You might have seen big wrestlers and intimidating men on TV documentaries, however, are all Mongolian men tall and big as depicted in movies and pop culture?
Simple truth is that Mongolian people would be considered average in most places. They are not necessarily short nor necessarily tall when it comes to world averages. While studies performed in 2006, measured the average Mongolian man at 168.4 cm and Mongolian women at 157.7, it’s not completely accurate because the people measured were mainly of an older generation of nomadic people, and was done more than 10 years ago!
How Tall Is The Average Mongolian?
I myself stand at 173cm on a good day barefoot and wear dress shoes that boost my height slightly, so people mostly assume I am around 175-178cm (being fit, and well dressed also helps), but I never felt particularly tall around my peer groups, perhaps a little shorter. While statistically, I am taller than the “average Mongolian man”, whenever walking down the streets of Ulaanbaatar I feel slightly tall, to feeling completely average, to feeling slightly shorter based on the crowd of people. So the average distribution seems to be 168cm-175cm, where ~70% of the population fall.
My sister who is 160cm often comments how she feels short around people, so the standard distribution seems to be 159cm-165cm for 70% of the population, but do know these are the averages of the population in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city.
How Tall Are Mongolian Nomads?
In general, Mongolian nomads are shorter and skinnier compared with sedentary people due to nutrition and environmental differences. Usually, nomad men are around 166-170cm in height, where anything above 175cm is considered somewhat tall for men, whereas women are around 155-160cm in height and anything above 165cm is considered somewhat tall. While nomads are skinnier and shorter, you do come across nomads who are built like giants. It’s not too unusual to see Mongolians who are 190cm+ in height from time to time.
Are Younger Generation Mongolians Getting Taller?
It seems to be the case! Generation of Mongolians who were born after 2000 definitely have certain advantages over people who were born before that. The economy, political stability, and technology have significantly improved over the years.
Better nutrition, healthcare, etc seem to have affected the growth of the younger generation. Usually most kids these days seem to be around 175cm and 165cm in height for boys and girls respectively. Younger kids definitely seem to be on par with most Western countries when it comes to height and weight.
How Big Is The Average Mongolian?
Most foreigners and travelers who visit Mongolia comment on how stockier and broader Mongolian people are in general compared with other East Asians, and it definitely seems to be the case. While I can’t find statistical weight charts for Mongolians and other East Asians, just taking from personal experience, usually I wear S or M depending on my weight fluctuations in most Western standard clothing brands.
However, whenever traveling in East and Southeast Asian countries, it’s always a nice ego boost to sift through the clothes and have XXL sizes come a bit short and small.
“The first thing that I noticed about the Mongolians is that many of them are very tall. Secondly, I noticed that many of them seem to have European traits; body shapes, some facial looks, etc. The Mongolians certainly look differently than the Chinese. Some do look Chinese, but some also look European mixed, and most look like a combination of Asian and Caucasian. Even the Mongolians who have primarily Asian features, their body shapes seem more Caucasian than Chinese in that they are taller, have longer limbs, and the proportions of their bodies just look “longer” than the Chinese.” excerpt from scotttravler.com
Why Are Mongolians Taller/Bigger Than Other East Asians?
Now, this is a bold statement to make, but just to clarify Japanese, Northern Chinese + metropolitan Chinese, and South Koreans are also comparatively taller than the average Asian.
To answer the question though, it mainly has to do with the Mongolian diet and nutrition. Even if a Mongolian is equal in height with other Asians in certain instances, usually on average, they tend to be stockier.
Mongolian foods and drinks are heavy in protein and calories. It also helps that a lot of Mongolians drink plenty of milk from a young age and perhaps that is a big influence. Being from a colder climate, the environment tends to favor bigger bodies and sizes, so mainly environmental as well as nutritional differences.
Final Conclusion: Not All Mongolians Are Giants
While Mongolians are in fact slightly taller and bigger than Asians in general, we are not giants nor house bricks as depicted in movies and documentaries. There are certainly Mongolian men and women who are incredibly tall and big, but they mostly come from a background or a lineage of physically gifted wrestlers.