The horse (Equus ferus caballus) is one of two existing subspecies of Equus ferus. It is an ungulate mammal with odd fingers belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae.
The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years, from a small, multi-fingered creature, Eohippus, to today’s large one-fingered animal. Humans began to domesticate horses around 4000 BC, and their domestication is believed to have been widespread in 3000 BC. Horses in the subspecies caballus are domesticated, although some domesticated populations live in the wild like wild horses. These wild populations are not true wild horses, as this term is used to describe horses that have never been domesticated, such as Przewalski’s horse, in danger of extinction, a separate subspecies and the only true remaining wild horse. There is an extensive and specialized vocabulary used to describe concepts related to horses, covering everything from anatomy to life stages, size, colors, markings, races, locomotion and behavior.
Horses are adapted to run, allowing them to escape quickly from predators, having an excellent sense of balance and a strong fight or flight response. Related to this need to escape predators in the wild, there is an unusual feature: horses are able to sleep standing up and lying down, with younger horses tending to sleep significantly more than adults. Females, called mares, carry their young for approximately 11 months, and a young horse, called a foal, can stand and run shortly after birth. Most domesticated horses begin training under a saddle or on a harness between the ages of two and four. They reach full adult development at the age of five and have an average lifespan between 25 and 30 years.
Horse breeds are loosely divided into three categories based on general temperament: witty “hot blood” with speed and endurance; “cold blooded”, like draft horses and some ponies, suitable for slow and heavy work; and “half blood”, developed from crosses between warm and cold bloods, often with a focus on breeding breeds for specific riding purposes, particularly in Europe. There are more than 300 breeds of horses in the world today, developed for many different uses.
Horses and humans interact in a wide variety of sporting competitions and non-competitive recreational activities, as well as in work activities such as police work, agriculture, entertainment and therapy. Horses were historically used in war, from which a wide variety of riding techniques were developed, using many different styles of equipment and methods of control. Many products are derived from horses, including meat, milk, leather, hair, bones and pharmaceutical products extracted from the urine of pregnant mares. Humans provide domesticated horses with food, water and shelter, in addition to the attention of specialists such as veterinarians and farriers.
Specific terms and specialized language are used to describe equine anatomy, different stages of life, colors and races.
Depending on the breed, handling and environment, the modern domestic horse has a life expectancy of 25 to 30 years. Uncommon, some animals live in their 40s and occasionally beyond. The verifiable record of the oldest animal was “Old Billy”, a 19th century horse that lived to be 62 years old. In modern times, “Sugar Puff”, which had been listed on Guinness World Records as the oldest living pony in the world, died in 2007 at the age of 56.
Regardless of the actual birth date of a horse or pony, for most competition purposes, a year is added to your age each January 1 of each year in the Northern Hemisphere and each August 1 in the Southern Hemisphere. The exception is in endurance tests, where the minimum age to compete is based on the actual age of the animal.
Size And Measurement
The height of the horses is measured at the highest point at the withers, where the neck meets the back. This point is used because it is a stable point of the anatomy, unlike the head or neck, which moves up and down in relation to the horse’s body.
The size of the horses varies according to the breed, but is also influenced by nutrition. Generally, light riding horses range from 142 to 163cm and can weigh from 380 to 550kg. Larger horses usually start at about 157cm and are usually as tall as 173cm, weighing from 500 to 600kg. Heavy or draft horses are generally at least 163cm tall and can be up to 183cm tall. They can weigh from 700 to 1,000 kg.
The largest horse in recorded history was probably a Shire horse, called Mammoth, born in 1848. He was 21 years old, 219 cm tall and his peak weight was estimated at 1,524 kg. The current record holder for the smallest horse in the world is Thumbelina, a fully mature miniature horse, affected by dwarfism. She is 43 cm tall and weighs 26 kg.
Ponies are taxonomically the same animals as horses. The distinction between a horse and a pony is commonly made based on height, especially for competition purposes. However, height alone is not favorable; the difference between horses and ponies can also include aspects of the phenotype, including conformation and temperament.
