|We're all Homo here|
|A Gradual Science|
|Plain Monkey Business|
“”"A horse is dangerous at both ends and uncomfortable in the middle."
|—Ian Fleming (stolen by a recent Sherlock Holmes film)|
Horses are four legged animals used for pulling things, racing, transport, jumping over things and for keeping rich teenage girls away from boys. They are big herbivores (apart from ponies like the Shetland Pony, which aren't quite so big, and draft horses such as Shire horses which are best described as "bloody huge"). Along with cows, they are used as beasts of burden, and with the proper training can be obedient. Horses have a smoother gait than cattle, however, and as such are prized for riding.
Horses live all over (and sometimes under) the world, except in the sea, sky and Polar Regions, but only because they are useful to us. Mostly their usefulness involves harnessing (literally) their strength to carry people or things. Moreover, horse meat is eaten in numerous cultures, including traditional cuisines in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Poland, Slovenia, Italy, Sweden, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Japan and Canada. And the British Isles.
Horse racing is a popular sport. In the sport, small people (because they're light and the horse can run faster) whip horses as hard as possible to make them run faster. If a horse falls and breaks an ankle, it is sometimes shot. Naturally, animal rights activists aren't impressed by this.
Horse development is one of the classic examples of evolution in action. The fossil record of horse-like animals shows the gradual transition of a finger-like arm/leg forming into a hoof as the animal became larger, and as changes in climate led to the development of extensive grasslands. Horse hooves today still have two vestigial toe digits on either side of the main hoof.
There were also several offshoots from this line of descent, but today only the genus Equus, which includes horses, donkeys and zebras, has survived. Horses' nearest (living) relatives are tapirs and rhinos. The horse family Equidae belongs to the Hippomorpha branch of Perissodactyla, which also contains several now extinct taxa (brontotheres, palaeotheres, and whatnot) more closely related to horses than to rhinos or tapirs.
The original domestication of the horse was a long and complicated process that most likely occurred on the Eurasian Steppe. The six thousand year old Botai culture of modern day Kazakhstan were for a time thought to have been the original domesticators of the horse, seeing as their diet was dominated by horses and there's clear evidence of domestication of the horse in the Botai settlement (roughly equal proportions of stallion and mare skeletons, tooth-wear due to bit-damages, and evidence of consumption of horse milk by the people of Botai). This hypothesis has recently been challenged by genetic studies showing that the Botai horses were actually Przewalski's horse, a separate subspecies of horse only distantly related to the modern domesticated horse. Two separate resulting hypotheses have been advanced to account for this finding:
- Today's horses are descended from the Botai horses, but have been so thoroughly crossbred with other horse populations to the point that it's impossible to tell that modern horse populations are descended from the Botai horses despite actually being so.
- The Botai horses represent a separate, failed incident of horse domestication. In fact, today's Przewalski's horses have also been found to be descended from escaped Botai horses. There are no truly wild horses left in the world after all, as this makes Przewalski's horses simply another population of feral horse.
Genetic studies done on the horses of the Indo-European Scythian peoples[note 1] have shown that unlike modern horses, which are bred for speed and comfort, the horses of the ancient Scythians were much more diverse in their genomic makeup, suggesting that ancient horse breeders preferred their horses to be as diverse as possible as opposed to modern thoroughbreds. Thoroughbreds are built for speed but are very sickly as a result. In fact the same studies suggest a genetic bottleneck occurred within the last two thousand years for horse populations as somewhere along the way horse breeders started selecting for speed as opposed to diversity.
It's suspected that the first horsemen were charioteers rather than mounted riders, as the necessary developments for horseback riding only became widespread by around the First Millennium BCE. Also, for a long time it was thought that the chariot was invented in the Near East. However, this doesn't make logical sense as early domestic horses were too weak to support the weight of a full grown man-as-rider, and it's known that horses were domesticated on the Steppe, not the Near East. Recently spoked wheels indicative of the presence of chariots or proto-chariots were found in an archaeological site associated with the Indo-Europeans (who at the time were mostly steppe nomads) dating back four thousand years ago indicating that chariot development first began on the steppes and were only introduced to the Near East later on, most likely with the Indo-European migrations.
Likewise, the first carts and sleds were pulled by donkeys and oxen rather than horses. When horses became available they quickly replaced donkeys as the draft animals of choice as horses are much more cooperative, faster, and have a much lower pain tolerance than donkeys (donkeys are known to not move even when being "furiously whipped"). As mentioned above, horses were first used as draft animals on the Steppe, but they were much smaller and hairier than today's horses and also much harder to control than oxen.
