A brief history of the horse

Before I start with a brief overview of “History of the Horse”, here are some facts that I thought you might find interesting.

o Approximately 75 million horses inhabit our world today, no kidding! Can you even wrap your
head around so many horses? Don’t worry, I find it very difficult indeed.

o The height of a horse can be measured with the hands. 1 hand equals 4 inches.

o The horse has a keen sense of hearing, direction and smell. The skin is very sensitive and will respond quickly with minimal touch, neck reins, etc.

o Popular breeds are Thoroughbreds, Arabians, Quarter Horses, American Paint, Appaloosas, Clydesdales, Palominos, Rocky Mountain Horses, Morgans, etc. there are many more races, too many to name here.

o There are various markings on the animal’s body such as a star, white face, stripe, white snout, glow, etc.

Facts are useless without historical information. Horses, like any other creature, became useful a long time ago. During the time of Solomon and the divided kingdom, Israel also made extensive use of chariots and horses. Solomon had forty thousand stables of chariot horses and twelve thousand chariot soldiers (1 Kings 4:26). A horse and cart could easily travel thirty miles

in a day; and up to forty-five miles a day when needed. Amazing!

Horse drawings existed around 3000 BC. Drawings of horse-drawn chariots can be seen in caves during the Bronze Age.

A tomb in Egypt featured horsemanship in 1600 BC; this is the oldest of the records that can be traced in Egypt.

It is during the year 1400 BC when the first written text about horses is produced. The text establishes the training of horses for chariots. Xenophon wrote The Art of Horsemanship around 360 BC. C. and in it he discussed horsemanship, psychology and horse care. The information about the book is still relevant and used today.

During the Ice Age, horses traveled to every continent except Antarctica. They mysteriously disappeared during this era; one theory claimed that the disappearance was due to the migration of these animals westward across land bridges in Siberia.

After Charlemagne, around the 4th century, horses with stirrups and saddles were highly visible. This is an Asian invention; Asians were believed to be the first to tame and ride horses. He paved the way for the development of mounted knights. Around 1519 AD these animals reappeared in North America and were brought by the Spanish conquistadors to Mexico.

Even with these historical revisions, there are other historical facts presented by other countries. The Persians, Chinese and Assyrians are known to have been skilled horsemen as early as 3000 BC.

o The Brahmins of India proclaimed themselves to be the first horsemen. The Chinese were believed to be the true horsemen; back in the year 4000 a. C., they began to harness their horses. Already in the year 1000 a. C., the Chinese were also involved in the selective conformation and breeding of horses.

o The Hittites of the Mediterranean used horses for war around 1600 BC.

o The Assyrians were the first race among the eastern Mediterranean to use pack horses; this resembles today’s saddle.

o The Egyptians used chariot horses to expand their empire; this dates back to 1650 BC. The types of horses used in Egypt are very different from Arabian horses.

o Greek mythology presented horses as sea creatures ruled by their god Posiedon. Posiedon’s winged horse named Pegasus is also written about in mythology.

o Long ago, sadly, horses that ventured into Kenya died from a disease known as trypanosomiasis. The ponies that had made it to the clean, disease-free part of Kenya and survived became the first horses in East Africa.

Although horses have long been domesticated, many misconceptions about their history appear. Quoting B. MacFadden of the University of Florida, he presents some records from his journal “Science”:

o About 20 million years ago, horses changed in size. Some got bigger and some got smaller to the size of dogs. These animals didn’t just evolve bigger.

o Prehistoric horses were not leaf eaters. They simply adapted to eating both leafy materials and grasses.

o Horse fossils in North America became extinct between 55 and 10 billion years ago. These were the first horses and not the ones that were brought by settlers from Europe to America.

MacFadden further stated that a clear knowledge of the fossil record of horses is vital to illustrating their evolution.

Horses have been visible throughout history and have been used for various purposes. A vital purpose of these animals is a means of transportation. They have also been used in agriculture and warfare. Today, the grace, agility, speed and strength of horses are used for pleasure and competition. Like other animals, horses have an extremely rich history worthy of study and enjoyment.

A Brief Guide to the Different Breeds

I have listed just a few breeds here to give you an idea. There are hundreds of
different races in the world today and I am sure there are many more to come.

ARABIAN – One of the oldest and possibly the most beautiful breeds in the world, Arabian horses are bred primarily by the Bedouin, a traveling Arabian tribe, and are used primarily for competitive and recreational riding. Expect to pay dearly if you want to purchase an Arabian horse. This particular breed led to the development of the Thoroughbred.

QUARTER HORSE: America is the proud and original breeder of Quarter Horses, and they can be used for riding, racing and working. Most of the photos you will see around you with cowboys are riding Quarter Horses.

ANDALUZ – Also known as the Spanish horse, the Andalusian breed originates from the Iberian Peninsula and has considerable influence over nearly all other horse breeds except the .

BELGIAN HEAVY DRAFT HORSE – This breed is one of the most popular choices for work horses.

MUSTANG OR BRONCO: A Mustang is a free-roaming wild horse of western North America. First descended from horses brought into the Mustang” and is also popular for its performance products and sporting mascots.

Note: In 1971, the United States Congress recognized Mustangs as “living symbols of the historic and pioneering spirit of the West, continuing to contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enriching the lives of Americans.” Today, Mustang herds vary in the degree to which they can be traced back to the original Iberian horses. Some contain a greater genetic mix of ranch cattle and more recent breed releases, others are relatively unchanged from the original Iberian cattle, with stronger representation in the more isolated populations.

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