The traditional pattern for the height of a horse or pony at maturity is 147 cm. An animal with 147 cm or more is generally considered a horse and one with less than 147 cm a pony, but there are many exceptions to the traditional pattern. In Australia, ponies are considered to be less than 142 cm. For competitions in the western division of the United States Equestrian Federation, the cutoff point is 145 cm. The International Federation of Equestrian Sports, the world body for sport on horseback, uses metric measures and defines a pony as any horse measuring less than 148 centimeters at the withers.
Height is not the only criterion for distinguishing horses from ponies. Breed records for horses that normally breed individuals below and above 147cm consider all animals of that breed to be horses, regardless of their height. On the other hand, some pony breeds may have characteristics in common with horses, and individual animals may occasionally grow by more than 147cm, but are still considered to be ponies.
Ponies generally display manes, tails and thicker fur. They also have proportionately shorter legs, wider barrels, heavier bones, shorter and thicker necks and short heads with broad foreheads. They may have calmer temperaments than horses and also a high level of intelligence that may or may not be used to cooperate with human manipulators. Small size alone is not an exclusive determinant. For example, the Shetland pony, averaging 102 cm, is considered a pony. On the other hand, breeds such as Falabella and other miniature horses, which cannot exceed 76 cm, are classified by their records as very small horses, not ponies.
Horses have 64 chromosomes. The horse’s genome was sequenced in 2007. It contains 2.7 billion base pairs of DNA, which is larger than the dog’s genome, but smaller than the human or bovine genomes. The map is available to researchers.
Colors And Markings
Horses exhibit a diverse variety of coat colors and distinct markings, described by a specialized vocabulary. Often, a horse is classified first by coat color, before race or sex. Horses of the same color can be distinguished from each other by white marks, which, together with various patterns of spots, are inherited separately from the coat color.
Many genes that create horse coat colors and patterns have been identified. Current genetic tests can identify at least 13 different alleles that influence coat color, and research continues to discover new genes linked to specific characteristics. The basic coat colors of chestnut and black are determined by the gene controlled by the Melanocortin 1 receptor, also known as “extension gene” or “red factor”, as its recessive form is “red” (chestnut) and its dominant form it’s black. Additional genes control black color suppression for spot coloration that results in a bay, spot patterns like chick or leopard, dilution genes like palomino or brown, as well as gray and all the other factors that create the many possible coat colors found on horses.
Horses that have a white coat color are generally not white; a horse that looks “white” is usually a middle-aged gray or older. The grays are born with a darker shade, become lighter as they age, but generally keep the black skin under the white hair (except for the pink skin under white spots). The only white horses are born with a predominantly white coat and pink skin, a very rare occurrence. Different and unrelated genetic factors can produce white coat colors in horses, including several different alleles from the dominant white and the sabino-1 gene. However, there are no “albino horses”, defined as having pink skin and red eyes.
Reproduction and Development
Gestation lasts approximately 340 days, with an average interval of 320 to 370 days, and usually results in a foal; twins are rare. Horses are a precocious species and foals are able to stand and run shortly after birth. A mare’s estrous cycle occurs approximately every 19 to 22 days. Foals are usually weaned from their mothers between four and six months of age.
Horses, especially foals, are sometimes physically able to breed at 18 months, but domesticated horses are rarely allowed to breed before age three, especially females. Four-year-old horses are considered mature, although the skeleton will normally continue to develop until the age of six; maturation also depends on the horse’s size, race, sex and quality of care. Larger horses have larger bones; therefore, bones not only take longer to form bone tissue, but epiphyseal plaques are larger and take longer to convert from cartilage to bone. These plaques convert after the other parts of the bones and are crucial for development.
Depending on the expected maturity, breed and work, horses are usually saddled and trained to be ridden between the ages of two and four. Although purebred horses are put on the track from the age of two in some countries, horses bred specifically for sports such as dressage are generally not put on saddles until they are three or four years old, because their bones and muscles are not solidly developed. For endurance competitions, horses are not considered mature enough to compete until the age of 60 months (five years).
