How Much Horsepower Does A Horse Have?

Ever found yourself wondering about horsepower? Perhaps you were looking at a new car, saw the horsepower listed on the engine, and you wondered, how much horsepower does a horse have?

Maybe you are looking to purchase a workhorse and want to know how powerful it will be? Whatever your reason is, we have the answer for you!

All our lives, horsepower has been used as a measuring unit, and we have wondered why? Why is horsepower used? What does the power of a horse have to do with my new car? And just how powerful is a horse? These questions can keep you awake at night and leave you constantly wondering about horses and their power. 

Well, no more! Today we are here to answer all your questions and put your mind at ease. Keep reading to find out how much horsepower a horse has and everything you need to know about horsepower! 

What Is Horsepower?

Before we get into the article, let’s have a recap in the room for those that need it! A horsepower is a unit used to measure the power of motors and engines, like those in your car.

One horsepower unit is the same as the power needed to pull 550lbs for one foot in one second, or 33,000 pounds to move one foot in one minute. 

When purchasing a car or any item with an engine or motor, the phrase horsepower will be mentioned when you are making your purchase or listed somewhere in the product’s specifications. 

Horsepower as a unit was invented in the 18th century. Farmers first used it to compare new technology to a power they were familiar with, a horse. Horsepower is based on how much work a healthy horse can perform in one minute. 

Now that we have a working definition of horsepower, let’s look at how much horsepower a horse has and other factors you need to be aware of when considering horsepower. 

How Much Horsepower Does A Horse Have?

Let’s get straight into it! A horse has a maximum horsepower of 14.9 or 15! They can also lift 330lbs at a rate of 100 feet per minute, 33lbs for 1000 feet, or 1000lbs for 33 feet per minute!

That’s some impressive stats for a horse, isn’t it? Remember that these figures are an average; some horses will have more or less horsepower, depending on their fitness and health. 

So why do we use horsepower as a unit of measurement? 

Not only is horsepower used to measure the capacity of a horse, but since the 18th century, horsepower has shown the forcefulness of an object to perform a certain task. The unit is still widely used today (often for vehicle engines) and tells us the following: 

  1. The total running capacity of an object
  2. How much weight the object can carry or lift 

Horsepower allows us to define how capable an object is of lifting and running effectively. Think of your car engine. Horsepower tells you the power your engine produces, with higher numbers referring to more powerful engines. This measurement can often help people determine which car they should buy! 

Now that we have explored the maximum horsepower let’s look at horsepower in more detail to provide you with all the information you need!

Do Workhorses Have More Horsepower?

Workhorses are seen as some of the strongest breeds compared to other horse breeds. They are used for, you guessed it, work! Typically a workhorse will reach the maximum horsepower of 15hp (horsepower).

The numbers we gave earlier are based on workhorses, who, thanks to their fitness and working roles, give them the highest horsepower there is! 

Horsepower VS. Humans

Now that we have seen how powerful horses are, you might be wondering, how does that compare to humans? How powerful are we?

Well, compared to horses, we are lagging behind! The horsepower of a person will vary depending on a range of factors like age, physical fitness, and health. Still, you can expect an average of 5 hp for a healthy and physically active human. 

Remember, horses have an average of almost 15hp, making them far more powerful and able to perform strength-based tasks than humans! Of course, there are things we can do that are beyond a horse’s capability, but if you want a cart pulled, a horse is going to do a far better job than a human! 

Although horses have more horsepower, humans tend to have better endurance. While the horse can carry more or generate more power, we can keep going for longer. 

Why? Horses are typically sprinters. They can run very quickly and carry more weight, but for a short period. Humans, however, have the endurance to keep going. This proven endurance even allows us to go further than horses and cheetahs; it will just take us a little longer! 

Why Do We Use Horsepower To Measure A Horse’s Power?

Now, you might be wondering, this is all well and good, but why do we use horsepower to measure a horse’s output anyway?

Well, horsepower has become the accepted formula and is fairly easy to understand. We use horsepower to define working devices, so why not use it to define the power of a horse too? 

