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HORSE. The horse in America dates at least from the single-hoofed Equus caballus that emerged in Pleistocene times, about 1 million years ago. Ancestors of the modern horse began a westward migration from North America across the land bridge between the north coast of Alaska and that of Siberia. Some paleontologists suspect that the horse disappeared in America not more than, and possibly less than, 10,000 years ago.

The horse was reintroduced into the Western Hemisphere with the voyages of discovery by Christopher Columbus for Spain at the end of the fifteenth century. These Spanish steeds, derived from Moorish stock, first landed in the Caribbean in November 1493. The Spanish horses acclimated rapidly and within twenty years formed the chief supply for the Spanish mainland expeditions. Other European explorers brought horses to eastern and western parts of the New World in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. English colonists imported European horses. In the British colonies as a whole, horses were valued for riding, hunting, and racing.

The adoption of the horse by Native Americans, after the initial impact, increased rapidly and proved a major implement of change for the nomadic Plains tribes. By 1660, Indians had learned the value of horses and had begun to use them. During the next forty years the horse spread into the plains and mountains with great rapidity. In 1805 and 1806 Meriwether Lewis and William Clark noted the use of horses by Indians. With horses, the Kiowa ranged more than 1,000 miles in a summer. Some eastern forest tribes, once partially agricultural, moved out into the grassland with acquired horses and turned to hunting. The equestrian tribes were often at war with one another and raided white settlements to steal more horses.

Horses were crucial for transportation and inland migration prior to the development of the railroad. Extractive industries, manufacturers, and city distributive systems were all dependent on horsepower. The stagecoach was the first inland interregional utility, and the post rider opened communication with outlying settlements. Horses drew canal boats and railcars and served hunters, trappers, and miners. Cow horses carried cowboys on long cattle drives, herding livestock. The night horse was used to stand guard. Cavalry mounts and supply teams were adjuncts of military organizations and campaigning on every front. Approximately 1,500,000 horses and mules died during the Civil War (1861–1865).

The twentieth-century revolution worked by the internal combustion engine resulted in a displacement of horses for power and transportation. Tractor-drawn corn planters could plant an average of seventy acres of corn, compared to a horse-drawn average of only sixteen acres. From about 26 million farm horses and mules in the United States in 1920, the number declined to slightly more than 3 million horses and mules on farms in 1960.

American Breeds

American horse breeders carefully selected breeding stock and monitored pedigrees in an attempt to cultivate desired characteristics. Sometimes especially swift or capable horses were produced by chance. Superb horses were occasionally discovered and of unknown parentage. These animals were retained as studs or broodmares in the hopes that their talents or physical attributes would be transmitted to offspring. As a result, breeds unique to the United States were developed, especially in the twentieth century, to meet performance needs. Breed associations were formed to preserve genetic records and promote specific types of horses.

The American Quarter Horse is the first horse breed distinctive to the United States. Descended from a mixture of American breeds and imported bloodstock during the colonial period, Quarter Horses are exceptionally sturdy, muscular, versatile, and fast. They accompanied Americans from Atlantic colonies to the western frontier, where they were valued for their cow sense. Cattlemen, including those at the famous King Ranch in Kingsville, Texas, developed outstanding lines of Quarter Horses. One of the King Ranch Quarter Horses, Wimpy, was named grand champion stallion at the 1941 Fort Worth Exposition. The American Quarter Horse Association, founded in 1940, assigned Wimpy its first registration number, and he became a leading foundation sire. Quarter Horses fill many roles. The All-American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico, distributes a $2 million purse to Quarter Horses that sprint 440 yards. The American Quarter Horse Heritage Center and Museum at Amarillo, Texas, preserves this breed's history.

Justin Morgan's horse Figure, foaled in Massachusetts in 1793, founded a line notable not only for speed but also for light draft. Rhode Island developed one of the most distinctive and noted types of the period in the Narragansett pacer, a fast, easy-gaited saddle horse, but one not suited for driving or draft purposes. The stylishly moving American Saddlebred represents a mixture of Narragansett Pacer, Arabian, Standardbred, and Thoroughbred ancestors. Established in 1891, The American Saddle Horse Breeder's Association (later renamed American Saddlebred Horse Association) was the first American breed association, and Denmark was designated the main foundation sire.

Tennessee Walking Horses represent a conglomeration of breeds which produced a gaited horse that is renowned for its running walk. This breed is based on the line of foundation sire Allan F-1. The Racking Horse has a comfortable, natural four-beat gait which southern planters valued. Ozark settlers bred the Missouri Fox Trotter, which had a sliding gait that eased travel in hilly areas.

Most modern Appaloosas are related to the horses bred by the Nez Perce Indians. These spotted horses often

also have Quarter Horse, Thoroughbred, and Arabian ancestry. Joker B. and Colida were two of the Appaloosa Horse Club's outstanding foundation stallions after that association was formed in 1938. The Pony of the Americas (POA) was created by crossing an Appaloosa mare and a Shetland pony stallion. The resulting foal, Black Hand, became the POA foundation sire, establishing a breed especially for children to ride and show.

