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Common unit of power, the rate at which work is done. In the English system, one horsepower equals 33,000 foot-pounds of work per minutethat is, the power necessary to lift a total of 33,000 lbs a distance of one foot in one minute. This value was adopted by James Watt in the late 18th century after experiments with strong dray horses and is actually about 50% more than the rate an average horse can sustain for a working day. The electrical equivalent of one horsepower is 746 watts in the International System of Units; the heat equivalent is 2,545 BTU per hour. The metric horsepower (seemetric system) equals 4,500 kg-m per minute (32,549 foot-pounds per minute), or 0.9863 horsepower.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on horsepower, visit Britannica.com.