How tall was Genghis Khan? Genghis Khan’s legacy has been the topic of considerable discussion and conjecture due to his status as one of the most well-known and influential rulers in history. How tall Genghis Khan was, has been a topic of debate among scholars and historians for decades. A clear answer to this subject is elusive due to competing narratives and a lack of hard facts. However, there are some convincing points, and clues regarding Genghis Khan’s possible height. Let’s find out.
Historical Records on How Tall Genghis Khan Was
Genghis Khan, the first emperor of the Mongol Empire, is widely recognized as a pivotal figure in global history. That is why the height of the emperor is also a topic of much debate. The exact height of Genghis Khan was never recorded. Despite that, several historians place Genghis Khan’s height between 1.68 m and 1.73 m (5’6″ and 5’8″).
Even though Genghis Khan’s actual height is unknown, Genghis is described as just “tall” in contemporary Chinese documents. The fact is, people in Mongolia come in various shapes and sizes, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that some of the world’s tallest men also call this nation home.
However, considering the size of Mongolian ponies, Genghis Khan probably wasn’t too tall. The Mongols’ success was largely due to the size of their horses. The native Mongolian horses that Genghis Khan’s army rode into battle on were small, but powerful. Their horses were between 12 and 14 hands in height (48 and 56 inches, 122 and 142 cm). The European riding horses are bigger, standing 16–18 hands (64–72 inches, 163–183 cm). For comparison, the average height of a British male citizen during Genghis Khan’s time was around 1.73 meters, as the skeletal evidence suggests.
Many Mongols get their impressive strength by participating in archery and wrestling, two of their ancient activities. Genghis Khan’s siblings were outstanding wrestlers, and he thus inherited their prowess.
When put in perspective, the typical height of a man in China has increased from 160 to 170 cm (63 to 67″) just during the 19th century. Since Temujin (Genghis Khan) was simply described as “tall” by the Chinese, it is also possible that he stood at a height in the range of 170–175 centimeters (67–69″).
However, these are just estimations, and they cannot be absolutely precise. It is impossible to estimate Genghis Khan’s height with certainty because of the lack of reliable documents and measurements from the time period.
The Impact of Genghis Khan’s Origin on His Height
The Russian historian Lev Gumilyov (1912–1992) asserts that the warriors of Genghis Khan’s army were predominantly tall, fair-haired individuals with blue or green eyes. This is also supported by the frescoes found in Manchuria. Genghis Khan himself belonged to the ancient Borjigin family, which translates to “blue-eyed” and was known for producing tall, robust individuals with reddish blonde hair and striking blue or green eyes. Additionally, men of the Borjigin clan were known for their long beards and wide foreheads. This description is also echoed in the works of Persian scientist and physician Rashid al-Din (“A Compendium of Chronicles“) and Italian traveler Marco Polo, who both depict Genghis Khan as a European-like figure.
The Avars, a group of migrant warriors from Mongolia, were known for their large physiques. This is evidenced in both Russian and Frankish chronicles, which describe the Avars as formidable opponents on the battlefield. A Turco-Mongol or Tatar king is depicted in Russian epics as a towering figure with the head of a beer kettle, the eyes of a beer bowl, and broad shoulders spanning the length of an “oblique sazhen” — roughly 2.5 meters (8.2 feet). He is also described as having a body like a haystack. Overall, this Tatar king is portrayed as a giant of a man, with a huge frame and striking features. Because of Genghis Khan’s massive frame, other populations naturally feared the Mongols.
The Truth About the Chinese Sources Regarding Genghis Khan’s Height
Genghis Khan, the Great Mongol, was renowned as the greatest warrior, so it stands to reason that he was also a formidable and imposing physical man with a well-developed chest and powerful arms. And just like today, most Chinese men during Genghis Khan’s reign favored a slimmer physique.
Genghis Khan’s physical size definitely left a positive impression on Chinese historians, since their records portray Genghis as tall and stocky. For the Chinese, to look at Genghis was to see a prototypical Mongol wrestler.
The Chinese frequently claimed that the Mongols were godlike in stature and appeared massive. This, of course, includes how tall Genghis Khan was. This makes sense, considering the Mongols’ penchant for large stature due to their diet and a lot of fighting. And back in Genghis Khan’s day, almost every Mongol was a wrestler. Given their fondness for red meat, it should come as no surprise that Mongol wrestlers tended to be more muscular than most other people.
Arguments for Genghis Khan’s Height
Some historians contend that Genghis Khan was likely taller than believed. They reference paintings and monuments of Genghis Khan that portray him as a towering presence. But Genghis Khan may have stood tall in his own right since many of the Mongol troops in his army were said to be quite tall. For instance, in the Chinese records, Mongols are described as very tall troops.
These days, a typical Mongol stands between 160 and 180 centimeters (63 and 71 inches) tall. However, this doesn’t mean much since the average height of people in a nation can increase or decrease a lot in relatively short periods of time.
For example, the skeletal evidence suggests that the average height of Englishmen increased from 167 centimeters to 170 centimeters (about 5 feet 5 inches) during the Roman colonization of Britain (200–410 AD). And the Norman invasion in 1066 also coincided with a rebound in the average height of British males. Average heights had risen to 172 (67.7 inches) centimeters by the end of the early medieval period; by the 1100s, they had risen to 173 centimeters (68.1 inches), approaching the heights attained at the turn of the twentieth century.