The American Cream Draft Horse is the sole draft breed created in the United States. Representatives of this breed are descended from a pink-skinned, cream-colored Iowa mare named Old Granny. After mechanization resulted in the slaughter of many draft horses, the American Minor Breeds Conservancy cited the American Cream Draft Horse as an endangered breed.

Horse Culture

By the beginning of the twenty-first century, 6.9 million horses were living in the United States and were used by 1.9 million horse owners for recreational or commercial purposes. Approximately one-half of American horses are kept for their owners to enjoy and ride for pleasure. About one-third of horses are used primarily for shows and competitions. An estimated 725,000 horses race or are used as broodmares and studs on racehorse farms. Slightly more than one million horses fill working roles such as agricultural laborers and police mounts. Others are used as rodeo stock or for polo teams.

Although horses are found throughout the United States, Kentucky's Bluegrass region is specifically identified with equines. The center of American horse racing activity, Kentucky is home to major racing stables and tracks. The Kentucky Horse Park and the International Museum of the Horse were established at Lexington, Kentucky, in 1978 to educate people about horses and to host significant equine-related artistic, cultural, and sporting events. This thousand-acre site includes the Hall of Champions and the grave of the famous racehorse Man o' War. The museum is the world's largest equestrian museum and examines the history of human-horse interactions, providing online access to exhibits via the Internet. The daily Parade of Breeds highlights representatives of distinctive American horse breeds.

Pony, 4-H, and local riding clubs offer opportunities for equestrians to learn about horses. Riders barrel race at rodeos. Equestrians also compete at such prestigious events as the National Horse Show, held annually at Madison Square Garden in New York since 1883. Members of the United States Equestrian Team participate in international equestrian sporting events including the Olympics.

Legislation and Statistics

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was organized in 1866 to protest horse abuse. During the late nineteenth century, George T. Angell established similar humane groups in Massachusetts to protect horses. Congress passed the Horse Protection Act (HPA) in 1970, then amended it in 1976 with further revisions in 1983 to provide legal measures to prevent abusive treatment of horses. Specifically, the HPA forbids people from soring horses. This procedure involves application of stimulants, such as chemical pastes or sharp chains, to make a horse step higher or perform more spectacularly than normal in order to win competitions or earn higher prices at sales. After receiving training and being licensed by a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)–approved horse agency, a Designated Qualified Person (DQP) monitors horses at shows and auctions to inspect, detect, and bar any animals that have been sored.

The HPA declares that soring of horses for exhibitions or sales as well as the interstate transportation of sored animals to horse shows is prohibited. People convicted of soring horses are usually prevented from participating in future shows and sales for a specific time period, occasionally being disqualified for life, fined as much as $5,000, and sometimes sentenced to as much as a two-year prison term. State and local governments often prosecute people for committing acts that violate regional animal welfare legislation.

In 1996, the American Horse Council Foundation, created in 1969, commissioned a study to evaluate how the horse industry impacts the U.S. economy. The study determined that the American horse industry contributes annually $25.3 billion of goods and services to the national economy and pays taxes totaling $1.9 billion. The horse industry provides more income to the gross domestic product than such significant industries as furniture and tobacco manufacturing, motion picture production, and railroad transportation.

Throughout the United States, breeding, training, and boarding stables, horse show arenas, racetracks, and auction barns hire workers for various tasks, ranging from grooms and stable hands to jockeys and stable managers. At least 7.1 million people participate in some aspect of the horse industry. More Americans are employed by the horse industry than work in media broadcasting, railroad, or tobacco, coal, and petroleum manufacturing positions. Millions more are active as spectators at equine events.


American Horse Council Home page at:

American Quarter Horse Association. Home page at

Appaloosa Horse Club. Home page at

Kentucky Horse Park and the International Museum of the Horse. Home page at

Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association. Home page at

Cypher, John. Bob Kleberg and the King Ranch: A Worldwide Sea of Grass. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995.

Denhardt, Robert M. The Quarter Running Horse: America's Oldest Breed. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1979.

Edwards, Elwyn Hartley. The Encyclopedia of the Horse. Photography by Bob Langrish and Kit Houghton. Foreword by Sharon Ralls Lemon. London and New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1994.

Gray, Bob. Great Horses of the Past. Houston: Cordovan Corp., 1967.

Hillenbrand, Laura. Seabiscuit: An American Legend. New York: Random House, 2001.

Horse Industry Directory. Washington, D.C.: Published annually by the American Horse Council in cooperation with American Horse Publications, 1976–.

Mellin, Jeanne. The Complete Morgan Horse. Lexington, Mass.: S. Greene Press, 1986.

Ward, Kathleen Rauschl. The American Horse: From Conquistadors to the 21st Century. Belleville, Mich.: Maple Yard Publications, 1991.

Zeh, Lucy. Etched in Stone: Thoroughbred Memorials. Lexington, Ky.: Blood-Horse, 2000.


Elizabeth D.Schafer

See alsoHorse Racing and Showing ; Indians and the Horse ; Mule ; Mustangs ; Pony Express ; Rodeos .

