The horses are magnificent creatures, symbolizing beauty, elegance and strength. Man has used these majestic animals for centuries, but have you ever wondered where horses come from? We invite you to learn a little more about this magnificent species, which is and has been among us for so long and which has helped us so much.
The horse we know nowadays has a remarkable evolutionary process, of about 50 million years. Undoubtedly, in the early days, it did not enjoy the enormous dimensions it shows off today, in fact it was not originally larger than a medium- sized dog.
We do not have much exact information on the origin of the horse as a terrestrial animal, but the findings suggest that the closest relative to the horse that we all know is the Tarpan, Equus Ferus Ferus, an animal whose last specimen died in Ukraine at the beginning of the twentieth century. At the moment there is no remnant of these animals that allows for more in-depth research. Surely in the caves where ancient Frescos are preserved, one can appreciate the great similarity between these animals and horses as we know them today.
It is very difficult to trace the origins or ancestors of the Tarpan, but it is believed that this animal managed to survive the glaciation (ice age) and that it came from some area of North America, when the land was still in the state of Pangea and the continents had not yet separated, then migrating to the area we now know as Asia.
The fossil finds of the Tarpan are very numerous and in addition to allowing researchers to reconstruct the mysteries that lie behind its extraordinary evolution, they help us to reconstruct the migratory processes of which this species participated. The oldest known fossil (dated about 55 million years) of an equine belongs to an Eohippus, discovered in North America. Its peculiarity is the legs with small bearings and not with hooves as we are used to, as well as measuring just 30 centimeters.
Due to a migration process (to Europe and then directed to Asia) and to the climatic changes that followed one another in the millennia to come, the species evolved into three races, with the last one, the Merychippus, very similar to the current donkey. This evolutionary process lasted about 25 million years.
After this evolutionary process, the first specimens with hooves in the Eurasian area appeared, which were much larger than their oldest ancestors. At the moment it is believed that the specimens that populated North America became extinct about 8000 years ago. These animals were divided into two subspecies, the Dinohippus and the Pliohippus, the latter being those we currently known as Tarpan.
Both subspecies managed to survive, while all others died out during the ice age. They then spread throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. In accordance with the climatic and geographical conditions, the horses finally reached the current dimensions and characteristics.
Types of Horses
The wood horse: it is a solid horse, with large head and hoofs, and it is probably, given its physical structure, the closest ancestor of the current draft horses and cold-blooded horses.
The horses of the prairies: these horses are much smaller than the forest horses, with a more slender and more resistant structure. It is likely to be the ancestors of the Mongolian semi-wild horses.
The horse of the steppe: it was a type of light horse, which gave rise to the Arab breeds and the bardotto, which are in turn the ancestors of the current thoroughbreds.
The tundra horse: perfectly adapted to cold climates, it was a very large and heavy specimen. The Yakut, a native of the polar areas, appears to be the only descendant present today.
Horses were domesticated approximately 6000 years ago, and proved to be of vital importance for the development of human civilization. It is believed that the first to successfully domesticate some horses were members of the nomadic tribes of the Caspian and Black seas.
At the moment, some members of the scientific community have recovered the Tarpan thanks to skillful DNA crossings of horses from older breeds, favoring those that have not been over-domesticated and that have retained a certain resemblance to their ancestors. They reproduce in Polish herds, even if their character and their characteristics will always remain a hybrid.