Why History Is Based On A Horse’s Ass…

I love this sort of stuff. You may have seen it already, but it tickled me.

‘The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That’s an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used?

Well, because that’s the way they built them in England, and English engineers designed the first US railroads. Why did the English build them like that?

Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the wagon tramways, and that’s the gauge they used. So, why did ‘they’ use that gauge then?

Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they had used for building wagons, which used that same wheel spacing. Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing?

Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break more often on some of the old, long distance roads in England . You see, that’s the spacing of the wheel ruts. So who built those old rutted roads?

Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (including England ) for their legions. Those roads have been used ever since.
And what about the ruts in the roads?
Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match or run the risk of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome , they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. Therefore the United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. Bureaucracies live forever.

So the next time you are handed a specification/procedure/process and wonder ‘What horse’s ass came up with this?’, you may be exactly right. Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses. (Two horses’ asses.)

Now, the twist to the story:
When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah . The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains, and the SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses’ behinds.

So, a major Space Shuttle design feature, of what is arguably the world’s most advanced transportation system, was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse’s ass.

And you thought being a horse’s ass wasn’t important? Ancient horse’s asses control almost everything.’

This comes from an Irish lawyer, here,


About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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27 Responses to Why History Is Based On A Horse’s Ass…

  1. tootlepedal says:

    A very interesting piece. I must work it into my conversation as soon as possible.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Roadtirement says:

    Made me smile, and like tootlepedal will soon be regurgitating this bit of historic wisdom as soon as possible. Heck, I may just start my next conversation with “Did you know…”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing this Geoff. Why it should have sat largely unnoticed for two years, and then suddenly taken off, is one of those mysteries of life!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Norah says:

    Totally fascinating. So true about bureaucracies too!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. V.M.Sang says:

    What a fascinating post, Geoff. Who’d have thunk it! You couldn’t make it up.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sadje says:

    A very interesting bit of information 😂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. noelleg44 says:

    I knew this from some reading a few years ago – it still amazes me but you have to add the current horses’ asses that run things.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Fascinating Geoff. I will never look at a horse’s bum in the same light again……..

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Bridgette says:

    “Ancient horse’s asses control almost everything.” Well, that explains a lot!


  10. willowdot21 says:

    This is a piece of information I knew, or so I thought. The information on the S.R.Bs was news to me though…triggering the question “what did the Romans ever do for us?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Jennie says:


    Liked by 1 person

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