Pets and Animals

Evolution of Horses

Horses can be found almost everywhere today. Eurasian and African countries have used horses for warfare and agriculture for thousands of years. They also spread to other continents through settlers. Where did the horses come from initially? In this article, We will discuss the Evolution of horses. 

The North American origins of horses are around 55 million years old. The modern horse was born of their ancestors who migrated to Eurasia about 2-3 million years ago. The Americas saw the end of Equid species around 8,000-12,000 years ago.

Many remains of primitive horses have been discovered on the North American continent over the past few decades.

A team of archaeologists discovered fossils from the first ancestor of Wyoming horses in 1976. The Eohippus, a herbivore no more giant than a Beagle and lived during the Eocene Epoch, was no bigger than a Beagle.

Our faithful companions, horses, have a fascinating history. Let’s explore it further.

What Are Horses Descended From?

Paleontologists have a clearer picture of the evolution of horses than any other animal. Our evolutionary history goes back 55 million years. This is when the first known horses lived in forests and not grasslands.

The Eohippus, a small forest-dwelling herbivore that bred horses, is the species from which a horse as a species derives its name. Modern domesticated horses are likely descendants of the Eurasian wild horse Tarpan.

Horses are odd-toed ungulates, like rhinos and tapirs. Around 54.5 million years ago, Cambaytherium is believed to have been their common ancestor. However, horses became distinct from their cousins with the Eohippus.

Horses and rhinos are closely related because they are odd-toed ungulates. Cambaytherium is thought to be their common ancestor, and this was around 54.5 million years ago.

The Tarpan has survived surprisingly long, considering its evolutionary history. Although many believe it was not a Tarpan, the last Tarpan died in a Russian zoo in 1909.

Tarpan Subspecies

We categorize all horse breeds today into four main types: draft, warmblood, hot-blooded, and pony. There are three subspecies of Tarpan that may be related to these types:

Warmbloods are descended from the “Forest Horse” subspecies 

Ancestors of draft horses and ponies, the “Draft” subspecies 

A subspecies of the “Oriental” family, ancestor of all breeds with a high level of blood pressure

People used to consider the Przewalski’s Horse a wild horse breed very similar to the Tarpan. A 2018 study disproved this belief. Scientists believe that Przewalski’s Horse is a descendant of the earliest horses to have been domesticated around 5,500 years ago.

This horse breed, which has 66 chromosomes, is not a Tarpan descendant. The true origins of Przewalski’s horse are still a mystery.

The horse loses their toes during evolution.

Horses walk on one toe, even though we don’t think so. They are the only species of animals on Earth that can do this, along with donkeys and Zebras. This has been true for millions upon millions of years.

Horses lost their toes as their habitat changed from forest to grasslands, allowing them to run faster away from predators. A single toe can significantly increase the horse’s running speed by reducing the horse’s contact with the ground.

Horses didn’t walk on one toe always. The Eohippus was their ancestor, with four toes on its front legs and three on its rear. The Mesohippus was around 40 million years old and only had three toes. However, the middle digit was already prominent.

Fast forward to 15,000,000 years ago, and the Merychippus stood only on one toe. This species only touched the ground while running despite having two toes on each foot. The Pliohippus was a close relative of the modern horse, and it walked and ran with one toe eight million years ago.

The modern horse may have lost all its toes, but this is not true. The second and fourth toes are represented by the long, narrow splint bones on the horse’s front and rear legs.

Scientists also recognized the fifth and first digits as the ridges at the ends of each splint bone.

History of Horse Domesticated

Horse domestication was a controversial topic until recent years. Two theories were offered about this historic event.

One theory suggested that horses were domesticated simultaneously in many places, while another pointed to the western Eurasian steppes.

Horses were domesticated around 6,000 years ago in Kazakhstan by the Botai people, according to a 2012 study. Scientists believe that they used horses for riding, meat, and milk.

The study was conducted by scientists at Cambridge University. The scientists first collected nuclear DNA samples from 300 horses who lived in eight different Eurasian nations. Models for different domestication scenarios were generated using the data entered into computers.

Vera Warmuth, a lead scientist at the Department of Zoology, stated: It shows that horse domestication originated west of the Steppes. This implies that there was a lot of integration of wild horses into the process of domestication.

Reason behind domestication

Similar to mammoths and other Ice Age megafauna, experts believe domestication saved horses from extinction. Do experts say that horses prevented humans from hunting them to the end experts say?

Horses were first domesticated for their milk and meat. As humans discovered the benefits of horses in travel, agriculture, and war, they started breeding horses for driving and riding.

Horses were likely kept as livestock in the early days before domestication. Cattle are currently treated similarly. People began to keep horses as pets and soon realized they could be used for work. The equine transformation from livestock into riding and driving animals is believed to be due to this trait.

In addition to meeting livestock domestication criteria, horses are also domesticated. This is essential to get the process started. These are:

  • The ability to survive on grass (e.g., an efficient diet)
  • A quick growth rate
  • An ability to breed in captivity
  • A pleasant temperament
  • A tendency to not panic
  • An ideal social structure

Horses, being herd animals, have a dominance hierarchy humans can quickly overtake. Horses are less territorial than other species, which makes it easier for them to be domesticated.

Read about: How to Choose Best Cat Food for Your Feline Friend?

History of Horse Riding

We don’t know whether horses were the first to be ridden or driven. The fact remains, however, that riding was an everyday occurrence. Experts believe that the Botai people began riding horses around 6,000 years ago.

It’s hard to find evidence that shows when someone first began riding horses. When trying to determine the cause of an event, scientists usually examine the wear and tear on teeth and bits. These results are inconclusive because horses can be ridden with or without a bit.

Driving on the other side leaves more apparent clues. Scientists have determined that horses were used for pulling chariots in warfare quite early. However, indirect evidence suggests that horse riding was possible long before.

Buy Now! horse neck cover only on our equestrian stores!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button