This article will be updated periodically. These are averages based on internet research. This means there are hundreds of thousands of differing opinions! Please do not contact me and harp on how correct or incorrect this article is.
Average Horse Gaits
Walk: 4 miles per hour (6.4 km/h).
Trot: 8 miles per hour (13 km/h).
- In harness racing, the trot of a Standardbred is faster than the gallop of the average non-racehorse. The North American speed record for a racing trot under saddle was measured at 30.25 miles per hour (48.68 km/h).
Canter: 16–27 km/h (10–17 mph), depending on the length of the stride of the horse.
Gallop: 25 to 30 miles per hour (40 to 48 km/h).
For more information see Horse Gait at Wikipedia.
Pony Express: 7 to 10 mph
Stage Coach: 3 to 5 mph; this would naturally vary based on terrain and the size of the hitch.
Horse Drawn Wagon (long distance): 2 to 4 mph (this was the preferred mode for the gold rush because it was so much faster than ox teams).
Ox Drawn Wagon: 1 to 2 mph ( this was the preferred mode for most western pioneers as they could walk comfortably alongside the wagon and load more freight in the wagon)
Walking (Human): 2 to 3 mph
River Boat (downstream): 5 to 10 mph
River Boat (upstream): 1 to 5 mph
Train: 30 mph (average). Speeds would vary based on terrain, track condition, etc. Some reached a top speed of 80 mph. There was even one article that suggested one of the eastern trains of the period reached a speed of 100 mph.
Calculating Travel Time
Generally speaking, we will not be trying to calculate distances and travel times down to the exact second. In keeping with using a cinematic reality (i.e. people seemed to get where they needed to go), try to keep travel times vague. On the occasions that you need to calculate a travel time, use the following formula.
Average Travel Time = Distance divided by Average Rate of Speed.
For example, if you are riding a horse a distance of twenty miles, you would add its median speed at a walk, trot, canter, and gallop because it is unlikely a person would ride only at one gait. Round the average down to allow for rest breaks, terrain, etc., and divide that into the number of miles traveled. Again, advise rounding the result down to allow for obstacles and delays during the journey.