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Horses were first brought to North America by the Spanish in the 16th century. Some of these horses escaped and they soon increased rapidly in number. Most of theses eventually became the property of Native Americans. They also stole them from the Spanish. The Nez Perce particularly liked the Appaloosa. They were valued for their endurance, stamina, and good temperament. Whereas the Comanches and the Kiowas favoured the pinto breed.
Horses were also imported to America by the European settlers. They were especially important to cowboys who took cattle from Texas to the railroad cowtowns of Abilene, Dodge City, Wichita and Newton. They were also used to pull stagecoaches and wagons. Native Americans also used horses hitched to travois to transport wood and other materials.
Evolution of the horse
The evolutionary lineage of the horse is among the best-documented in all paleontology. The history of the horse family, Equidae, began during the Eocene Epoch, which lasted from about 56 million to 33.9 million years ago. During the early Eocene there appeared the first ancestral horse, a hoofed, browsing mammal designated correctly as Hyracotherium but more commonly called Eohippus, the “dawn horse.” Fossils of Eohippus, which have been found in both North America and Europe, show an animal that stood 4.2 to 5 hands (about 42.7 to 50.8 cm, or 16.8 to 20 inches) high, diminutive by comparison with the modern horse, and had an arched back and raised hindquarters. The legs ended in padded feet with four functional hooves on each of the forefeet and three on each of the hind feet—quite unlike the unpadded, single-hoofed foot of modern equines. The skull lacked the large, flexible muzzle of the modern horse, and the size and shape of the cranium indicate that the brain was far smaller and less complex than that of today’s horse. The teeth, too, differed significantly from those of the modern equines, being adapted to a fairly general browser’s diet. Eohippus was, in fact, so unhorselike that its evolutionary relationship to the modern equines was at first unsuspected. It was not until paleontologists had unearthed fossils of later extinct horses that the link to Eohippus became clear.
The line leading from Eohippus to the modern horse exhibits the following evolutionary trends: increase in size, reduction in the number of hooves, loss of the footpads, lengthening of the legs, fusion of the independent bones of the lower legs, elongation of the muzzle, increase in the size and complexity of the brain, and development of crested, high-crowned teeth suited to grazing. This is not to imply that there was a steady, gradual progression in these characteristics leading inevitably from those of Eohippus to those of the modern horse. Some of these features, such as grazing dentition, appear abruptly in the fossil record, rather than as the culmination of numerous gradual changes. Eohippus, moreover, gave rise to many now-extinct branches of the horse family, some of which differed substantially from the line leading to the modern equines.
Although Eohippus fossils occur in both the Old and the New World, the subsequent evolution of the horse took place chiefly in North America. During the remainder of the Eocene, the prime evolutionary changes were in dentition. Orohippus, a genus from the middle Eocene, and Epihippus, a genus from the late Eocene, resembled Eohippus in size and in the structure of the limbs. But the form of the cheek teeth—the four premolars and the three molars found in each half of both jaws—had changed somewhat. In Eohippus the premolars and molars were clearly distinct, the molars being larger. In Orohippus the fourth premolar had become similar to the molars, and in Epihippus both the third and fourth premolars had become molarlike. In addition, the individual cusps that characterized the cheek teeth of Eohippus had given way in Epihippus to a system of continuous crests or ridges running the length of the molars and molariform premolars. These changes, which represented adaptations to a more-specialized browsing diet, were retained by all subsequent ancestors of the modern horse.
Fossils of Mesohippus, the next important ancestor of the modern horse, are found in the early and middle Oligocene of North America (the Oligocene Epoch lasted from about 33.9 million to 23 million years ago). Mesohippus was far more horselike than its Eocene ancestors: it was larger (averaging about 6 hands [about 61 cm, or 24 inches] high) the snout was more muzzlelike and the legs were longer and more slender. Mesohippus also had a larger brain. The fourth toe on the forefoot had been reduced to a vestige, so that both the forefeet and hind feet carried three functional toes and a footpad. The teeth remained adapted to browsing.