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One common misconception about evolution is that it occurs in a straight line, from an ancestor to a descendant. Although it is possible to trace the lineage, or history, of a certain species, the wider view shows that evolution is actually a very broad process. It may be helpful to visualize evolution as a tree from which many branches sprout, with each branch representative of a line of organisms evolving from the center of the tree. Many of these branches, or lineages, may die out. Other branches continue to grow and branch out further, resulting in the great diversity of life on Earth today. The history of the horse is an excellent example of this evolutionary "tree." Horses did not evolve in a straight line from a common ancestor, through species after species, until the modern wild horse appeared. In fact, the evolution of the horse is a story of great divergence and extinctions that continued through time, until only one species remained.

Paleontologists have discovered a very good record of horse fossils in North America, where the horse first appeared, and have learned much about its early history. Other continents have been subsequently searched for fossils, and the migration and distribution of the horse is now well-known. From the remains of a few small populations of true wild horses in Europe and possibly central Asia, thriving communities of horses now exist in most regions on Earth.

The Beginning

The ancestors of the horse were browsers who fed on the bushy and leafy types of vegetation found in forests. They ate leaves of trees and shrubs and occasionally fed on tender grasses. Scientists deduced what they ate from studying the fossil teeth of animals that had a similar bone structure to the modern horse, but that had bumpy teeth, instead of the flat, grinding teeth horses have today. These early ancestors were small animals, about the size of a fox or a medium-sized dog.

Evolutionary scientists recognize that environment often drives natural selection , and that natural selection leads to evolution. One force causing the transformation in horses was the constant alteration of climate that began about 60 million years ago and continues through the present. As the climate became hotter and drier, two important events occurred. First, the forests shrank and became patchy throughout North America. This reduced the habitat of the forest-dwelling members of the horse group. Second, different forms of grasses, called "C4 grasses," evolved. These grasses were tougher than the fragile forest grasses and better able to withstand harsh conditions. They spread throughout the more arid regions and formed vast plains. These plains created a less nutritious but more stable food source for the animals. The formation of the grasslands provided a new habitat in which many forms of animals, like the camels and horses, thrived. C4 grasses contained a high concentration of a glassy mineral called silica. The horse species that survived this new diet developed stronger, flatter, and more complex teeth than their forest relatives. Most of the evolution of horses was identified and traced by studying these changes in tooth shape and structure.

The second major factor that affected the evolution of the horse was the emergence of more effective competitors, such as the artiodactyls (herbivores like camels, deer, and bison), and swifter predators, especially the cats with their saberlike canine teeth. These swift and efficient predators found the smaller, forest-dwelling horses to be easy prey, resulting in the swift extinction of the horses. This kind of selection pressure favored the swifter and more wary equids of the open grasslands. So as one horse lineage died out, another evolved quickly. This pattern continued until the end of the Pleistocene epoch about 11,000 years ago. Only one species of horse, Equus equus, remains from this once diverse group of animals.

The Story of the Bones

All information scientists know about ancient horses has been gathered from the fossil remains of their skeletons. The skull, and the teeth it contains, can be read almost like a book, revealing how and when physical changes occurred and in what order. While no real "trends" are apparent in the overall picture of horse evolution because so many different species are involved, there were some general changes. As horses evolved, their toes were continually reduced in number until the condition of standing on one toe, like the modern horse, was achieved. The teeth became larger, with a more complex surface. The face became longer. In addition, the overall body size increased, growing from the tiny size of the forest dwellers to the significantly larger modern horse size.

An animal called Eohippus is often cited as the first identifiable horse ancestor. Eohippus lived about 60 million years ago and is nicknamed the "dawn horse." It was a small, dog-sized animal with five toes on its front feet and three toes on its hind feet. The animal stood high on its toes, the tips of which were covered with strong little hooves. The teeth were the browsing type that had small bumps like those on human molars, but which more closely resembled those of a pig. Scientists estimate that this little horse was about 35 centimeters (14 inches) high and weighed a little over 5 kilograms (12 pounds).

The next candidate for selection in the fossil record is Hyracotherium, an animal that lived about 55 million years ago. Hyracotherium was more horselike than Eohippus, with its skeleton showing the characteristics that became unique to horses. The skull was longer and larger, and had a shallow basin at the end of shortened nasal bones where the nose is. The lower jaw was bigger and stronger than its relatives. The top and bottom incisors, or front teeth, met squarely and formed a "nipping-type" set of teeth. The back of the head no longer sloped backward but was now straight up and down. The neck bones were shaped so that the neck not only was longer, but could be rotated upward. Eventually, this feature helped the descendants of Hyracotherium to reach downward for grasses. Scientists believe that Hyracotherium (and many other species of horses at this time) had a short, prehensile proboscis, or snout, that could pick tasty leaves from high up in trees and bushes.

The legs of Hyracotherium were longer than those of Eohippus and other horses. The front legs of its ancestors had been about 40 percent longer than the hind legs, but the two sets of legs of Hyracotherium were more evenly lengthened. The feet began to change shape as their function for running became greater. The carpals and tarsals (wrist and ankle bones) became smaller and more square. The metacarpals and metatarsals (equivalent to the bones of a human palm) were longer and more slender. The wrist and ankle became more stabilized to prevent side-to-side motion and aid in more efficient running. One of the ankle bones, the astragalus, formed a unique notch where it met the lower leg bone, the tibia. This permitted greater force to be exerted on the foot when pushed against for running. In the wrist, the carpals interlocked with the lower row, providing a stronger pull stroke when running.

