Can the Horses in 'Planet of the Apes' Support All Those Apes?

Someone think of the horses.

20th Century Fox

Caesar and his fellow apes may be out there fighting the good fight in War for the Planet of the Apes, but their horses are getting a bad deal. Non-genetically enhanced and used by both humans and apes alike, the horses are overworked and bogged down by giant monkeys of various sizes on a daily basis. Can the horses in Planet of the Apes realistically carry around all that ape weight?

To assuage this very legitimate concern, Inverse asked some ape and horse scientists for help getting to the bottom (or, rather, tail-end) of this mystery.

While the Planet of the Apes series has always utilized horses, even back in the original films, War takes it to a new level with a multi-ape stunt, in which two of the apes — Luca (Michael Adamthwaite) the gorilla and Rocket (Terry Notary) the chimpanzee — jump onto the back of a single horse. Experts agree that, to a horse, gorillas and orangutans aren’t exactly lightweight baggage, especially when taking into account a mountainous terrain and knee-deep snow.

Melissa Osgood, assistant director of media relations at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, told Inverse that she’s doubtful they could have supported that kind of weight. She said via e-mail that, although the breed of horse in the film was hard to discern, “my colleagues and I (all horse people) speculate they are young draft horses. Their chests and rumps do not seem wide enough to be full grown, but feathers (hair around their feet) and neck size fit that description.”

Osgood and her colleagues estimate that the horses depicted in War for the Planet of the Apes would be capable of carrying a maximum of 1,500 to 1,700 pounds each. Horses “perform best carrying 20 percent or less of their body weight,” she says, citing studies by the Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute in 2008 and by the U.S. Calvary Manuals of Horse Management published in 1920.

I know you're at war and all, Caesar, but maybe loosen up on the reins a bit?


That means the horses in War would be able to carry somewhere between 300 and 340 pounds before things become uncomfortable — or even impossible. This raises a simple question: How much do these apes weigh?

Stephen Ross, Ph.D., director of the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, told Inverse that the average male chimpanzee can weigh up to 150 pounds. Male orangutans, however, weigh “over 200 pounds,” and gorillas “can certainly exceed 350.”

That means that, when Luca and Rocket jumped onto the same horse to race after Bad Ape, that horse was carrying at least 500 pounds through knee-deep snow, which is much more than the 300- to 340-pound maximum these horses are estimated to carry. And if these genetically modified apes happen to be larger than normal apes, they’ll present an even heavier burden.

War screenwriter Mark Bomback told Inverse, good-naturedly, that the question of the horses in the film “doesn’t bother me” and pointed out that horses, like apes, can adapt, too. “I guess the answer is, these horses learned the hard way how to support gorillas,” he said.

Yes, in the end, it’s all fictitious, but even fictitious horses deserve some damn decency. Caesar’s apes may have found paradise at the end of the film, but the horses still have to live under their thumbs (and their weight).

War for the Planet of the Apes is now in theaters.

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