History and Origin of Horses
When did Horses Originate
The origin of horses can be traced back to the Eocene Epoch, about 45-55 million years ago, when a small, multi-toed horse-like creature which the scientists call Hyracotherium (Eohippus) or dawn horse appeared. Its fossils, unearthed both in North America and Europe, show that it measured 4.2-5 hands at the withers and had raised hindquarters, an arched back, small cranium, and relatively smaller, less-flexible muzzle than the modern horse.
Where did Horses Originate
Scientists believe that much of the evolution of horses native to North America successfully continued throughout the Eocene Epoch. Some of these ancestral horses crossed over the Bering Land Bridge, spreading to Asia and eventually to Europe. Excavations in Canada have revealed that the horses remaining in North America flourished until about 12,000 years ago. But all these horses ultimately became extinct approximately 10,000 years ago possibly, due to climate change and hunting by humans. Later, during the Colonialism of Americas, European settlers brought horses (mostly Spanish horses) and reintroduced them on the continent.
History of Domestication of Horses
Horses continued to exist as feral animals in Asia and Europe. The earliest evidence of domestication of horses indicates that humans started taming wild horses about 5,500-6,000 years ago in the grasslands of Central Asia. Researchers believe that all the modern domesticated horses are the descendants of those tamed in Botai, the site of a prehistoric settlement located in the Akmola Province of Kazakhstan.
History of Horse Racing
After domestication, horses have been used for performing various duties like plowing fields, carrying and pulling heavy loads, riding, racing, and transportation. Horses have been used for racing since the ancient Greek, Mesopotamian, Syrian, and Egyptian civilizations. Chariot racing and mounted horse racing were popular events in Greek and Roman sports. During the 18th and 19th centuries, horse racing using Thoroughbreds became a popular sport among the British nobility.
- Although the Botai horses were first tamed, they are not the ancestors of today’s domesticated horses. These horses are found to be the predecessors of the wild Przewalski’s horses.
- As horses evolved, their size increased, and the multiple toes transformed into one single hoof on each foot.