Horsepower has been used to define the output of horses since the term was first used!

Back in the 18th century, there weren’t any formulas that could be used to define how efficient an object was. So we used horsepower. The work a horse completed was compared to modern steam engines. 

Although it sounds fairly simple, it’s the simplicity that made it successful! Horsepower was soon rolled out as the unit to measure all electrical and mechanical devices with! Their output was given as ‘X hp,’ allowing people to understand the device’s capabilities with ease. 

History Of Horsepower

As we have mentioned, horsepower was first used as a unit of measurement back in the e18th century. But let’s take a closer look at its history now! 

Before machines were invented, most of the work done on roads and factories was done by humans or horses. So when steam engines were invented, James Watt, the founder, needed to find a way to describe the engine, and there needed to be a phrase that would help people understand the power of the engine. 

So he used horses to help explain the engine’s power with the only other power source there was available, horses! The steam engine he created was able to complete the work of several horses at the same time.  

Horsepower was used as a unit that was easy to understand and told farmers how many of their trusty horses could enjoy retirement due to new technologies! 

To create the unit and ensure it would translate well, Watt conducted an experiment. After this, he learned that a horse could carry 33,000lbs in one minute.

Comparing horses with this knowledge to the engine created allowed him to create the foundation of the horsepower unit that is still used today! 

What Affects The Horsepower Of A Horse?

As with all things in life, the horsepower of a horse can be affected. As we mentioned earlier, the 14.9-15 hp that we gave is an average based on workhorses.

The amount of horsepower a horse can generate is impacted by a few different factors. Let’s take a look at these now to help you better understand horsepower! 


Perhaps the most important one! The health of a horse will determine its ability to work. Healthier horses will be able to work faster and with larger weights than those that are unwell or suffering from a health condition. To see a horse hit the highest output numbers, it must be healthy and physically fit. 


Alongside health, the age of a horse will also determine its performance. Younger horses, for example, aren’t able to hit those higher horsepower numbers straightaway. Usually, a horse’s performance improves with age, and you can expect the best output of hp when they reach maturity! 

Horses start to perform better when they turn two, and when they are 4.45 years old, they reach their peak performance. This is when you can expect the best results and higher horsepower from your horse, whether it’s a workhorse or not! 


Like with other animals, male horses tend to outperform female horses, and this is down to them being larger and usually stronger than female horses. If you wanted a workhorse that would be able to carry heavy objects and generate more power, you would want a male horse. 


The breed of the horse can also determine its power. Some breeds tend to be slower and weaker than others, and these are usually avoided when finding an excellent working horse. These weaker horses might not reach the horsepower goal of 15hp that we have referenced throughout this article. 

It would be unfair to expect pet horses to hit this 15hp, and they simply aren’t trained for it. You can, of course, train your horse to work harder and with heavier loads if you wish, but we think it’s best to be realistic about what your horse can achieve. 

Racehorses and horses trained to work under tough conditions tend to be the exception to this rule. 


It can sound like a strange factor, but horses are not built for hot weather. Their bodies are big and wide and are not built to deal with the heat.

Often horses will struggle to perform in temperatures over 59 degrees Fahrenheit. You might notice that horses in this heat will not work as quickly and might struggle to lift the weight that they normally do. 

The ideal temperature for a horse to work in is between 18 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit. If your horse is working in temperatures outside of this, you can expect a lesser performance than 15hp. 

Horse Breeds That Provide 15hp

Let’s take a look at what horse breeds have been known to provide an output of 15hp. Use this list as a guide, and remember some factors that can determine all horse’s abilities to perform at 15hp!

The horses included in the list below are draft horse breeds, known as workhorses. These horses have a track record of providing a maximum output of 15hp, even during intense conditions!

Not only are they strong, but incredibly patient too and in parts of the world are used instead of machines to perform tasks and labor! Here is our list of these workhorse breeds. 

