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Can You Measure “Horsepower” in… Actual Horses?

team of gray horses pulling cart
Written by Natalie Gasper

The OG Horsepower

When someone says ‘horsepower,’ many people picture a car. Not equestrians, though! We want to know what our beloved horses pack in terms of horsepower. And what about horses’ horsepower compared to other animals? We wondered, too, so we did the research for you!

The term horsepower came from engineer James Watt when he needed a way to explain the power of his steam engine. One horsepower is equivalent to 746 Watts. In today’s equestrian world, one horse has a max horsepower of 15. Humans, on the other hand, have a max horsepower of 1.2.

Why is it Called Horsepower?

The term horsepower came about in the late 1700s upon the invention of the steam engine. James Watt, a Scottish engineer, coined the word when he was trying to come up with a way to explain the power of his new steam engine. Since most people used horses at the time, Watt calculated the “power” of one horse.

He determined that one of his steam engines had the same power as 10 cart-pulling horses, or 10 horsepower.

Horsepower vs. Torque

Horsepower is a measure of the amount of energy transferred over a period of time (a.k.a. power). Torque, on the other hand, is a measure of rotational force, which doesn’t involve time.

Think of horsepower as energy over time, and torque as instantaneous.

Horsepower Math

Watt calculated that one horsepower was equal to doing 55 foot-pounds of work per second (33,000 foot-pounds per minute). This equals about 746 Watts.

Horsepower in vehicles is calculated by multiplying torque by RPM, then dividing by 5252.

How Much Horsepower Does…
1 horse have? Up to 15
1 cow have? 7
1 human have? 1.2
1 foal have? 3.3
1 draft horse have? 15
1 donkey have? 5
group of 300 horses have? 4,500
horse foal and cow in pasture

Source: Canva

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How many horses are in 1 horsepower?

Despite the name, 1 horsepower doesn’t equal 1 horse. A horse can have up to 15hp.

Q: Why does 1 horse have 15 horsepower?

One horse has 15 horsepower because that’s the maximum they can produce in a short burst like while galloping in a race.

Q: How much is 1hp?

One horsepower is equivalent to 746 Watts or one horse doing 33,000 foot-pounds of work in one minute.

Q: How much horsepower does a human have?

Humans can produce a max of about 1.2 hp and sustain about 0.1 hp.

Q: How much horsepower does a baby horse have?

A baby horse, or a foal, can produce a max of about 3.3 horsepower.

Q: How much horsepower does a cow have?

A cow has a max horsepower of 7 but typically sustains about 1 hp.

team of bay horses pulling a cart

Source: Canva

Parting Thoughts

Horsepower has come a long way since James Watt. Understanding its magnitude shows just how impressive a single horse really is. Then again, we equestrians were already plenty impressed!

P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:



Why one horsepower is more than the power of one horse | IOPSpark

How Much Horsepower Does A Human Have?


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About the author


Natalie Gasper

Nancy loves retraining off the track Thoroughbreds and working with her dogs!