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A Brief History of The Horse
Before we start with a brief description of the ‘History of the Horse’ here are some facts that I thought you would find interesting.
o Approximately 75 million horses inhabit our world today, no joke! You can wrap your own too
head around so many horses? Don’t worry, I find it very difficult.
o A horse’s height can be measured using 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 to the slightest touch, neck restraint, etc.
o Popular breeds are Thoroughbreds, Arabians, Quarter Horses, American Colors, Appaloosas, Clydesdales, Palominos, Rocky Mountain Horses, Morgans, etc.
o There are some markings on the animal’s body such as a star, white face, stripe, white muzzle, flame, 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 one day; and up to forty-five miles a day when necessary. Amazing!
Drawings of horses existed around 3000 BC. Drawings of horse-drawn carts can be seen in caves during the Bronze Age.
A tomb in Egypt shows horse riding in 1600 BC; this is the earliest record that can be traced to Egypt.
It was during the year 1400 BC that the first written text related to horses was created. The text emphasizes the training of chariot horses. Xenophon wrote The Art of Horsemanship around 360 BC and discussed horsemanship, psychology and horse care. The information in the book is still relevant and being used today.
During the Ice Age, horses roamed every continent except Antarctica. They mysteriously disappeared during this era; One theory was that the extinction was due to the westward migration of these animals across land bridges in Siberia.
After Charlemagne around the 4th century, harness and saddle horses were very prominent. This is an Asian invention; it was believed that Asians were the first to domesticate and ride horses. He paved the way for the development of mounted cavalry. Around 1519 AD these animals reappeared in North America and were brought by Spanish conquistadors to Mexico.
Even with these historical revisions, there are other historical facts that come forward from other countries. The Persians, Chinese and Assyrians are known to have been skilled horse riders as early as 3000 BC.
o The Brahmins of India claimed to be the first horsemen. The Chinese were believed to be the true knights; as early as 4000 BC, they began to protect their horses. As early as 1000 BC, the Chinese were also involved in the conformation and selective 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 Mediterraneans to use pack horses; this resembles today’s saddle.
o Egyptians used chariot horses to expand their empire; this is way back to 1650 BC. The types of horses used in Egypt are very different from Arabian horses.
o Greek mythology depicted horses as sea creatures ruled by their god Posiedon. Poseidon’s winged horse named Pegasus is also written into mythology.
o A long time ago, horses that entered Kenya unfortunately died due to 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 were domesticated a long time ago, there are many misconceptions about their history. Quoting B. MacFadden of the University of Florida, he presents some notes from his journal “Science”:
o About 20 million years ago, horses changed size. Some grew larger and others shrunk to dog sizes. These animals didn’t just evolve bigger.
o Prehistoric horses were not leaf eaters. They simply adapted to eating both leafy material and grasses.
o Horse fossils in North America became extinct about 55 to 10,000 million years ago. These were the first horses and not those brought by European settlers to America.
MacFadden went on to say that a clear understanding of the fossil record of horses is vital to illustrating their evolution.
Horses have been prominent throughout history and have been used for various purposes. A vital purpose of these animals is a means of transport. They were also used in agriculture and in wars. Nowadays, the grace, agility, speed and strength of horses are used for pleasure and competition. Like other animals, horses have an incredibly rich history worthy of study and enjoyment.
A brief guide to the different breeds
I’ve listed just a few breeds here to give you an idea. There are hundreds of them
different races in the world today and I’m sure there will be many more to come.
ARABIAN – One of the oldest and perhaps the most beautiful breeds in the world, Arabian horses were bred primarily by the Bedouin, an Arabian tribe, and are used primarily for competitive and recreational riding. Expect to pay dearly if you want to buy an Arabian horse. This particular breed led to the development of Thoroughbreds.
QUARTER HORSE – The United States is the proud and original producer of quarter horses, and they can be used for riding, racing and working purposes. Most of the pictures you’ll see around you of cowboys riding quarter horses.
ANDALUSIAN – Also referred to as the Spanish horse, the Andalusian breed originated in the Iberian Peninsula and has a significant influence on almost 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 in the North American West. Originally derived from horses brought to Mustang” is also known for high performance products and sports mascots.
Note: In 1971, the United States Congress recognized Mustangs as “living symbols of the historic and pioneering spirit of the West, which continue to contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and to enrich the lives of the American people.” 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 farm stock and more recent breed releases, others are relatively unchanged from the original Iberian stock, more strongly represented in more isolated populations.
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