  • American Cream Draft 
  • Ardennes
  • Belgian 
  • Breton
  • Boulonnais 
  • Comtois 
  • Clydesdale 
  • Dole 
  • Dutch Draft 
  • Fjord 
  • Finnhorse 
  • Freiberger 
  • Friesian 
  • Haflinger 
  • Italian Heavy Draft 
  • Irish Draft 
  • Jutland 
  • Latvian 
  • Murakoz
  • Noriker 
  • North Swedish Horse 
  • Pinto Draft
  • Percheron
  • Polish Draft
  • Russian Heavy Draft
  • Russian-German Cold Blood 
  • Spotted Heavy Draft
  • Suffolk Horse 
  • Soviet Heavy Draft 
  • Vladimir Heavy Draft 

Horsepower And Its Misconceptions

When they first see the phrase horsepower, many people assume it relates to the power of one horse. When it became a recognized unit to measure power, the history of the origin wasn’t new to everyone.

Again, we assumed that the power of one horse is equal to horsepower. But there are different definitions and different types of horsepower units too that you should be aware of. 

So why are there different definitions, and which one is right? 

Well, technically, all definitions of horsepower are correct. And the different definitions are put down to regional variations mostly.

You also need to consider the type of machine or object that has its power measured. These days with so many machines working differently and generating different power, it’s no wonder that horsepower has needed to adapt as a definition. 

You will find a range of definitions out there, but providing they state that horsepower is used to measure power based on a horse’s performance, the definition works! 

When it comes to the different units of horsepower used, there are a few out there. Let’s take a look at two of the most common horsepower units now. 

Mechanical/Imperial Horsepower 

Mechanical or imperial horsepower is a unit of power that requires the object to lift 550lbs (250kg) by one foot in one minute. This measurement has the symbol ‘hp’ after it to show the horsepower of a machine. 

Metric Horsepower

Metric horsepower is no different from mechanical or imperial horsepower. It earns its own section, however, because it is calculated and shown differently, using metrics rather than imperial weights!

So your metric horsepower is at 735.5 watts, and an imperial horsepower will clock in at 745.7 watts. The difference in the numbers here is often where the surrounding confusion horsepower comes from! 

It’s worth knowing the difference between the two to better your understanding of horsepower. It also helps you understand more about the power of an engine or machine when you look to purchase one. 

Horsepower Formula 

When calculating horsepower, there are a few formulas used. The horsepower is a rate at which the work is being done, so we have needed to create some formulas that help better represent horsepower. Some of the most common formulas are: 

Horsepower = Work/Time 

This formula is not often used to calculate horsepower as you don’t get very accurate information. However, it works to explain the theory behind horsepower and how the measuring unit works. 

Horsepower = torque*RPM/5352

This formula uses the RPM as the speed of an engine. You then have T (or torque) and 5252 representing the radians per second. This second formula is commonly used, especially with cars and other engine-based machinery. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Before you go today, be sure to check out our FAQ section and get your final questions answered! 

What Is hp? 

Hp is the shortened term for horsepower, a unit used to measure the power of a machine or engine. 

What Does Horsepower Mean?

Horsepower is a measuring unit used to refer to the power of an object or device.

Horses were originally used to help farmers understand the new technology and machinery that was being created. Horsepower showed how powerful an object would be compared to their current power source for work, horses. 

Is One Horsepower Equal To The Power Of One Horse?

No, a horse can generate the horsepower of up to 15, far more than one unit of horsepower! Assuming that one unit of horsepower is equal to the power of one horse is an incorrect way to view the unit of measurement. 

What Is The Horsepower Of A Horse?

A horse has a maximum output of 14.9-15hp. This number is based on an average of all horse breeds, especially workhorses that are typically used. 

Final Word

And there you have it; a horse typically has a horsepower of 15! The calculation, which has been around since the 18th century, still rings true today.

Horsepower remains a popular measuring unit that tells us how powerful an engine or motor will be. Whether we are purchasing a car or some new equipment, we are likely to encounter the phrase horsepower for many years to come! 

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