These trends continued in species named Orohippus and Mesohippus. The fossil record reveals a divergence of evolution around the time of Mesohippus, about 34 million years ago. One line contained the species Kalobatippus and Hypohippus, and died out with Megahippus. The other line, which leads to Equus, contained Miohippus and a tiny Archaeohippus and continued the skull and leg transformation. Archaeohippus was not highly successful, and its lineage died out relatively quickly. The ankle and wrist of Miohippus and its ancestors continued to strengthen, and the legs finally lengthened so that the animal stood higher in front than in the back. Mesohippus was the first ancestor of the horse to have one fewer front toe, although all the remaining horses eventually had three toes on each foot.

By the Oligocene (the end of the Tertiary epoch), major changes in the horses began to take place. The forest dwellers were no longer dominant, and horses who ate the newly rising C4 grasses began to spread into the great grasslands. These horses were larger, with increasingly long legs, and were able to explore new territory. The wrist and ankle bones continued to become more square and flat so that the force of running would not destabilize the foot. The side-to-side motion of the wrist and ankle was reduced to prevent wobbling, with the back-and-forth motion becoming stronger.

The trend toward an enlarged skull continued for the rest of horse history. The teeth, which were so important for grazing on tougher grasses, lost their roots and became hypsodont, or very high-crowned. One of the most identifiable characteristics of the horse is complex enamel, the tough outer coating of the tooth. Enamel resists the grinding actions of chewing. During the evolution of the horse, the enamel on the molars infolded from the sides, increasing the number of bumpy grinding surfaces. This trend continued for millions of years as horses ate more and more fibrous food. Many scientists believe that horses have the most complex and resistant teeth of almost all the large mammals. Some rodents have complex teeth, but like horses, they eat tough, fibrous foods, like seeds and silica-containing grasses.

The skeleton of the horse continued to grow from about 24 million years ago to the present. While the legs got longer and longer, the scapular (shoulder bone) and pelvis (hip bones) stayed relatively the same size. The neck and back elongated. This change resulted in two advantages for the horse. First, it allowed the horse's head to flex down to the ground to get the grasses. Second, the longer back gave greater flexure for a fast running pace. When an animal like a horse or cheetah runs, one of the important parts of the running pace is the springlike flexure of the back. Some species of horses that showed these changes were Parahippus, Merychippus, Neohipparion, Pliohippus (the first single-toed horse), Dinohippus, Hippidion, and Equus.

Hippidion and Equus lived at the same time, but Hippidion became extinct sometime in the Pleistocene. By this time, horses were gone from North America and it is believed that only a few populations continued in remote places. One populationa small, stocky, pony-type horse resistant to cold and wetwas discovered in northwest Europe. Another populationhorses that were larger and resistant to heatwas found in central Asia. These central Asian horses were the ancestors of the desert horses of today.

The horse was reintroduced to North America by the Spanish during their explorations in the early sixteenth century. Many escaped or were let go and are the ancestors of the wild mustang. Horses now thrive all over the world. They are considered animals of beauty and grace and many cultures, such as the Native Americans of the North American plains and nomadic peoples in Mongolia, depend on the horse.

see also Biological Evolution; Physiology.

Brook Ellen Hall


MacFadden, Bruce. Fossile Horses: Systematics, Paleobiology, and Evolution of the Family Equidae. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Simpson, George Gaylord. Horses: The Story of the Horse Family in the Modern World and Through Sixty Million Years of History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1951.

Internet Resources

The International Museum of the Horse. Lexington, Kentucky. <>.

The Equine Studies Institute. Ed. Deb Bennett. Smithsonian Institution. <>.

Horses. PBS/Nature. <>.

The Florida Museum of Natural History. <>.

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horse, hoofed, herbivorous mammal now represented by a single extant genus, Equus. The term horse commonly refers only to the domestic Equus caballus and to the wild Przewalski's horse. (Other so-called wild horses are feral domestic horses or their descendants.) Adapted to plains environments, all Equus species, including the ass and the zebra, have lengthened foot bones ending in a single toe covered by a hoof, for fast running; teeth shaped for grinding grass; and intestinal protozoa for digesting cellulose. All species have tufts of hair on the tail, used against insects, and manes on the neck. Horses, zebras, and asses can interbreed, but the offspring are usually sterile. The offspring of a horse and a donkey (domestic ass) is called a mule.

A male horse is called a stallion, or if castrated, a gelding; a female is a mare; her offspring are foals—males are colts, females are fillies. A male parent is a sire, a female parent is a dam. A single foal is born after a gestation of about 11 months. Horses reach sexual maturity in about two years, but are not fully grown for about five years. The average life span is 18 years, but 30-year-old horses are common. The standard unit of height is a hand, equal to 4 in. (10 cm).

See horse racing; equestrianism.