On the other hand, scholars who believe Genghis Khan was shorter than traditionally thought point out that Genghis was a nomadic warrior and that a lower height could have been more advantageous for horseback riding and other tasks for people like Genghis. Even if Genghis Khan was tall for his people, he probably would have been shorter than many world leaders of the time since the average Mongolian man of his era was about 5 feet, 4 inches (162 cm) tall.
How Tall Were Mongol Warriors?
Historians frequently describe the Mongol warriors of Genghis Khan’s army as predominantly tall. Today, the average height of men in Mongolia is 170 centimeters (5’7″). Given the recentness of the Mongol invasions and their still similar lifestyle, the Mongols’ height and physicality are likely to have remained similar since Genghis Khan. According to that, most Mongol warriors at the time could be taller than 1.75 meters (5′9″), if not close to 1.80 meters (5′11″).
Nutrition, lifestyle, and selection all have a role in growth. Frankish peasants, who seldom ate meat, were around 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) shorter than their feudal rulers throughout the early Middle Ages. Because of their meat-based diet, the Mongols were expected to be physically larger than European nobility at the time. The Mongols’ bigger torsos would have made them seem towering to their foreign adversaries. Plus, their hefty frames and strong limbs make up for their lack of height.
How Tall is Genghis Khan’s Statue?
The Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue is a massive sculpture made of stainless steel that stands 130 feet tall and shows the great ruler riding a horse. This monument has the title of being the highest equestrian statue in the whole world. It is perched atop a hill at a site named Tsonjin Boldog, barely 54 kilometers (33 miles) from Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, where it is said that Genghis Khan discovered a whip. The discovery of the whips was a sign of impending power, wealth, and achievement. The height of the tourist center alone is 10 meters (33 feet).
Why Are Mongolian Horses Short in Height?
It’s possible that smaller horse breeds evolved as a result of having to adapt to harsher natural temperatures and fewer nutrition sources, which is why the Mongolian horse is shorter in height than many other breeds. Despite being a small horse with a short and huge neck, the Mongolian horse has exceptionally developed forequarters. Their hips and shoulders are broad, their backs are short, and their legs are robust. Mongol horses became excellent warhorses because of their fortitude, stamina, and ability to forage for themselves. The Mongol horse’s slowness in comparison to other breeds it encountered in battle was its worst shortcoming as a military horse.
Why Are Asians Shorter Than Western People?
Those of Asian heritage tend to be shorter in stature than the average person. This is because, during the previous ice age, people in Asia benefited from maintaining their core body temperature by having a smaller, more compact body shape. The dietary habits of Asian culture also contribute to the height gap, since they usually consist of less dairy and protein than Western diets. When East Asians take the same quantity of calcium as their Western counterparts, they tend to be of similar height. While Asians are becoming taller, Americans are shrinking today. Individuals from more prosperous socioeconomic situations tend to be taller simply because they have greater access to nutritious food.
What Did Genghis Khan Look Like?
Surprisingly little is known about Genghis Kahn’s life or appearance. There are no surviving pictures or sculptures of him from his time period. However, Genghis Khan’s Mongol warriors were mostly tall, fair-haired men with blue or green eyes. Genghis Khan was a member of the Borjigin family, which is translated as “blue-eyed” and was known for producing strong, tall individuals with reddish blonde hair and blue or green eyes.
When it comes to Genghis Khan, the reports paint a picture of a towering, powerful man with a big, bushy beard and a thick, flowing mane of hair. 14th-century Persian historian Rashid al-Din reported that Genghis had red hair and green eyes. Despite the fact that Al-Din never actually met the Khan, it is possible that members of the ethnically diverse Mongol people may have such stunning traits.
Why Was Genghis Never Portrayed?
Genghis Khan, the chief of the Mongols, imposed a strict ban on the production of any artwork that depicted his image, including statues and coins. However, after his passing, the first representations of him were released. Only Kublai Khan, Genghis Khan’s grandson, who had spent 12 years in close proximity to him, was able to paint a portrait of the legendary leader. The artist was closely supervised by Genghis Khan himself as he created the painting. The portrait, which dates back to 1278, was later colored in the 14th century.
The historical sources are not particularly reliable, and it is difficult to conclude how tall Genghis Khan was. But most sources agree that Genghis Khan was between 5’6″ and 5’8″ (168 cm and 173 cm). Despite his diminutive height, Genghis Khan was one of history’s most influential leaders due to the powerful Mongol Empire he founded and expanded to enormous size, which became the largest contiguous empire in history after his death.
When it came to his “height,” Genghis Khan was unquestionably a “towering” figure who had a significant impact on the world as it is now, regardless of how tall he really was. With his leadership and military skills, Genghis Khan was a key part of the Mongol Empire’s growth both in Asia and Europe.
- Ancient Turks – Lev Gumilev, AbeBooks.
- Highs and lows of an Englishman’s average height over 2000 years – University of Oxford.
- Average Height by Country 2023 – Worldpopulationreview
- A Compendium of Chronicles – Rashid al-Din Hamadani