Bizarre Units Of Measurement That Are Unbelievable

May 02, 2019 By Kayode Oseh

Throughout human history, man have found all manner of ways to measure just about anything. Having a standardized means of quantifying the world around us can certainly be helpful.

 Read on to find some more absolutely bizarre yet completely real units of measurement.

Horse’s Body

The length of a horse is a well-known measurement used in the world of horse racing. It is sometimes known as a horse length, or abbreviated as simply “length,” but the original measurement comes from the physical length of a typical horse. This is usually around 2.4 meters (8 ft).

In traditional horse racing, this measurement would be used to describe the distance between horses that are racing. An example of this would be when the famous racehorse Sea biscuit won against major rival War Admiral by four lengths in 1938.

In British horse racing, it gets a little more complicated than this. The distance between two horses is measured by calculating them into lengths per second, depending on the type of surface. The maximum number of lengths that can typically be described is 99, with anything above this being described as “99+.” Other parts of the horse can be used to describe very close finishes to races, including “neck,” “head,” or even “nose,” with a nose (also called a “short head”) being the smallest possible distance a horse can be measured to win by!


Finland has one of the strangest (and yet entirely logical) obsolete units of measurement, namely the poronkusema. The poronkusema is a unit of distance measured at approximately 7.5 kilometers (4.7 mi), based on how far reindeer can migrate before needing to stop and urinate.

(Some sources put the distance at more like 9.6 kilometers [6 mi].) The actual translation of porunkusema is “the distance a reindeer can comfortably travel before taking a break.”

The landscape of Finland is very dense with forests (78 percent is covered by woodland), so traversing it is difficult. Therefore, explorers developed their own unit to describe distances. It is said that reindeer cannot walk and urinate at the same time, so they need to stop periodically. Reindeer herding is generally conducted by the indigenous Sami people of Finland, a large population of local people who live in the northern parts of Finland, Sweden, Norway, and the Kola Peninsula of Russia.

Big Mac

The Big Mac Index takes its name from the iconic McDonald’s burger and is published by The Economist as a way of measuring the purchasing power parity (known as PPP) between different currencies around the world. It was created in 1986 by the newspaper, and it is produced annually. The use of the index is as follows: In theory, when the rate between two currencies adjusts, the cost of a certain good should still be the same in both currencies (regardless of the shift in rate).

In order to test this theory, the Big Mac index asks how much would a single Big Mac cost in both countries. The price of the Big Mac in Country A is then divided by the price in Country B, with the resulting value being compared to the exchange rate.

If the value is higher, then Country A’s currency is overvalued, and if it is lower, then Country A’s currency would be undervalued. It’s a simple way of showing PPP but does not cover the full picture of local production costs of the goods, the demand in the particular country, or even the availability of McDonald’s in certain countries. If you’re wondering which country has the most expensive Big Mac, it’s Switzerland as of 2018.


                                          Photo credit: George H. Harvey

The morgen was a unit of measurement used in Europe and South Africa for area. Despite being the German word for “morning,” it was not used as a measurement of time; rather, it was used as a unit to describe the approximate amount of land tillable in the morning hours of a day by one man behind an ox or horse dragging a single-bladed plow. The size of a morgen varies between 0.5 and 2.5 acres.

It seems the use in Germany was more widespread than anywhere else, with some regions having larger morgens than others on account of their flatter surfaces. In parts of South Africa, the morgen was the official unit of measurement for land until the 1970s. In 2007, the South African Law Society created a formula for converting morgens into hectares, with the ratio being 1 morgen to 0.856 hectares.

Waffle House

The Waffle House Index is a unit of measure used by the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to loosely determine the effect of storms on civilian areas and their ability (or inability) to recover from these. The index allows the agency to determine how likely assistance is going to be needed in a disaster situation. Waffle House is used by the agency due to its reputation for staying open during severe storms in the US.

The index was created in 2011, following a tornado during which two Waffle House restaurants stayed open. The index has a scale of three levels. Level Green (full menu) is when a restaurant has power, and damage is limited or nonexistent.

Level Yellow (limited menu) would be when a restaurant has generator power and limited food supplies, with Level Red only being considered when the restaurant is closed. As recently as 2018, during Hurricane Michael in Florida, the Waffle House Index reached Level Red when up to 30 restaurants were closed ahead of the oncoming storm.

Miner’s Inch

The miner’s inch is a unit of measure used by miners, predominantly throughout the United States and Canada, to measure the flow of water. The unit is based on the rate of water flow in a sluice, although the size of the sluice can differ. Miners would use this calculation to determine how much water is needed to maintain a constant supply when needed.

The actual calculation of the water supply is determined by measuring the amount of water that passes through an opening in a second. This varies in different countries, as the size of the opening will differ depending on the setup of the sluice.

The variation can be great. For example, in New Zealand, the miner’s inch is 472 milliliters per second, but in Colorado, US, it is 745 milliliters per second. Prior to the turn of the 20th century, there was no common definition or term for the flow of water, so in 1905, the government of California standardized it. It is still used today by miners in the US.

Leave a comment...