History and Breeds

The earliest known direct ancestor of Equus, the eohippus [Gr.,=dawn horse], 10 to 20 in. (25–50 cm) tall, lived approximately 50 million years ago in both the Old and New Worlds. Equus originally evolved in North America by the late Pliocene epoch, some 4 million years ago (based on DNA sequencing of modern and ancient horses), spreading to all continents except Australia. Horses disappeared from the Americas for unknown reasons about 10,000 years ago, to be reintroduced by Europeans, c.AD 1500.

Many species of Equus arose in the Old World. Horses were probably first domesticated by central Asian nomads around 3500 BC Horses were recorded in Mesopotamia and China (c.2000 BC), Greece (c.1700 BC), Egypt (c.1600 BC), and India (c.1500 BC). Horses were domesticated in W Europe no later than 1000 BC It is not known whether these early domesticated horses developed from a single wild race or from many local races.

Largely superseding the slower, less manageable ass, which had been domesticated much earlier, the horse's first known use was for drawing Mesopotamian war chariots. It was long reserved primarily for warfare and for transportation for the rich and well-born, while cheaper animals (e.g., oxen, mules, and donkeys) were used for lowlier work. Horses figured importantly in war and conquest in Europe, central Asia, and the Middle East for over 3,000 years. Early warriors rode bareback or with saddle cloths. The saddle and the stirrup were probably developed in China in the early Christian era, spread by Asian horsemen (such as the Huns), and adopted by Arabs and Europeans in the early Middle Ages. Arab cavalry conquered the Middle East and N Africa in the 7th cent. AD In the same period, armored knights were riding to battles in Europe. With highly developed cavalry tactics, the Mongols extended their 13th cent. empire from China to E Europe.

The Spanish conquistadors brought horses to the New World, where Native Americans soon acquired them from ranches and missions. The Plains Indians of North America quickly developed a horse culture that led to their ascendancy in numbers and power. Horses were used for hunting buffalo and other game, for warfare, and for pulling loads on a travois. Escaped Indian horses were ancestral to the mustang, the so-called wild horse of the W United States.

The two major groups of modern horses—the light, swift southern breeds, called light horses, and the heavy, powerful northern breeds, called draft horses—are believed to have arisen independently. The small breeds called ponies may derive from a southern, light horse or from a wild race.

Draft Horses

During Roman times the Gauls and other Europeans used horses of the heavy, northern type for pulling loads and other work. In the Middle Ages huge draft animals, over 16 hands (64 in./160 cm) high, were bred to carry armored knights as well as their own armor. As cavalry warfare declined, such medieval inventions as the horseshoe and the rigid horse-collar (see harness) made draft horses more useful for work. By the 19th cent. the draft horse had replaced the ox in N Europe and North America. Draft breeds common in the United States were the Belgian, the Clydesdale, the Percheron; and the Shire, also the most common draft horse in England.

Light Horses

Modern light horses, all descended in part from the Arabian horse, the oldest surviving breed of known lineage, include the Thoroughbred, celebrated as a racehorse; the American saddlebred horse, known for its easy gaits; the Morgan and the quarter horse, favored for riding and cow herding; and the Standardbred, or trotter, developed for light harness racing. The Appaloosa and the Pinto, much used in cow herding, are distinguished by their patterned colors. The palomino is not a breed but a color type. Among the small horses are the Shetland pony and Welsh pony. The terms cow pony and polo pony refer to the animal's use rather than its size or breed. Although little used for work today, horses are widely owned for recreational riding and show activities.


Horses are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Perissodactyla, family Equidae.


See A. Hyland, Equus (1990); E. H. Edwards and C. Geddes, ed., The Complete Horse Book (1991); K. R. Ward, The American Horse (1991); J. Clutton-Brock, Horse Power (1992); J. Holderness-Roddam, The New Complete Book of the Horse (1992); A. N. Greene, Horses at Work: Harnessing Power in Industrial America (2008); P. Kelekna, The Horse in Human History (2009).

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HORSE. For the last five thousand years, the horse has of been of greater human interest for its strength than as a source of meat. The domestication of the horse is considered to have taken place in the present-day Ukraine in the fourth millennium b.c.e., and the practice spread from there. Prior to that, wild horses had been caught for food and seem to have been eaten by most peoples that adopted them during the first three thousand years of their domestication, though other, work-oriented kinds of use were more important.

The people of ancient Greece and Rome despised horse eating, although it was still practiced among the Germanic peoples and Asian nomads at that time. The Asian nomads also made a common use of mare's milk and "koumiss"; in fact, fermented mare's milk has been an important foodstuff in the steppes of Central Asia and is still a common drink there, and is also known in Scandinavia and the former Soviet Republics. Boeuf tartar is believed to originate from Asian Nomads, who preferred horsemeat to beef and therefore many think that this dish was originally made from horsemeat. Horsemeat is still an important food in Mongolia and Japan. The Japanese like to use it in their famous teriyaki. Horses are bred for food in many places in Asia, as in Mongolia, Central Asia, and Japan.

