A Brief History-of-the-Horse

Ancestry
The history-of-the-horse can be traced back over sixty million years through the study of fossil remains.

The modern horse is the descendant of the Condylarthra. Condylarthra were primitive, long extinct mammals, which were the ancestors of all hoofed mammals. The modern horse as well as asses and zebras belong to the family of Equidae.

Eohippus

The history of the horse starts... with an animal no larger than a dog named the Eohippus and also called the Dawn Horse. From fifty four to thirty eight million years ago the Eohippus lived in the forests of North America eating leaves and soft vegetation. It had pads on its feet similar to dogs and four toes on it’s front feet and three toes on it’s back feet. The Eohippus had small teeth and would probably have been of some type of camouflage color to blend in with the forest surroundings. It also had a somewhat arched back.




During the next 10 million years.... the Eohippus became taller, with a straighter back and lost one toe on the front feet, leaving it with three toes on each foot, front and back. Over millions of years the forests gave way to vast plains of grasslands and the evolution of the Eohippus progressed significantly.

The teeth and neck changed to accommodate their new role as grazers and their legs got longer and stronger to make flight from predators easier. The evolution of the feet progressed from three toes to a single toe or hoof with the remaining toes no longer touching the ground or serving any useful purpose.

The history of the horse becomes somewhat vague... after this until we see the emergence of what is called the Pliohippus some ten to five million years ago . The Pliohippus is the link between the Eohippus and the modern Equus which finally emerged a million years ago.

The Equus disappeared from the Americas.... about 10000 years ago. They did not reappear until the time of the European colonists which reintroduced them into America. This disappearance is thought to have been caused by the migrations of large herds from America to Europe and Asia during the ice age. When the ice receded the large land bridges connecting these continents disappeared making it impossible for the herds to migrate back to America.

If you are interested in a more extensive study of the history-of-the-horse this site is really in depth.






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