How Much Horse Power Does a Horse Have?

When someone says ‘horsepower’, people think about race cars. Sadly, we’re not going to talk about race cars, today. The good news, however, is that we’re going to talk about horses and what is the horse power of one horse.

If you’re anything like a common man, you’d probably answer: Horsepower of a horse is one, that is why they named the unit “horse power” – common sense. The truth, surprising it may seem, is that the horsepower is never really the same for all horses. In fact, it is very likely to vary upon factors like physical fitness and work load of the horse in question. The speed at which the horses are giving their peak performance is also an important factor.

Initially, horsepower was used to compare the work efficiency between a horse at work and steam engines. Later, it became a convenient way to measure the output of other engines, electric motors and turbines. As a matter of fact, you can also use horsepower as a unit of measurement to measure human power.

In this article, we will be exploring interesting questions like: How much horsepower does a horse have, and why? How you can calculate a horse’s horsepower? And as a bonus, we will also be looking at how much horsepower do humans have.

What Is Horsepower?

Horsepower is simply a unit of power.

But to understand it completely, we need to go back to the time when this unit for measuring power and energy came into being.

In the 18th century, a Scottish Engineer, James Watt came up with an improved design of steam engines, claiming that his version is more fuel-efficient. In order to prove his point and invention, it was he who introduced horsepower as a unit of measurement. He used this to compare the power of the new steam engine with the energy of the workhorses.

It was seen that a typical draft horse could turn a 24 ft mill wheel approximately 2.5 times every minute, without too much exertion. Hence, to simplify the calculation and convert it into a metric system to measure power, Watt derived the amount of force and energy applied by the horse to turn the wheel as being 33,000 foot-pounds per minute. This number equals to 746 Watts or Joules per second.

Nonetheless, Watt, the measurement metric of energy consumption per unit of time is a namesake of its founder. Furthermore, it is a widely popular unit for identifying the power consumption of electrical and mechanical motors.

What Is the Horsepower of One Horse?

On average, a draft horse has 14.9 Horsepower. Though this number is likely to vary depending upon the amount of energy it exerts in a given time span. Besides, horses usually vary in terms of breed and overall physical health. For example, a breed like the American Quarter Horse will have higher horsepower than the average. Thus, horses are likely to exhibit different levels of power.

To understand how I reached this number, it is important to realize that one horsepower is not necessarily equal to the highest power production of the equine.

As a common unit for measuring the rate of work done per minute, 1 HP is equivalent to 33,000 foot-pounds. In other words, 1 HP is required to lift 33,000 foot-pounds of mass every minute on average. Moreover, as per the information found on the website of Energy Education, horses can produce and sustain 15 HP over several hours of work. This was cited in a publication titled “Delayed Obsolescence: The Horse in European and American Welfare from the Crimean War to the Second World War”

How Many Horsepower Does a Human Have?

A physically fit human being can exert approximately 0.27 HP. This, again, depends entirely upon the kind of activity they are performing.

For instance, an average bicycle rider may produce 0.2 HP while riding for leisure, whereas a professional rider is more likely to maintain around 0.57 HP during a race. Furthermore, work, such as lifting and moving heavy objects, sprinting, hiking, etc., that require more energy can spike up the horsepower of the individual performing the task.

On the whole, the answer to how much horsepower a human has lies in how physically fit they are, the activity they are performing, and the completion time. An average human can sustain 0.1 HP over indefinite hours, whereas, s/he can sustain 0.27 HP for a little over an hour.

FAQs Related to Horsepower in a Horse

Understanding horsepower is certainly tricky, especially for a layman. Let’s dive straight into the clarifying most common confusions regarding horsepower.

Is 1 HP equal to a horse?

One horsepower is not equal to a horse’s power because horses are capable of producing up to 15 HP on average. Hence, 1 HP does not determine the maximum power that an equine exerts. Instead, it defines the amount of power required to move 33,000 foot-pounds of mass per minute.

Why do they call it horsepower?

The term ‘horsepower’ came into being as a mathematical method to equate engine power to horses.

In order to prove his invention as an effective replacement for the animals, Watt compared the power of a horse with the power of the steam engine. This was because horses were widely used by farmers to perform tough tasks during that era. Moreover, people also relied on horses to turn mill wheels.

Both the horse and the steam engine were put to test with the performance of the same task in the same time frame.

How many cc’s are in 1 horsepower?

One horsepower is equal to approximately 14 to 17 cc. This value  is likely to fluctuate when put in comparison with modern, fuel-effective engines. Generally, you may say that every 15 cc makes 1 HP.

How much horsepower does a draft horse have?

Draft horses exhibit an average of 15 HP.

Draft horses typically perform labor intensive tasks like lifting heavy weights. They can easily sustain this amount of power for a longer periods.

Why does a horse have 15 horsepower?

15 HP is the maximum output that a healthy draft horse can maintain when performing tedious work. However, the horsepower of an equine varies as per their breed, health as well as the work that they are put at.

How fast is one horsepower in mph?

One horsepower, in terms of speed is roughly equal to 0.163 miles per hour.

To calculate the value of horsepower in mph, you also need to know the thrust of the engine. With this, you can use the formula: Speed = Power/Force and get your answer.

What kind of horse is horsepower based on?

Horsepower is based on draft horses since draft horses are larger and stronger in comparison to other horse breeds.


On the whole, despite being a unit to measure power, one horsepower is not the maximum energy exerted by a horse. According to the law of physics and general calculations, one horsepower equals 746 Watts or Joules per second. Moreover, Watt is the namesake of the Scottish engineer who came up with the idea to create this unit to measure power. His invention, the steam engine, very effectively replaced horses for tedious work.

Today, horsepower popularly defines the maximum energy output of several kinds of machines. All in all, horses can produce and sustain around 15 HP, easily.

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