The dietary restrictions of Jews, Muslims, and most Hindus do not allow horsemeat in the diet. The practice of sacrificing horses and in some cases consuming their meat has been widespread in Europe and South Asia from the beginning of their domestication. It was part of pagan Germanic ceremonies and its importance in pagan religion is probably the reason why it was despised by Christians. Horsemeat is the only foodstuff that Christianity has abolished from the diet for religious reasons. Canon law forbade the eating of horses, and most of the Christian societies in Europe adopted that ban. This ban was for the most part abolished in first half of the nineteenth century in the Christian countries of Europe. Now horsemeat is eaten in most of the European countries, and in France, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, and Iceland horses are bred for food production, although horse has not yet become a considerable part of the diet in any of these countries. The French and Flemish consume the most horsemeat in Europe, but the highest rate of consumption has amounted to only about five percent of that of beef. In the last decades of twentieth century the consumption of horsemeat dropped. One reason was that meat was cheaper when it was a byproduct of raising horses for uses that machines have mostly taken over now. Another reason is the increased opposition to eating horsemeat by animal rights activists. Activists in the United Kingdom have fought against eating horsemeat for decades, and in America the campaign against horse slaughtering for food is also prominent. Some American Indians are traditionally horse eaters, but the average consumption in the United States is low, although horsemeat is readily available. French immigrants make up a considerable part of the horse eaters. In many places in the Americas, as in the United States (the leading producer of horsemeat), Argentina, and Canada, horses are bred for their meat but it is mostly exported.

Horsemeat is darker red than beef and venison. Raw horsemeat is also more fibrous, and if kept for a while, it becomes rapidly black in color. It is more than 50 percent lower in fat and energy than beef, but of comparable nutritional value. After slaughter, foals and horses up to about two years old are usually chopped and prepared in ways similar to cattle and served as various kinds of steaks and goulashes, although special recipes for horsemeat are rare in the cookbooks of the Western world. The meat is easy to digest and the taste generally falls somewhere between beef and venison but a bit sweeter than either. Meat of older horses is commonly salted, smoked, or made into sausages. It can be very difficult to distinguish foal meat and beef, if it is spiced the right way. Hence in many places measures have been taken to prevent selling of horsemeat as beef. Older horses tend to be fatter, and horsefat is yellowish in color and not considered good in taste. The horsefat gets quickly rancid if not properly conserved, and horsemeat deteriorates more rapidly than beef. The fat, when melted, becomes oillike, and has been used for bread baking in northern Europe.

See also Asia, Central ; Cattle ; China ; Dairy Products ; Goat ; Japan ; Mammals ; Meat ; Pig ; Taboos .


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Kiple, Kenneth F., and Kriemhild Coneè Ornelas, eds. The Cambridge World History of Food. Volume I. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge Unversity Press, 2000.

Milk and Milk Products from Medieval to Modern Times. Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Ethnological Food Research. Ireland, 1992; edited by Patricia Lysaght. Edinburgh: Canongate in association with the Department of Irish Folklore, University College Dublin, 1994.

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Hallgerdur Gísladóttir

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336. Horse

  1. Al Borak white horse Muhammad rode to the seven heavens. [Islam: Leach, 172]
  2. Arion fabulous winged horse; offspring of Demeter and Poseidon. [Gk. Myth.: Zimmerman, 31]
  3. Arundel Beviss incomparable steed. [Br. Lit.: Bevis of Hampton ]
  4. Assault famous horse in history of thoroughbred racing. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 1273]
  5. Balius immortal steed of Achilles. [Gk. Myth.: Kravitz, 44]
  6. Bavieca the Cids horse. [Sp. Legend: Brewer Dictionary, 80]
  7. Black Beauty story of a horse has become a childrens classic. [Br. Lit.: Black Beauty, Payton, 80]
  8. Black Bess belonged to the notorious highwayman, Dick Turpin. [Br. Hist.: Benét, 103]
  9. Bucephalus wild steed, broken by Alexander to be his mount. [Gk. Hist.: Leach, 167]
  10. centaur beast that is half-horse, half-man. [Gk. Myth.: Mercatante, 201202]
  11. Citation famous horse in history of thoroughbred racing. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 1273]
  12. Clavileño legendary wooden horse on which Don Quixote and Sancho Panza think they are taking a journey through the air. [Span. Lit.: Bella, 205]
  13. Flicka a paragon of horses. [TV: My Friend Flicka in Terrace, II, 125]
  14. Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The ride white, red, black, and pale horses, symbolizing, respectively, invasion, civil strife, scarcity and famine, and pestilence and death. [N.T.: Revelation 6:1-8]
  15. Gallant Fox famous horse in history of thoroughbred racing. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 1273]
  16. Gilpin, John his borrowed horse carries him at a mad pace for miles to its owners home, then turns and runs back. [Br. Poetry: John Gilpins Ride ]
  17. Grane Brünnhildes war horse, presented to Siegfried. [Ger. Opera: Wagner, Gotterdammerung, Westerman, 244]
  18. Gringalet Gawains steed. [Br. Lit.: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight ]
  19. Gunpowder Ichabod Cranes favorite steed. [Am. Lit.: Washington Irving The Legend of Sleepy Hollow]
  20. Hambletonian famous trotting horse after which race for threeyear-old trotters is named. [Am. Culture; Mathews, 769]
  21. Harum, David would rather trade horses than eat or sleep. [Am. Lit.: David Harum in Magill I, 192]
  22. Hippolytus, St. patron saint of horses. [Christian Hagiog.: Brewster, 367]
  23. Houyhnhnms race of horses that represent nobility, virtue, and reason. [Br. Lit.: Gulliver s Travels ]
  24. Man o War (Big Red ) famous racehorse foaled at Belmont Stables. [Am. Hist.: Payton, 421]
  25. Meg (Maggie ) Tam OShanters gray mare that lost her tail to the witch. [Scot. Poetry: Burns Tam OShanter]
  26. Mr. Ed the talking horse. [TV: Terrace, II, 116117]
  27. Native Dancer famous horse in history of thoroughbred racing. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 1273]
  28. Pegasus winged mount of Bellerophon. [Gk. Myth.: Hall, 238]
  29. roan stallion tramples its owner to death and is shot by his wife, though she had been seduced by the stallions beauty. [Am. Poetry: Robinson Jeffers The Roan Stallion in Magill I, 835]
  30. Rosinante Don Quixotes mount. [Span. Lit.: Don Quixote ]
  31. Scout Tontos horse. [TV: The Lone Ranger in Terrace, II, 34; Radio: The Lone Ranger in Buxton, 143]
  32. Seabiscuit famous horse in history of thoroughbred racing. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 1273]
  33. Seattle Slew famous horse in history of thoroughbred racing. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 1273]
  34. Secretariat famous horse in history of thoroughbred racing. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 1273]
  35. Shadowfax great horse of the wizard Gandalf. [Br. Lit.: J. R. R. Tolkien Lord of the Rings ]
  36. Silver the Lone Rangers trusty steed. [Radio: The Lone Ranger in Buxton, 143144; TV: Terrace, II, 3435]
  37. Sleipnir Odins eight-legged gray horse. [Norse Myth.: Benét, 937]
  38. Tony Tom Mixs Wonder Horse. [Radio: Tom Mix in Buxton, 241242]
  39. Topper Hopalong Cassidys faithful horse. [Cinema and TV: Hopalong Cassidy in Terrace, I, 369]
  40. Trigger Roy Rogers horse. [TV: The Roy Rogers Show in Terrace, II, 260]
  41. Whirlaway famous horse in history of thoroughbred racing. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 1273]

