What Is A Furlong?

The Quick Answer

What Is A Furlong?

A furlong is a unit of measurement that is used to measure distance. It is an old English unit of length that dates back to Anglo-Saxon times. A furlong is equal to 220 yards, which is approximately 201 meters. It is commonly used in horse racing to mark distances.

Furlong Definition

The word “furlong” comes from the Old English words “furh” meaning “furrow” and “lang” meaning “long”. Originally, a furlong was defined as the length of a furrow in a cultivated field, but it was later standardized to be exactly 40 rods or 10 chains.

Today, the furlong is mainly used in horse racing, where distances are measured in furlongs and miles. It is also used in some countries, such as the United States and Canada, to measure distances in agriculture and land surveying.

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Origin

The system of long furrows that gave rise to the furlong measurement arose because turning a team of oxen pulling a heavy plough was difficult. The length of a furrow was determined by the strength of the oxen and the weight of the plough, and was usually around 220 yards.

The furlong was first standardized in the 14th century, when it was defined as the length of a furrow in a 10-acre field. It was later standardized to be exactly 40 rods or 10 chains, which is equivalent to 220 yards or 201.168 meters.

Today, the furlong is mainly used in horse racing, where it has been used as a unit of measurement since the 16th century. It is also used in some countries, such as the United States and Canada, to measure distances in agriculture and land surveying.

How is a Furlong Measured?

A furlong is a unit of distance used in the imperial and US customary systems. It is equivalent to one-eighth of a mile, which is approximately 201 metres. The furlong was historically used to measure distances for horse racing and farming.

Imperial System

In the imperial system, a furlong is measured as 220 yards, which is equivalent to 660 feet or 40 rods. One rod is equal to 5.5 yards or 16.5 feet. Therefore, a furlong is the length of 10 chains, where one chain is equal to 22 yards or 66 feet.

The furlong was originally defined as the length of a furrow in a ploughed field. The furrow was not standardized and varied in length depending on the plough and the soil. However, by the 14th century, the furrow was standardized to be 220 yards or one-eighth of a mile.

Metric System

In the metric system, a furlong is measured as 201.168 metres. This is based on the imperial measurement of one-eighth of a mile. The metric system was introduced in the 1960s to standardize measurements and simplify calculations. However, the imperial system is still used in some countries, especially for measuring distances in horse racing.

Although the metric system is more widely used, the imperial system is still relevant in some industries, including construction, aviation, and agriculture.

Furlong Conversions

As previously mentioned, a furlong is an old English unit of measurement that is equivalent to 220 yards or 201.168 meters. Here are some common furlong conversions:

Miles

There are eight furlongs in a mile, which means that one furlong is equal to 0.125 miles. Here are some common furlong to mile conversions:

FurlongsMiles
10.125
20.25
40.5
81

Kilometres

One furlong is equivalent to 0.201168 kilometres. Here are some common furlong to kilometre conversions:

FurlongsKilometres
10.201168
20.402336
40.804672
81.609344

While the furlong is no longer commonly used as a unit of measurement, it is still used in horse racing in the UK, Ireland, and the US. Understanding furlong conversions can be helpful when following horse races or when working with older units of measurement.

Historical Uses of Furlongs

Horse Racing

Furlongs have been used as a standard unit of measurement in horse racing since the 17th century. A furlong on a racecourse is 220 yards or one-eighth of a mile. This distance is marked on the course by a pole or marker, and races are often referred to by the number of furlongs they cover. For example, a race covering six furlongs is called a “six-furlong race”.

Land Measurement

Furlongs were also used historically as a unit of land measurement in England. A furlong was defined as the length of a furrow in a ploughed field, and was equal to 40 rods or 660 feet.

An acre of land was typically four rods wide and 40 rods long, or one furlong. Thus, an acre was equal to 160 square rods or 43,560 square feet. In the open-field system of agriculture, land was divided into long, narrow strips called furlongs, which were worked by individual farmers.

Furlongs were also used in the United States for land measurement following the adoption of the English system of measurement. In some parts of the country, surveyors used a chain that was 66 feet long, or one-tenth of a furlong. This made it easy to divide land into equal sections, as each section could be one-tenth of a mile or one furlong wide.

In modern times, furlongs are no longer used as a standard unit of land measurement, but they remain an important unit of distance in horse racing and other sports.

Conclusion

Although the furlong is not a commonly used unit of measurement today, it has a rich history and is still used in some contexts. Originally based on the length of a furrow in an English open-field system, the furlong was standardized to be exactly 220 yards or 201 meters.

One of the most common uses of the furlong today is in horse racing, where races are typically measured in furlongs. Additionally, the furlong is sometimes used in agriculture and land surveying, particularly in the United Kingdom.

While the furlong may seem like an outdated unit of measurement, its history and continued use in certain contexts make it an important part of our measurement system. As with all units of measurement, it is important to understand the context in which it is being used and to use it appropriately.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is a furlong?

A furlong is a traditional unit of measurement, predominantly used in horse racing, which is equal to one-eighth of a mile. This converts to about 220 yards or 660 feet. In metric terms, it is approximately 201.168 meters.

What is the furlong length in different countries?

The furlong length is standardised in countries that use the imperial system, such as the UK and the US, where it measures 220 yards. This standard is due to its historical origins from the length of a furrow in one acre of a ploughed field, which was the basis for its measurement during the Anglo-Saxon period.

How many yards in a furlong?

There are 220 yards in a furlong. This measurement is derived from its definition as one-eighth of a mile, where a mile is understood to be 1,760 yards long.

What is the significance of furlong distance in sports?

The furlong distance is most commonly used in horse racing. In the UK, Ireland, Canada, and the United States, horse race lengths are frequently expressed in miles and furlongs. This traditional measurement continues to be an integral part of the sport’s heritage.


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