By the late Oligocene, Mesohippus had evolved into a somewhat larger form known as Miohippus. The descendants of Miohippus split into various evolutionary branches during the early Miocene (the Miocene Epoch lasted from about 23 million to 5.3 million years ago). One of these branches, known as the anchitheres, included a variety of three-toed browsing horses comprising several genera. Anchitheres were successful, and some genera spread from North America across the Bering land bridge into Eurasia.
It was a different branch, however, that led from Miohippus to the modern horse. The first representative of this line, Parahippus, appeared in the early Miocene. Parahippus and its descendants marked a radical departure in that they had teeth adapted to eating grass. Grasses were at this time becoming widespread across the North American plains, providing Parahippus with a vast food supply. Grass is a much coarser food than succulent leaves and requires a different kind of tooth structure. The cheek teeth developed larger, stronger crests and became adapted to the side-to-side motion of the lower jaw necessary to grind grass blades. Each tooth also had an extremely long crown, most of which, in the young animal, was buried beneath the gumline. As grinding wore down the exposed surface, some of the buried crown grew out. This high-crowned tooth structure assured the animal of having an adequate grinding surface throughout its normal life span. Adaptations in the digestive tract must have occurred as well, but the organs of digestion are not preserved in the fossil record.
The change from browsing to grazing dentition was essentially completed in Merychippus, which evolved from Parahippus during the middle and late Miocene. Merychippus must have looked much like a modern pony. It was fairly large, standing about 10 hands (101.6 cm, or 40 inches) high, and its skull was similar to that of the modern horse. The long bones of the lower leg had become fused this structure, which has been preserved in all modern equines, is an adaptation for swift running. The feet remained three-toed, but in many species the footpad was lost, and the two side toes became rather small. In these forms, the large central toe bore the animal’s weight. Strong ligaments attached this hoofed central toe to the bones of the ankles and lower leg, providing a spring mechanism that pushed the flexed hoof forward after the impact of hitting the ground. Merychippus gave rise to numerous evolutionary lines during the late Miocene. Most of these, including Hipparion, Neohipparion, and Nannippus, retained the three-toed foot of their ancestors. One line, however, led to the one-toed Pliohippus, the direct predecessor of Equus. Pliohippus fossils occur in the early to middle Pliocene beds of North America (the Pliocene Epoch lasted from about 5.3 million to 2.6 million years ago).
Equus—the genus to which all modern equines, including horses, asses, and zebras, belong—evolved from Pliohippus some 4 million to 4.5 million years ago during the Pliocene. Equus shows even greater development of the spring mechanism in the foot and exhibits straighter and longer cheek teeth. This new form was extremely successful and had spread from the plains of North America to South America and to all parts of the Old World by the early Pleistocene (the Pleistocene Epoch lasted from about 2,600,000 to 11,700 years ago). Equus flourished in its North American homeland throughout the Pleistocene but then, about 10,000 to 8,000 years ago, disappeared from North and South America. Scholars have offered various explanations for this disappearance, including the emergence of devastating diseases or the arrival of human populations (which presumably hunted the horse for food). Despite these speculations, the reasons for the demise of Equus in the New World remain uncertain. The submergence of the Bering land bridge prevented any return migration of horses from Asia, and Equus was not reintroduced into its native continent until the Spanish explorers brought horses in the early 16th century.
During the Pleistocene the evolution of Equus in the Old World gave rise to all the modern members of the genus. The modern horse, Equus caballus, became widespread from central Asia to most of Europe. Local types of horses, all breeds of this single species, undoubtedly developed, and three of these— Przewalski’s horse (E. ferus przewalskii or E. caballus przewalskii) from central Asia, the tarpan from eastern Europe and the Ukrainian steppes, and the forest horse of northern Europe—are generally credited as being the ancestral stock of the domestic horse. (Przewalski’s horse may be the last surviving distinct breed of wild horse when compared genetically with domesticated horses.) According to this line of thinking, Przewalski’s horse and the tarpan formed the basic breeding stock from which the southerly “warm-blooded” horses developed, while the forest horse gave rise to the heavy, “cold-blooded” breeds.
