:"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. [cite web |url=http://www.uk.allures.com/content/view/5/27/ |title=the Back |accessdate=2008-04-21|publisher=Allures] 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.Fact|date=April 2008


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.


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  • 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… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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  • withers — ► PLURAL NOUN ▪ the highest part of a horse s back, lying at the base of the neck above the shoulders. ORIGIN apparently from obsolete widersome, from wither «against» (as the part that resists the strain of the collar) …   English terms dictionary

  • withers — [with′ərz] pl.n. [< ME wither, resistance (prob. in sense “that which the horse opposes to his load”) < OE withre, resistance < wither, against: see WITH] the highest part of the back of a horse or similar animal, located between the… …   English World dictionary

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  • Withers — Recorded as Withar, Wither, and the patronymic Withers, this interesting surname of English origins, has two possible sources. The first is from the Old Norse male personal name Vitharr , or the Old Danish form Withar . These names are composed… …   Surnames reference

  • withers — noun plural Etymology: probably from obsolete English wither against, from Middle English, from Old English, from wither against; from the withers being the parts which resist the pull in drawing a load more at with Date: 1580 1. the ridge… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • withers — /widh euhrz/, n. (used with a pl. v.) 1. the highest part of the back at the base of the neck of a horse, cow, sheep, etc. See diag. under dog, horse. 2. wring one s withers, to cause one anxiety or trouble: The long involved lawsuit is wringing… …   Universalium

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