AskDefine | Define withers

The Collaborative Dictionary

Withers \With"ers\, n. pl. [Properly, the parts which resist the pull or strain in drawing a load; fr. OE. wither resistance, AS. wi[eth]re, fr. wi[eth]er against; akin to G. widerrist withers. See With, prep.] The ridge between the shoulder bones of a horse, at the base of the neck. See Illust. of Horse. [1913 Webster] Let the galled jade wince; our withers are unwrung. --Shak. [1913 Webster]

Word Net



1 sensibility to trouble (as in the phrase `wring one's withers'); "the lawsuit was wringing his withers"; "our withers are unwrung"--Shakespeare
2 the highest part of the back at the base of the neck of various animals especially draft animals



  1. The part of the back of a draft animal or horse that is the highest, between the shoulder blades.

Usage notes

Although this noun refers to one object, there is no corresponding singular form for this word.


part of the back of a draft animal


  1. third-person singular of wither


Wither redirects here. For the comic character, see Wither (comics).
For the family name, see Withers (surname).
The withers is the highest point on the back of a non-upright animal, on the ridge between its shoulder blades.


The withers in horses are formed by the dorsal spinal processes of roughly the 3rd through 11th thoracic vertebrae (most horses have 18 thoracic vertebrae), which are unusually long in this area. The processes of the withers can be more than 12" (30cm) in height on the average horse. Since they do not move relative to the ground (as does the horse's head), the height of a horse is measured from the ground to the withers. Horse sizes are extremely variable, from small pony breeds to large draft breeds. The height of the withers on an average Thoroughbred is 16 hands (5' 4").

Conformational issues

The withers of the horse are considered in evaluating conformation. Generally, a horse should have well-defined withers, as they are considered an important attachment point for the muscles of the torso. Withers of medium height are preferred, as high withers make it difficult to fit a saddle and are often associated with a narrow chest, and low withers (known as "mutton withers") do not provide a ridge to help keep the saddle in place.
More importantly, the dorsal spinal processes provide an attachment for the muscles that support the shoulder and neck. Horses do not have a clavicle, so the shoulder can freely rotate backwards. If the vertebrae of the withers are long (front to back), the shoulder is more free to move backwards. This allows for an increase of stride length (and so it can increase the horse's speed). It is also important in jumping, as the shoulder must rotate back for the horse to make his forearm more parallel to the ground, which will then raise the animal's knees upward and get the lower legs out of the way. Therefore, the withers have a direct impact on one of the most important points of conformation: the shoulder.


In dogs, the height of the withers is often used to determine the dog's jump height in various dog sports. It is also often a determining factor in whether the dog conforms to the show-quality standards for its breed.

Medical problems

Inflammation of the bursa in this region is called fistulous withers by veterinary surgeons.
withers in German: Widerrist
withers in Esperanto: Postkolo
withers in Persian: جدوگاه
withers in French: Garrot (quadrupède)
withers in Italian: Garrese
withers in Dutch: Schofthoogte
withers in Low German: Schuft
withers in Polish: Kłąb (weterynaria)
withers in Finnish: Säkäkorkeus
withers in Swedish: Mankhöjd
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