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"Horse." Allusions--Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

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The horse originated in the Western Hemisphere but it became extinct there at the end of the ice age (around 10,000 b.c.). Horses had migrated into Asia before this time, and there the species continued. From Asia horses spread both northward and westward, and they were domesticated by man by 4350 b.c.. Between a.d. 900 and 1000 horses came into widespread use throughout Europe. When Christopher Columbus (14511506) landed at Hispaniola (present-day Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic) in 1492, he brought with him horses and cattle. These were the first seen in the New World in 7,500 years; the Native Americans had no beasts of burden prior to the arrival of the Europeans. In 1540 Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto (1500?42) landed on the Gulf coast of Florida with more than six hundred men and two hundred horses. Also in 1540, Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado (c. 151054), who was looking for the Seven Cities of Cibola (mythical cities thought to contain vast treasures), arrived in the American southwest and brought with him the first horses and livestock ever seen in the region.

The introduction of the horse had a profound effect on North and South America. The Spanish conquistadors rode on horseback in battle against the native inhabitants, and they could easily subdue them and claim their lands. (The Spaniards also had guns, which combined with the horse to give them the advantage over the Native American warriors.) The American Indians that survived European incursion learned how to raise and use horses themselves. This knowledge enabled them to hunt game such as buffalo more effectively. The horse allowed the European settlers to expand westward via stagecoach and covered wagon and to convey messages cross country (by Pony Express).

Until the advent of the train (called the "iron horse") in the mid-1800s, the horse was the primary means for overland travel in the United States. It also figured prominently in the nation's military history, including the American Revolution (177583) and the American Civil War (186165). In 1811 construction began on the first federal road, the Cumberland Road (also called the National Road). Beginning in Cumberland, Maryland, the road continued west to St. Louis, Missouri. As a result, St. Louis received an influx of immigrants and became a vital trade center later that century.

See also: Columbian Exchange, National Road, Mesoamerica

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"Horses." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

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211. Horses

See also 16. ANIMALS .

the training of horses in obedience and the execution of precise movements.
1. the art of horsemanship.
2. the practice of this art. equestrian, equestrienne , n. equestrian , adj.
the art or act of riding on horseback; horsemanship.
1. the study and treatment of diseases of horses.
2. a work on the diseases of horses. Also hippiatry . hippiatrist , n. hippia-tric , adj.
Ancient Greece and Rome. an arena for horse races.
the study of horses.
a form of divination involving the observation of horses, especially by listening to their neighing.
a mama for horses.
the study and treatment of the diseases of the horse.
a lover of horses.
an abnormal fear of horses.
the sculpting of white horses on hillsides by cutting away grass and earth to reveal underlying stone or chalk deposits, thought to be a sym-bol of Odin, as near Uffington, England.
manège, manege
1. the art and practice of horsemanship.
2. the special paces taught to a horse in training.
3. the school or academy where they are taught.

