The horse is one of human’s earliest animal companions. When did the origin of the horse actually begin?
The horse origin and equine history equine begins in the Lower Eocene period, 55 million years ago, The Steppe Type horse when the continental landmasses, the mountain ranges, and the Atlantic and Indian oceans began to form.
Table of Contents (Horspedia)
- 1 Here’s what you need to know to understand the full history of horse
- 2 America’s Earliest Horse Origin – Equus
- 3 Pre-Domestic Horse | Early Horse Races and Breeds
- 4 Where and When did Early Horse Domestication Begin?
Here’s what you need to know to understand the full history of horse
In the epoch of early horse history, the Rocky Mountains, the Andes, the Alps, and the Panama Ridge took shape and the Gulf Stream began its thermal control of Europe’s weather.
Although unknown at that time, this has benefited the equine origin significantly in the later years.
During this time marine reptiles became extinct, placental mammals evolved, and on land there began to appear the ancestors of the elephant, the rhinoceros, the ox, the pig, the monkey, and the horse.
Where did the Early Horse Originate from?
The early horse in its earliest form, some 50 million years before man evolved, was a very small multi-toed mammal called Hyracotherium.
The early horse name is derived, rather confusingly, from the Greek word for hog. Hyracotherium, the first horse in history, was about 12 inches tall.
The horse ancestor had four toes on its forefeet and three on its hind. During its 66 million years long evolution through the Middle Eocene, Oligocene, Miocene, and Pliocene epochs the fourth toe on the forefoot disappeared.
The center of the three remaining toes developed into a rudimentary hoof, and the outer toes shrank into vestigial appendages that no longer reached the ground.
Hyracotherium – the Grandfather of the Modern Horse
The vast number of Hyracotherium bones that fossil seekers find in their digs among the soil and rock of the southern United States is reasonable proof that today’s extensively subdivided family of hoofed mammals originated on that side of the world.
Migrating northward they wandered into Asia and Europe, crossing land that had not yet subsided into the waters of the arctic regions, and thereafter the American and Eurasian branches of the family followed very different courses to extinction.
Hyracotherium died out some 40 million years ago, having failed to adapt itself to changing geological conditions.
It was succeeded by Orohippus and subsequently by Epihippus, animals with very similar skeletal structures but with increasingly efficient teeth.
In Piiohippus of the Lower Pliocene period a fully-hoofed animal three times the size of Hyracotherium emerged, an animal which by the time Homo sapiens began had developed into Equus and had grown in stature to about 13 hands (52in) high.
America’s Earliest Horse Origin – Equus
Like Hyracotherium, Equus seems to have originated in North America; unlike Hyracotherium, it migrated southward and became South America’s earliest horse.
It also spread to Asia, expanded into Europe, and from there went south to Africa. About 8,000 years ago it became extinct in the Americas.
Equus has, later on, adapted and affected horse types across Europe, Asia, and Africa. This has enabled different species of Equus to emerge and adapt according to terrain and climate.
This has made Equus the exclusive ancestors of the modern horse.
Pre-Domestic Horse | Early Horse Races and Breeds
Until the end of the eighteenth century, two races of the wild horse, Eqitus ferns, existed in Europe and Asia.
They were the Tarpan and Przewalski’s horse, which is considered the Mongolian horse breed ancestor.
The Tarpan horse ancestor was located in eastern Europe and the Russian steppes. The Mongolian wild horse, or Przewalski’s horse, in Mongolia.
These two races were the relics of vast populations of wild equines that inhabited virtually the whole of Europe, Asia, and North America at the close of the last Ice Age, 12,000 years ago.
It is possible that some early horse foals were tamed by humans, but at this time horses were unfortunately much more frequently eaten than they were ridden.
Horse Origin 9000 to 6 000 years ago
From 9,000 years ago the wild horse became increasingly rare: its remains are seldom found on archaeological sites in Europe, while in North America all equines became totally extinct.
From around 6,000 years ago, the remains of horses begin to appear in cultural contexts that indicate domestication.
The most authentic of these come from Neolithic sites in central Asia, such as Dereivka on the river Dnieper, where sub-fossil remains reveal a pattern of specialized human exploitation of the horse.
Early Horse Purpose – Meat, Milk, or Riding?
Stallion horses were probably killed for their meat, mares could have been milked, and both sexes may have been used as draft animals.
Until recently, archaeologists generally believed that there was no evidence for horse riding until the much later period of approximately 1000 B.C.
What would you say, when did the humans first start riding horses? Evidence of early historic horse rides started over 3 000 years ago – 2 000 B.C.
However, it is known that at least some of the Dereivka horses were driven or ridden with bridles and bits.
A piece of big evidence on early horse riding was the abnormal wear that was found on the premolar teeth of buried ancient horse skulls.
On top of that, six perforated tines of red-deer antlers which probably served as bridle cheekpieces were also discovered.
It has been suggested that domestication of the horse occurred 3 000 years ago because it enabled the expansion of human populations to move away from the river valleys.
That was much needed because the rivers and valleys were becoming deforested and over-hunted. Horses allowed humans to migrate, quicker, faster, and farther.
This change in behavior allowed humans to move into steppes, where the wild horses provided a new resource for both riding and hunting.
Where and When did Early Horse Domestication Begin?
There are very few hard facts to substantiate the “where and when” of early horse domestication.
Although new evidence is accumulating all the time from the dating of and osteological (skeleton and bone) study of excavated material.
By 2000 B.C., while the wild horse continued to be pushed into its eastern refugees by loss of habitat, climate change, and human hunting, the domestic horse had begun to spread rapidly around the whole of the Old World.
Most of this newly domesticated stock was probably derived from the core area north of the Caspian Sea.
However, it is not inconceivable that some local domestication occurred with individual ancient horse breeds that were taken from the dwindling wild-horse herds found in several parts of Europe.
Different Kinds of Domestic Horse
Since ancient times, there have been different forms of the domestic horse.
There are small, stocky ponies in the cold north, heavy horses in middle Europe, and slender-legged Arabians in the hot southern regions.
Where do all horses originate from?
Biological, molecular, and pictorial evidence indicates that all domestic horses of the past and present are descended from a single ancestral species – Equus ferus.
The most basic classification of horses is by their climatic adaptations to the region where their species originate from – which is actually scientifically wrong.
The division of domestic horses into the so-called “cold-blooded” and “warm-blooded” types is a reflection of the species’ adaptation to different climatic regions – albeit – these terms have no scientific validity.
All horses have the same body temperature, and all the different breeds are able to mate and produce fertile offspring.
Despite the great variation of coat color found in domestic horses, there is a sporadic occurrence of a longitudinal dark band along the ridge of the back.
The dark band of the early horses came in combination with stripes on the shoulders and forelegs on horses of different breeds.
This was most commonly found in countries around the world, as far apart as Britain and China.
These stripes occur most frequently in dun-colored ponies, and like the mealy muzzle of the Exmoor pony probably represents a reversion to the wild type of the horse origin.
Horse and Equine Origin – According to Darwin
On this basis, Charles Darwin believed that all domestic horses were descended from “a single, dun-colored, more or less striped, primitive stock, to which our horses still occasionally revert.
It is a conclusion against which there can be little argument today.