Origin of horse domestication
Archaeological evidence indicates that the domestication of horses had taken place by approximately 6,000 years ago in the steppelands north of the Black Sea from Ukraine to Kazakhstan. Despite intensive study over a long period of time, many questions remain about the early development of the species as it underwent domestication. One crucial question involves whether domestication was limited to a single location or occurred in multiple areas. Tied to this question of origins is whether domesticated horses spread throughout Eurasia or whether the practice of horse domestication spread to new areas, with local breeders capturing their own wild horses and introducing them to the domestic horse gene pool. Modern genetic techniques have been used to answer these questions, but different regions of the horse genome (that is, the complete nucleic acid sequence of a horse’s genetic code) have yielded different answers.
Results of studies of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which is inherited only from the mother, showed a great deal of diversity among individuals and strongly supported the idea that wild horses from many different geographic areas contributed to the domestic horse. The mtDNA data clearly indicated that there were multiple sites of domestication, with a large number of mares in the first populations, and that genetic input from local wild horses had been introduced into the domestic gene pool as domesticated horses spread. The mtDNA data also showed that the modern horse is a mixture of ancient lineages, all of which can be traced back to an “Ancestral Mare,” which lived 130,000 to 160,000 years ago thus, there is no clear mtDNA signature for modern horse breeds.
In contrast, studies have revealed that the domestic horse is dominated by a single, paternally inherited Y chromosome lineage, in which there is almost no variation. An exception was a study of horses in southwestern China that found that some southern Chinese populations of male horses possessed a Y chromosome variant that was not present in any other breeds that had been tested. This variant may represent a different paternal lineage that survived in the region, or it may represent a recent mutation. The lack of variation on the Y chromosome would seem to indicate a very narrow origin for the domestic horse. However, the differences in variation between maternal and paternal lineages may reflect the differences in how breeders treated mares and stallions. It is possible that throughout history far more mares contributed to the founding of the domestic horse than stallions, because stallions can be difficult to handle. In addition, most selection is directed toward the males, because at the level of the individual they can produce such a large number of offspring compared with females. (In other words, it is likely that a small number of relatively cooperative stallions may have been used to impregnate large numbers of mares.)
Studies examining other regions of DNA have revealed a high genetic diversity in horses, which is consistent with mtDNA results however, pinpointing where domestication events have taken place remains elusive. For example, research at the turn of the 21st century indicated that there appeared to have been an independent domestication event in the Iberian Peninsula (the region containing Spain and Portugal), which served as a refuge for many species, including horses, during the Pleistocene and Holocene glaciations. Some two decades later, genetic studies cast doubt on whether such an event took place in Iberia, since those horse lineages became extinct before leaving significant genetic traces in the genomes of modern horses. In addition, genetic studies of other proposed centres of horse domestication, such as Anatolia and the Caucasus (which have long histories of horse utilization), have not turned up proof of single independent domestication events.
Most evidence indicates that humans spread domestic horses from western Eurasia and that domestic populations were supplemented with wild individuals which increased the genetic diversity of domestic horses. Based on modern genetic analyses, the answers to the questions surrounding horse domestication are that the horse has a diverse ancestry, that there was more than one domestication event, and that domestic horses have been widely interbred throughout the history of their domestication.
Famous Horses in The History:
Marengo: Marengo was the horse of famous Napoleon. In the year 1800 A.D when Napoleon won the historical Battle of Marengo this horse was named after the success of that battle. After that this horse carried Napoleon to many big battles. And the most interesting thing is that after the Battle of Waterloo this horse was captured by the British. Till now the skeleton of this horse is displayed in the National Army Museum of England.
Comanche: This horse was found in the battle field of Little Big Horn. When this horse was found in the battle field after three days some arrows was stuck on his body. Later he was taken and treatment was done. Afterwards he was never used in the battlefield. The fact for which he was famous was that he was the only living creature found on that battlefield even after three days.
Nielson: Nielson is the horse of another legendary human being George Washington. He carried George Washington to various battles. And it was when George Washington was riding in a horse when the British surrendered from the war.