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"Horses." -Ologies and -Isms. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

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horse the horse, used for riding, racing, and to carry and pull loads, is taken as a type of strength. (See also horses.)
horse chestnut the fruit of this tree is said to have been an Eastern remedy for chest diseases in horses, and the name (recorded from the late 16th century) translates (now obsolete) botanical Latin Castanea equina.
Horse Guards in the UK, the mounted squadrons provided from the Household Cavalry for ceremonial duties.
horse latitudes a belt of calm air and sea occurring in both the northern and southern hemispheres between the trade winds and the westerlies.
Horse-marines a name for the 17th Lancers, two troops of whom were once employed as marines during fighting in the West Indies (see also, tell that to the horse marines).
you can take a horse to water but you cannot make him drink even if you create the right circumstances, you cannot persuade someone to do something against their will; proverbial saying recorded from the late 12th century.

See also back the wrong horse, put the cart before the horse, dark horse, never look a gift horse in the mouth, a good horse cannot be of a bad colour, horses, straight from the horse's mouth.

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"horse." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

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horse / hôrs/ • n. 1. a solid-hoofed plant-eating domesticated mammal (Equus caballus) with a flowing mane and tail, used for riding, racing, and to carry and pull loads. The horse family (Equidae) also includes the asses and zebras. ∎  an adult male horse; a stallion or gelding. ∎  a wild mammal of the horse family. ∎  [treated as sing. or pl.] cavalry: forty horse and sixty foot. 2. a frame or structure on which something is mounted or supported, esp. a sawhorse. ∎  short for pommel horse or vaulting horse. 3. inf. heroin. 4. inf. a unit of horsepower: the huge 63-horse 701-cc engine. • v. [tr.] (usu. be horsed) provide (a person or vehicle) with a horse or horses. PHRASES: from the horse's mouth (of information) from the person directly concerned or another authoritative source.PHRASAL VERBS: horse around inf. fool around. DERIVATIVES: horse·less adj. horse·like / -līk/ adj.

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"horse." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"horse." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . (December 17, 2017).

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horses change horses in midstream change one's mind or tactics midway through a course of action. Recorded from the mid 19th century, quoted by Abraham Lincoln as the saying of ‘an old Dutch farmer’, and often as the proverbial saying, don't change horses in midstream.
horses for courses proverbial saying, late 19th century, originally (in horse-racing) meaning that different horses are suited to different race-courses; now used more generally to mean that different people are suited to different roles.
wild horses won't drag someone to something nothing will make someone go to a particular place, an emphatic assertion referring to the traditional punishment of tying someone to one or more wild horses to be dragged to death or pulled apart. (St Giles and St Hippolytus, a Roman martyr of the 3rd century are said to have been torn apart by wild horses.)

See also horse, if you can't ride two horses at once, if wishes were horses at wish.

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"horses." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

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horse Hoofed mammal that evolved in North America but became extinct there during the late Pleistocene epoch. Early horse forms crossed the land bridge across the Bering Strait, dispersed throughout Asia, Europe and Africa, and produced the modern horse family. The only surviving true wild horse is Przewalski's horse. The horse was first domesticated about 5000 years ago in central Asia and played a crucial role in agricultural and military development. Horses returned to the New World with the Spanish conquistadores in the 1500s. Horses are characterized by one large functional toe, molars with crowns joined by ridges for grazing, an elongated skull and a simple stomach. Fast runners, they usually live in harasses. All species in the family can interbreed. Family Equideae; species Equus caballus.

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"horse." World Encyclopedia. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

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horse the quadruped Equus caballus OE.; contrivance whose use suggests the service of a horse XIV. OE. hors n. = OS. hros, hers (MLG. ros, ors, MDu. ors, Du. ros), OHG. (h)ros (MHG. ros, ors, G. ross) n., ON. hross m. :- Gmc. *χursam, -az, of unkn. orig. In attrib. use often denoting coarseness, roughness, or large size, as horse chestnut (XVI), laugh (XVIII), leech (XV), mackerel (XVII), play (XVI), radish (XVII).
Hence horse vb. OE. horsian.

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"horse." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

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horse Equus caballus; a 150‐g portion is an exceptionally rich source of iron; a rich source of protein and niacin, and a source of vitamins B1 and B2; contains about 5 g of fat, of which one‐third is saturated; supplies 175 kcal (735 kJ).

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"horse." A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

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horse A lenticular or sigmoidal mass of rock which is completely bounded by two or more thrust faults which rejoin along the strike and up-dip. The term may also be used for the analogous structure in strikeslip terrains (see STRIKE-SLIP FAULT).

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"horse." A Dictionary of Earth Sciences. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

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horse (Equus) See EQUIDAE.

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"horse." A Dictionary of Zoology. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

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horsecoarse, corse, course, divorce, endorse (US indorse), enforce, force, gorse, hoarse, horse, morse, Norse, perforce, reinforce, sauce, source, torse •Wilberforce • workforce • packhorse •carthorse • racehorse • sea horse •hobby horse • Whitehorse •sawhorse, warhorse •clothes horse • shire horse •workhorse • racecourse • concourse •intercourse • watercourse •outsource

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"horse." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

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