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A hand (or handbreadth) is a unit of measurement of length equal to .

It was originally based on the breadth of a male human hand, and is now standardized at . When used to measure height, it is abbreviated "h" (for "hands") or "hh" ("hands high").

Use in measuring horses and other equines

Today the hand is primarily used to describe the height of horses, ponies, and other equines in a number of different countries, including the USAmarker, Canadamarker, Australia, and the UKmarker. In this context, one hand equals four inches (10.16 cm), and the horse is measured from the ground to the top of the withers. So a horse that is 15 hands high (abbreviated 15 hh) is from the ground to the top of the withers. Instead of decimal or vulgar fractions, a hand comprises four inch-long steps, so a horse tall would be 15.2 hh (spoken as “fifteen two hands high”). An animal between inch increments may be measured by fractions, for example, a very tall pony might be 14.1-3/4 hh ( ).

A pony is generally defined as a horse less than or, depending on organization, 14.2 hh or less. An animal 14.2 hh or taller is classified as a horse. However, breed characteristics also play a role in defining animals as horses or ponies, particularly in breeds that may have some purebred representatives on both sides of the 14.2 divide. In some nations, such as Australia, the cutoff is defined at

In the United States, ponies in horse show competition, particularly for hunter/jumper classes, are sometimes further subdivided into sections, depending on height:
  • Small Pony: or smaller
  • Medium Pony: larger than 12.2 hh, up to
  • Large Pony: larger than 13.2 hh, but no taller than 14.2 hh

A miniature horse is either shorter than 9.2 or 8.2 hh, depending on the registry. Minis often are measured at the last hair of the mane, located approximately at the peak of the withers which are sometimes poorly-defined in minis. The world's smallest horse, Thumbelina, is just 4.1 hh.

In international competition and in much of continental Europe, horses are measured in centimeters instead of hands.

For Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) competition and for USEF competition in the USA, a horse can be measured with shoes on or off. In the United Kingdommarker much official measurement of horses is overseen by the Joint Measurement Board (JMB). For JMB purposes, the shoes must be removed before measurement.

See also


  1. Measuring horses
  2. Shlei, "Just how tall is a hand?" Measuring Equines, The American Donkey and Mule Society, accessdate = 2007-05-19
  3. Web Site for Thumbelina
  4. (Joint Measuring Board)

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