Sakarya: This horse is a famous horse in history as it was the horse of Ataturk. This horse carried Ataturk to many historical Turkish Independent Wars and most amazingly he was the father of most racing horses after the republican period.
Copenhagen: Copenhagen is a world famous dog and also proved himself with outstanding potentiality and ability to maintain his name in history. He was the Horse of Arthur Wellesley and also was a participant in the Battle of Waterloo. After the battle he was given a great honor by the then National Army. An estate was given to this horse by the British Government and was preserved as a national treasure. He died at the age of 27 years and buried with full military honors.
Incitatus: Caligula, the third ruler of Rome was the owner of Incitatus. He gave his horse a house to reside, and decorated it with gold ornaments. Afterwards he also proposed to make this horse as the Consul to the Senate.
Kanthaka: Kanthaka is a religious Horse and famous in history as the horse of Lord Buddha. It is said that this horse was born at the same day in which Lord Buddha was born. Kanthaka’s color was full white. Kanthaka went out with Buddha when he left his father’s palace to renounce the world. But when Buddha crosses the river Anoma, he left this horse on the other side of the river where Kanthaka died.
Pegasus: Pegasus is a great character in Greek Mythology. He was a winged horse of Goddesses. Later we also saw Pegasus as the lifelong partner of Hercules in the famous Hollywood movie ‘Hercules’.
Burak: Burak is the horse of Prophet Mohammad. It was presented to Mohammad by Gabriel. Many stories are there related to this horse and it is said that this horse was a magical fire winged horse that carried Mohammed.
Bucephalus: Busephalus was an amazing horse of Alexander the Great. Once, Alexander noticed that Bucephalus was afraid of his own shadow. So Alexander trained him by facing at the sun. With this Horse, Alexander founded the city of Bucephala.
The History of Horses in Britain
The horse’s contribution to Britain’s rich history and culture is significant. From the early image of Queen Boudica in a chariot being drawn by her two chargers into battle with the Romans, the horse has long been part of life in Britain. The ancients were so in awe of these creatures that they carved figures of giant horses into the chalk hills of southern England.
In terms of folklore and superstition the good luck associated with placing a horseshoe over a door dates from the Middle Ages.
The legend associated with this tradition has it that one day the Devil came to a blacksmith’s forge in disguise to have his cloven hooves shod. The blacksmith named Dunstan at first agreed, but after seeing through the disguise, he tied the Devil to the anvil and attacked him with hot tongs. The Devil begged for mercy, but Dunstan only released him when he promised never to enter a house where a horseshoe hung. The horseshoe must be placed with the toe down so that it can catch goodness from heaven. Dunstan did not remain a simple blacksmith for long he later became Archbishop of Canterbury and was made a saint after his death in 988 A.D.
To this day “lucky horseshoes” remain a common sight at weddings.
The horse may also have been responsible for influencing Britain’s history when in October 1066, William the Conqueror of Normandy put his army, including 3,000 horses, onto 700 small sailing ships and headed across the channel to England. William had come to secure his right to the English throne from the Saxon King Harold. The English and Norman armies met near Hastings where William’s army was victorious largely due to his cavalry assisted by archers.
One of William’s cavalrymen on that day was his half brother, Odo, Bishop of Bayeux. As befits a devout man of the cloth, Odo swung a rather large club from his horse to avoid drawing English blood. After the battle, Odo commissioned the Bayeax Tapestry, some 231 feet in length the importance of the horse is recorded by the fact that there are a total of 190 horses depicted on the tapestry itself.
Many English words and phrases used today derive from the horse. Examples include “horseplay” (rowdy behaviour), “work like a horse” and “eat like a horse”. “Straight from the horse’s mouth” signifying that the information comes directly from the original source is thought to derive from the practice of gauging a horse’s age by examining the condition of its teeth. James Watt even based his famous measurement of power on the workhorse of the day – horsepower – the power required to lift 33,000 pounds by one foot in one minute.
The horse has provided names for many of Britain’s plants and insects including horse chestnut, horseradish, horse-fly and horse-parsley. Whilst the horse chestnut was once used for treating sick animals, the prefix “horse” often signifies that a plant is coarse or unrefined.
