Animal Info Horses Place of Origin

About the place of origin of horses, their ancestors and fossil records throughout the world.



The ancestry of the horse--unlike that of human beings--is extraordinarily well documented and dates back more than 65 million years. The prehistoric "little daddy" of today's powerful steed has a poetic name--dawn horse, or eohippus. Fossilized remains of the tiny whippetlike animal (about the size of a rabbit, 10 to 20 in. high, with an arched back and multitoed feet) have been found throughout Europe and America. Down through the ages, it grew larger and larger, with bigger and bigger teeth (for grinding grass) and longer and longer legs.

By the Ice Age, horses roamed every continent but Australia in great herds and had become very much as we know them today, fully monodactylous with each lower "leg" (originally foot bones) ending in a huge middle toe with a giant nail forming a hoof. Sometime during that mysterious glacial period, the horse vanished from the Western Hemisphere entirely. One theory is that herds migrated from America to Siberia by a then existing land bridge. At any rate, the horse didn't appear in America again until Spain's conquistadores invaded Mexico in 1519 A.D.

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