How Tall Were Native Americans?

When most people think of Native Americans, the first thought that comes to mind is their beautiful headdresses and rich culture, but you probably didn’t think about their height.

In the 18th century, Native Americans were the tallest people in the world and taller than Americans are today?

Cheyenne Men

How Tall Were Native Americans?

Native American tribes who were on the American Plains are the ones who were the tallest in the world which tells us a lot about their diet and lifestyle which we will delve into more later.

When we talk about the American Plains, it is referring to the vast area that stretches from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains which is also known as the Great Plains.

About 10,000 years ago, the plains were much too dry to be able to sustain large groups of people, but as the climate got warmer and damper, foliage began to spring to life.

Animals then followed the new source of food including lots of bison which was the catalyst for Native Americans moving to hunt them for food and hide. 

There were many Native American tribes that lived on the North American plains such as the Cheyenne, Sioux, Blackfoot, Crow, and Comanche just to name a few. 

The average Native American person stood at five foot eight inches; two feet taller than Australian men at the time who were the second-tallest people as other ethnicities were quite a few centimeters shorter.


For example, in the date around the time when Europeans colonized North America, they were much shorter than they are now and only stood at five foot four inches.

Early explorers were often found describing Native Americans as having tall and healthy bodies and were said to be able to run after a deer for a whole day without rest.

Why Were Native Americans So Tall?

There are a few reasons as to why Native Americans were so tall which mostly revolves around their diet and lifestyle which made them extremely healthy. In their health records, scientists have found almost no dental issues or arthritis in Native American tribes.


The American Plains tribes lived along the rivers that ran through the plains which made the soil nice and fertile, allowing them to grow lush crops. This meant that they had a diet that was varied in rich plants, giving them access to vital vitamins and minerals. 

As well as plants, these tribes had a lot of access to fresh meat such as buffalo and cows which gave them a diet with plenty of protein and milk. However, they valued balance and would never hunt animals to extinction, making sure that there was always plenty and only taking what they needed. 

American Plains

Hunting for these tribes was made exceptionally easier once they had started using horses to surround the herd of animals and corner them so that they were trapped and couldn’t escape the spears and arrows. 

They were also not ones for wasting what they collected from animals and would even boil down the hooves until the gristle turned soft enough to eat. They would also use the blood from the animals to mix in with flour to make sausages. 

Another delicacy was Blackfoot pudding which was made by stuffing a colon full of dried berries and water before leaving it to boil the whole day.

Their ability to use every part of the animal meant that they never ran out of things to eat and whatever it was, it was high in nutrients that kept them strong and healthy. 


In their health records, scientists have found almost no dental issues or arthritis in Native American tribes.

These tribes were also known to move around a lot which meant that parasitic viruses and bacteria didn’t have time to accumulate and cause illnesses, and if one of them did get sick, they were cared for until they were back to full health.

As well as this, the tribes were spread out all over the American Plains, giving enough space so that they didn’t spread diseases such as tuberculosis and smallpox.

If any of these diseases were to break out among a tribe, they would quickly take action and split the members up to stop it from spreading any further. 

Cabins made from wood and teepees made from animal hide protected them from the cold, harsh winters and the hot and humid summers that the plains were prone to.

Since they were resourceful and had lots of access to materials, there was enough shelter to go around, meaning no one got left to face the elements.

They favored the teepees though and other shelters that could quickly be dismantled and put up again as they had to follow the herds of bison as they migrated so that they were never without food. 

Sioux Teepees

Having this kind of lifestyle at the time was miles better than those who lived in densely packed cities as it was a breeding ground for bacteria and contagious diseases which would cause devastation in no time, especially if they didn’t have healthcare. 

The diet often wasn’t as good for those who were poor and could not afford to buy good food, unlike Native American people who could hunt it themselves or have access to it much easier. 

Native Americans also had lots of healing traditions that may have played a part in their good health. Usually, a tribe would have one elder who had the job of being a healer, herbalist, and spirit communicator. 

As well as diet and lifestyle, genetics played a big part in their height and overall health as well and being a homogenous group, they only reproduced with those that were of similar height but had strict customs that prevented any inbreeding which would cause a new host of health problems. 


In conclusion, Native Americans had a diet that was rich in all the nutrients that they could possibly need and had plenty of it at their doorstep because they were resourceful and didn’t take more than they needed.

They cared for their members if they were sick and were always on the move and away from other big groups which prevented diseases and bacteria from causing illnesses. They also had access to shelter that kept them warm and protected and were kept fit with running after their prey before they turned to horses. 

All of this as well as genetics is what made Native Americans reach the average height of five foot eight inches, making them the tallest people in the world during the 18th century.