Many British place names demonstrate horsey origins such as Horsley which means a “clearing or pasture for horses”, Horsmonden “woodland pasture where horses drink” and Horsham, a Saxon name which is thought to mean “village where horses are kept.”
Nowadays horses mainly provide sport and entertainment. From show jumping at Hickstead, eventing at Gatcombe Park and polo at Cirencester Park through to the major racing events at Cheltenham (Gold Cup), Aintree (Grand National) and Royal Ascot (Derby), the horse remains a significant part of life in today’s Britain.
There is only one species of domestic horse, but around 400 different breeds that specialize in everything from pulling wagons to racing. All horses are grazers.
While most horses are domestic, others remain wild. Feral horses are the descendents of once-tame animals that have run free for generations. Groups of such horses can be found in many places around the world. Free-roaming North American mustangs, for example, are the descendents of horses brought by Europeans more than 400 years ago.
Wild horses generally gather in groups of 3 to 20 animals. A stallion (mature male) leads the group, which consists of mares (females) and young foals. When young males become colts, at around two years of age, the stallion drives them away. The colts then roam with other young males until they can gather their own band of females.
The Przewalski's horse is the only truly wild horse whose ancestors were never domesticated. Ironically, this stocky, sturdy animal exists today only in captivity. The last wild Przewalski's horse was seen in Mongolia in 1968.
First Signs of Domestication
Horse mace heads have also been found in the farming towns of Tripolye and Gumelnitsa cultures. These are from present-day Romania and Moldova and they are close to the Suvorovo graves. These agricultural cultures did not have such mace heads, but they are believed to have aquired them from Suvorovo immigrants.
The collapse of Old Europe is thought to have been due to the immigration of mounted Indo European warriors. The collapse was attributed to intensified warfare which was only worsened by mounted raiding. Therefore, the horse mace heads can be interpreted as evidence for the introduction of domesticated horses and riding right before the collapse of Old Europe.
Black Caviar is another very successful Thoroughbred who went undefeated in her career. While Kincsem had 54 victories, Black Caviar won 25/25 of its starts, taking second place among history’s top Thoroughbreds.
She was foaled in 2006 in Nagambie, Victoria, Australia. Black Caviar was sired by Bel Esprit, a one-time winner of Australia’s Doomben 10,000. Like many of the best racehorses ever , Black Caviar had a high Timeform rating – 136 in the first quarter of 2011.
This mare ran an undefeated sprinter career from 2009 to 2013. Black Caviar was named the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities World Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings champion springer four years in a row (2010-2013). She mostly participated in Australian races, running only one race abroad – the UK’s Royal Ascot Diamond Jubilee Stakes, which she won in 2012.
Even though she raced almost exclusively in Australia, Black Caviar gained worldwide recognition. She was named the European Champion Sprinter in 2012. A year later, Black Caviar was added to the Australian Hall of Fame, cementing her place in horse racing history .
Estimated earnings: $7.95 million
Horses and Wheels
The horse is the unsung hero when it comes to transportation. The relationship started with the sledge during the Stone Age, progressed to the slide car, and moved to the wheel during the late Neolithic Period. Eventually humans discovered that wheels allowed easier transportation of goods which allowed for more travel. Travel in turn brought nomads in contact with other people – changing their cultures, languages and way of life. Change often results in conflict and those with horses were often more effective in war. The chariot, with spoke wheels, revolutionized warfare from 2000 BC into the 4th century.
For the classical Greeks wheeled vehicles represented a high status. They were commonly used in ceremonial functions and make many appearances in mythology. In China, chariots were used as mobile command vehicles and by royalty. Among the general population, war machines gave way to more ornate and refined vehicles for high society and much more practical transportation solutions for the common people. Agriculture began to change as plowing and harvesting became more productive. Unfortunately for much of the Middle Ages the sophistication of the wheel remained the same as in Roman times. By the Industrial Revolution wheels had again gained traction, even though laws now prohibited straked wheels. In 1640, the first stage coach ran. By 1777, coach speeds were picking up as road conditions improved. By 1895, when the first hydraulic tyre-setters were introduced from America, European society was ready to move along. From the very first wheel, society has been on an evolutionary journey that still continues today.
