meiji era, Akihiro Kamachi estimates that the total number of horses bred in Japan during the Edo period was about 1,000,000.The number of horses kept in Kiso district was 'more than 10,000'.This means that the Kiso horse in the Edo period was about 1% of the total.Only 1%! This is a shocking number.But this number may need to be considered.

    1,000,000 is the number of all war horses, farm horses, and pack horses combined. I think 'more than 10,000' is the same, but let's assume that all of them are war horses.But I don't know the total number of war horses among the 1,000,000 so I can't give you a reliable number.Also, before the Edo period, this number could fluctuate, but I have no idea how much it could fluctuate.I think this shocking number should be treated with caution. There may be a lack of judgment material.But apparently it is unreasonable to assume that the Kiso horse is representative of the Samurai Age warhorse in terms of quantity.

    It was your reference that led to this result. Why don't you think about this problem too? I appreciate your providing the information.

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