The earliest hard evidence for mounted horsemanship dates to around 1350 BCE. Not much is known for sure about these early horsemen, as they were nomads who left little trace in the archaeological record. Regardless, enough evidence has been gathered that we can guess with a reasonable amount of confidence that these early horsemen were Indo-European speakers, as the spread of the horse is correlated with the spread of the Indo-European languages. These early horsemen were organized into small tribal groups and tended to avoid conflict with one another as there was enough pasture on the Steppe that made open conflict impractical. The age of the nomad empires would only come later, and would bring about their own suite of problems including heightened risk for feuds and conflicts.
The evidence for mounted horsemanship from 1350 BCE comes in the form of Egyptian bas-reliefs showing bareback riders sitting on the hump of the horse rather than the back, as the back wasn't strong enough to support the weight of a full-grown human adult yet. Evidence for the position we're familiar with today comes in the form of 8th century BCE nomadic raiders coming from north of the Black and Caspian Seas and Assyrian cavalrymen. The stirrup wouldn't be invented for almost another two thousand years; with the stirrup only being invented in 8th century CE India, which was soon swiftly adopted by the cavalry of both settled and nomadic nations around the Old World. The stirrup revolutionized cavalry as it enabled mounted archers to fire their bows from a standing position. The introduction of the stirrup to Europe also enabled the invention of jousting sports in medieval times.
Ivermectin, a medication to destroy worms in horses' digestive tracts has been a suggested quack treatment for COVID-19 in humans. For humans it is worthless and harmful as well as an irresponsible alternative to vaccinations. There have even been hospitalizations resulting from ivermectin overdoses.
Types of horses
“”If it doesn't fart or eat hay, she isn't interested.
|—Prince Phillip on his daughter Princess Anne. (Phillip curiously derives from the Greek for horselover)|
- The zebra is a horse that can cross the road safely.
- The donkey is a horse for riding into Jerusalem.
- The burro is a Hispanic donkey. The burrito is a cooked Hispanic donkey.
- The mule is a horse that carries drugs, usually concealed in its rectum, across borders or across town. These half-assed[note 2] hybrids are usually the result of a lady horse accidentally fornicating with a gentleman donkey. (When the sexes of the animals are reversed, the hybrid is called a hinny.) Mules also starred in a Dinesh D'Souza conspiracy theory film.
- Pegasus is a horse with wings (epic phail). Pegasus was on the cover of a popular conspiracy theory book, Behold a Pale Horse.
- A centaur is either a horse with a human body protruding from its chest. or a human with a horse sticking out of eir behind.
- A unicorn is a
narwhalhorse with a single horn on its forehead, the most adored of whom is the Invisible Pink Unicorn (PBUH).
- My Little Pony is a dwarf variety, in many different color schemes, generally owned by children and man-children.
- A zonkey is a hybrid of a zebra and a donkey, allowing one to safely cross the road into Jerusalem. These should not be confused with zonks which were usually goats.
- Talking horses such as Mister Ed are completely fictional.
- "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!", King Richard III according to William Shakespeare — actually someone else of the same name.
- "'Tis pity she's a horse", original title of a tragedy by the English playwright John Ford (1586–ca. 1639).
- "I know two things about the horse, and one of them is rather coarse", Naomi Royde-Smith (1875–1964)).
A horseshoe is a piece of metal attached to the feet of horses to make them roadworthy (and protect them from damage). Some other animals are or have been similarly shod. Minor horseshoe woo is that having a horseshoe pinned to a house wall will bring good luck if the points face up (if facing down, the luck goes away). Supposedly, a visitor to Niels Bohr's country cottage, noticing a horseshoe hanging on the wall, asked the scientist if he believed the ancient superstition. "Of course not," replied Bohr, "but I am told it works even if you don't believe in it."
- Natural horsemanship — horses and woo
- A horse of a different color
- Horseshoe theory — what goes around, comes around
- Ideomotor effect — Clever Hans
- Ivermectin — for antivaxxers trying to avoid the horse-pittle
- Elon Musk — wanted to be a horse trader
- An ancient ethnic Iranian steppe nomad culture.
- Though you can ride a cow, too.
- See the Wikipedia article on Horse meat § Horse meat in various countries.
- How the horsemeat scandal unfolded – timeline: How revelations have emerged about the contamination of meat products from beefburgers to lasagne (15 Feb 2013 10.44 EST) The Guardian.
- PETA especially hate it.
- Horse Evolution Over 55 Million Years
- Horse evolution discussed at Talk Origins
- Do horses have vestigial structures - Great American Adventures
- Early domestication of the horse - Facts and Details
- "Ancient horsemen and the first wheels, chariots, and mounted riders" - Facts and Details
- The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze Age Steppe Riders Shaped the Modern World by David Anthony. Provided for free by the Internet Archive.
- Why you should not use Ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19 - FDA press release correcting antivaxxer bullshit