The Surprising History of America's Wild Horses
Modern horses, zebras, and asses belong to the genus Equus, the only surviving genus in a once diverse family, the Equidae. Based on fossil records, the genus appears to have originated in North America about 4 million years ago and spread to Eurasia (presumably by crossing the Bering land bridge) 2 to 3 million years ago. Following that original emigration, there were additional westward migrations to Asia and return migrations back to North America, as well as several extinctions of Equus species in North America.
The last prehistoric North American horses died out between 13,000 and 11,000 years ago, at the end of the Pleistocene, but by then Equus had spread to Asia, Europe, and Africa.
Animals that on paleontological grounds could be recognized as subspecies of the modern horse originated in North America between 1 million and 2 million years ago. When Linnaeus coined the species name, E. caballus, however, he only had the domesticated animal in mind. Its closest wild ancestor may have been the tarpan, often classified as E. ferus there is no evidence, though, that the tarpan was a different species. In any case the domesticated horse probably did not arise at a single place and time, but was bred from several wild varieties by Eurasian herders.
In recent years, molecular biology has provided new tools for working out the relationships among species and subspecies of equids. For example, based on mutation rates for mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) Ann Forstén, of the Zoological Institute at the University of Helsinki, has estimated that E. caballus originated approximately 1.7 million years ago in North America. More to the point is her analysis of E. lambei, the Yukon horse, which was the most recent Equus species in North America prior to the horse's disappearance from the continent. Her examination of E. lambei mtDNA (preserved in the Alaskan permafrost) has revealed that the species is genetically equivalent to E. caballus. That conclusion has been further supported by Michael Hofreiter, of the Department of Evolutionary Genetics at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany, who has found that the variation fell within that of modern horses.
These recent findings have an unexpected implication. It is well known that domesticated horses were introduced into North America beginning with the Spanish conquest, and that escaped horses subsequently spread throughout the American Great Plains. Customarily, such wild horses that survive today are designated "feral" and regarded as intrusive, exotic animals, unlike the native horses that died out at the end of the Pleistocene. But as E. caballus, they are not so alien after all. The fact that horses were domesticated before they were reintroduced matters little from a biological viewpoint. Indeed, domestication altered them little, as we can see by how quickly horses revert to ancient behavioral patterns in the wild.
Consider this parallel. To all intents and purposes, the Mongolian wild horse (E. przewalskii, or E. caballus przewalskii) disappeared from its habitat in Mongolia and northern China a hundred years ago. It survived only in zoos and reserves. That is not domestication in the classic sense, but it is captivity, with keepers providing food and veterinarians providing health care. Then surplus animals were released during the 1990s and now repopulate a portion of their native range in Mongolia and China. Are they a reintroduced native species or not? And how does their claim to endemism differ from that of E. caballus in North America, except for the length and degree of captivity?
The wild horse in the United States is generally labeled non-native by most federal and state agencies dealing with wildlife management, whose legal mandate is usually to protect native wildlife and prevent non-native species from having ecologically harmful effects. But the two key elements for defining an animal as a native species are where it originated and whether or not it coevolved with its habitat. E. caballus can lay claim to doing both in North America. So a good argument can be made that it, too, should enjoy protection as a form of native wildlife.
The base of a horse’s ears is very flexible. They can swivel their ears to pinpoint sounds in front and behind them. Their ears are also used to convey emotions.
Throughout their history with humans, the horse has served many purposes. The first use for horses was as food. Historians believe they were first used as draft animals. They have been used for farm work, battle, pleasure, and transport. They have pulled everything from canons to barges. They were essential transport for cowhands responsible for herding cattle over long distances and pulling omnibuses through city streets.
As the popularity and power of the internal combustion engine increased, the use of the horse shifted from work engine to pleasure animal. Today some cultures still eat horses and use them to pull loads and plows. But these practices are either frowned on or disappearing from North America. For the modern horse lover, there are hundreds of sports and activities one can enjoy with a horse or pony and many are kept just for the joy of ownership.