Some of the most interesting facts about horses lie in the way they have helped man to carve the history of the world. Often seen calmly grazing in fields, it is amazing to think of how these docile creatures have made a vast difference in the world.
The background of horses goes back to prehistoric days when their size was little more impressive than that of a German shepherd dog. An herbivore even in the early days, the small animal possessed toes rather than the hooves of modern-day equines; four toes on each foot in front, and three on each in the back. Its stance, however, seemed always to place the little animal on just one of its toes, which is likely how it became the one-toed horse it is today. After many millions of years, the animal (called Hipparion) had evolved to achieve a much larger structure and was recognized for its streamlined speed and power. Nomadic people of Asia virtually lived on the backs of horses, as they moved from area to area herding cattle and sheep as well as hunting for their food. Their horses were their very livelihood, giving them such importance that they were frequently buried in tombs with the tribal chiefs.
In other areas of Asia, the horse was brought into battles by warriors. They were also valuable for swift transit in carrying messages to various areas in the kingdoms. As such, they were held in high esteem and frequently portrayed on artwork. The same type of admiration for the sure-footed steed was present in Africa and throughout Europe. Originally in history, the horse was ridden as it stood; over time, blankets were added, then stirrups and harnesses. They were outfitted with shoulder collars to enable them to be “workhorses”, pulling wagons and plows. Facts about horses rarely considered are that they actually were instrumental in forming nations and empires; crucial to the success of the likes of Genghis Khan. Horsemen portray a vital role in Biblical history, as well; the four horsemen in Revelations hold great mystery and importance in the Apocalypse.
Horses came to both South and North America in the 1500s by the Spanish conquistadors, although there is evidence that early ancestors of the animal had existed here and subsequently vanished. The initial shock and fear of the natives at the sight of these foreign creatures gave way to deep appreciation at its speed, endurance, and power. Various Indian tribes adapted easily to the use of the creatures in their hunting and raiding endeavors. Pioneers depended on horses to pull their wagons and hand plows. The very foundation of the United States Postal Service was laid by the Pony Express; fast horses that were run to exhaustion from station to station to deliver messages. Ranching in both North and South America brought new respect for the horse, as cowboys and gauchos used the animal for transportation and for keeping herds in check.
Today, horses are mainly used for exhibition and pleasure with the introduction of vehicles that are capable of traversing rough terrain. A number of horse varieties have evolved over the centuries; there are currently over 250 known breeds that fall typically into two different types of horses. There are workhorses, such as Clydesdales, which perform work of rodeo riding and pulling carriages. Thoroughbreds are the second category and are generally a cross between Arabians and English mares. They are found on race tracks and in exhibitions. Among these two types of horses, Thoroughbreds are more popular worldwide.
These interesting facts about horses throughout history show their undeniable value. Though appearing to be a docile and unassuming animal while grazing in the field, their ancestors have contributed a great deal to form the world as we know it now.