How Medieval Sports are Still Hurting Animals Today

Historic reenactments which involve the endangerment of animals’ lives have no place in today’s society. So why is it that people continue to actively exploit animals in the name of entertainment when so many alternatives exist?

Medieval sports such as jousting are notoriously violent and dangerous for the competitors, and while they are able to decide whether or not to take part, the horses are afforded no such luxury.

The Captive Animal Protection Society (CAPS) are running a campaign to highlight the widespread use of horses for jousting games being held at English Heritage sites, which are putting these animals’ lives at risk.

Theatrical Jousting

Jousting is a medieval sport which involves two opponents on horseback charging towards each other with a lance, aiming to knock the opponent from their horse. Historically, many horses were seriously injured and killed during jousts as lances would spear them in the face, chest, body and legs, and they would also be thrown to the ground when riders were knocked off, resulting in broken legs.

Today’s jousting events are theatrical reenactments of the real sport, meaning that events are choreographed, but the risks remain all too real for the horses forced to take part. Horses are trained to be able to deal with the scary ordeal of being charged at, struck, thrown to the ground, and to be in a loud arena with shouting crowds of people, none of which is something that comes naturally to them.

Unprotected Horses in Great Danger

CAPS have been investigating the issue in the UK, and have revealed a number of instances of horses being put into unnecessary danger in the name of historic entertainment. At a recent English Heritage event at Kenilworth Castle, jousting matches took place where the horses were not given facial protection, despite the fact that they were being charged at head on with a heavy wooden lance.

When confronted about the issue, organizers claimed that the head guards were broken and that they are usually used. Instead of cancelling the event in order to prevent the horses from being put in even more danger, it was allowed to continue with the riders being instructed to aim above the horses heads to ‘ensure’ their safety. This highlights the priorities of the event organizers, and it certainly isn’t with animal welfare.

A Sport Best Left in the Dark Ages

The use of animals for entertainment is a big issue right now, with animal circuses, aquariums and zoos being forced to rethink their practices by the animal rights movement. Sports such as jousting which put the lives of animals at risk for our entertainment are best left behind as we strive for a caring and compassionate society. There are plenty of alternative ways to teach history without needing to exploit animals in the process.

If you feel strongly about this issue, please send a letter to English Heritage to ask them to put an end to this cruel sport. For more details, plus a sample letter, please visit the CAPS website.

Photo Credit: Soller Photo

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven5 months ago

thanks for the article.

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H.about a year ago

Thanks for sharing.

Therese Kutscheid
Therese Kutscheidabout a year ago

Karen P. you make sense. Thanks.

Charlie Rush
Charlene Rushabout a year ago

Where is it said, that humans have the right to abuse animals for their diseased pleasure?

Jinny L.
Jinny L.about a year ago

For the sake of innocent animals it is time to end these selfish acts. Absolutely unnecessary and unacceptabale. Thanks Abigail for sharing.

Angev GERIDONIabout a year ago


Thank you to all who love the animals and the planet, and who already signed the petition to protect horses from Pétropolis, if no, please help give an happy end to the sad story of those enslaved animals, and share these petitions : ♞ Care 2 - and - ♞


Felicia D.
Felicia D.about a year ago

If you're really concerned about horses in competition turn your attention to Tennessee Walkers and "soring." That's truly horrific, damages the horses often beyond recovery and is being done to hundreds if not thousands of horses in the name of the "big lick" or what non-horse people would see as super high stepping gaits. Or how about protecting the thousands of feral horses that are being herded up by helicopter drives in the US, separated from their family groups, warehoused in paddocks with no shade or shelter, adopted out to questionable homes which sometimes turn out to be pipelines to slaughter houses. Honestly- there are bigger issues to deal with than the pampered, beloved horses in reenactment!

ERIKA SOMLAIabout a year ago

noted,thank you

Janis K.
Janis K.about a year ago

Thanks for sharing.

Cathleen K.
Cathleen K.about a year ago

Anyone else notice that this article lacks ANY information about horses being injured? Thanks Ana, Sven and Zach for setting the record straight. Modern horses are human creations, bred for transportation, hauling, plowing and yes, war. Many are highly competitive creatures (all great race horses are super competitive) and they all bond closely to those who handle them with love and truly enjoy working as a team with them. Go to any horse show and you'll see happy team work.

As a child, I loved listening to my great uncle tell stories of his days as a cavalry officer. He always maintained that Jimmy was more eager to charge than he was in the fight against Pancho Villa. They were sent to France in 1918 and were very lucky to have escaped with their lives. It cost him an arm and a leg to ship that horse home to a stable in NJ, where he lived for another 18 years. My mother learned to ride on his back, though he was too strong willed for a little girl to handle alone on a bridle path; he got a more placid companion as a result, whose company he enjoyed.