The horse’s skeleton has an average of 205 bones. A significant difference between the skeleton of the horse and that of a human is the lack of a collarbone – the horse’s forelimbs are attached to the spine by a powerful set of muscles, tendons and ligaments that attach the shoulder blade to the trunk. The horse’s four legs and hooves are also unique structures. Leg bones are provided differently than humans. For example, the part of the body that is called a horse’s “knee” is actually made up of the carpal bones that correspond to the human wrist.
Likewise, the hock contains bones equivalent to those of the human ankle and heel. The bones of a horse’s leg correspond to the bones of the human hand or foot, and the lock (incorrectly called “ankle”) is actually the proximal sesamoid bones between the cannon bones (a single equivalent to the human metacarpal or metatarsal bones) ) and the proximal phalanges, located where the “joints” of a human being are found. A horse also has no muscles in the legs below the knees and hocks, just skin, hair, bones, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and the various specialized tissues that make up the hoof.
The horse’s hoof begins with the distal phalanges, the equivalent of the human fingertip or toe tip, surrounded by cartilage and other blood-rich soft tissues. The outer wall of the hull and the sole are made of keratin, the same material as a human nail. The end result is that a horse, weighing an average of 500kg, walks on the same bones as a human on tiptoes. For protection of the hoof under certain conditions, some horses have horseshoes placed on their feet by a professional farrier. The hoof grows continuously, and most domesticated horses need to be trimmed (and the horseshoes restored, if used) every five to eight weeks, although the horses’ hooves in the wild wear out and regress at a rate appropriate to their terrain.
The horses are adapted to graze. In an adult horse, there are 12 incisors in front of the mouth, adapted to bite grass or other vegetation. There are 24 teeth adapted for chewing, the premolars and molars, in the posterior part of the mouth. Stallions and castros have four additional teeth just behind the incisors, a type of canine tooth. Some horses, both male and female, will also develop one to four very small vestigial teeth in front of the molars, known as wolf teeth, which are usually removed because they can interfere with dentition. There is an empty interdental space between the incisors and the molars.
An estimate of a horse’s age can be made by looking at the teeth. Teeth continue to erupt throughout life and are worn out by grazing. Therefore, the incisors show changes as the horse ages; they develop a distinctive wear pattern, changes in the shape of the teeth and changes in the angle at which the chewing surfaces meet. This allows a rough estimate of a horse’s age, although diet and veterinary care can also affect the rate of tooth wear.
Horses are herbivores with a digestive system adapted to a forage diet of grasses and other plant materials, consumed constantly throughout the day. Therefore, compared to humans, they have a relatively small stomach, but very long intestines to facilitate a steady flow of nutrients. A 450 kg horse eats 7 to 11 kg of food per day and, under normal use, drinks 38 to 45 liters of water. Horses are not ruminants, they have only one stomach, like humans, but, unlike humans, they can use cellulose, an important component of grass. Horses are large intestine fermenters. Fermentation of cellulose by symbiotic bacteria occurs in the cecum through which food passes before it reaches the large intestine. Horses cannot vomit, so digestion problems can quickly cause colic, a major cause of death.
The horses’ senses are based on their prey status, where they must be aware of their surroundings at all times. They have the largest eyes of any land mammal, and have side eyes, which means that their eyes are positioned on the sides of the head. This means that the horses have an enlarged view of more than 350 °, with approximately 65 ° binocular view and the remaining monocular view of 285 °. Horses have excellent day and night vision, but have bichromatic or dichromatic vision; his color vision is a bit like red-green color blindness in humans, where certain colors, especially red and related colors, appear as a shade of green.
Their sense of smell, although much better than that of humans, is not as good as that of a dog. It is believed that it plays a fundamental role in the social interactions of horses, in addition to detecting other essential aromas in the environment. Horses have two olfactory centers. The first system is in the nostrils and the nasal cavity, which analyze a wide range of odors. The second, located under the nasal cavity, are the vomeronasal organs, also called Jacobson’s organs. These have a separate nerve pathway to the brain and appear to primarily analyze pheromones.
A horse’s hearing is good, and the stud on each ear can rotate up to 180 °, giving the potential for 360 ° hearing without having to move the head. Noise affects the behavior of horses and certain types of noise can contribute to stress: a 2013 study in the UK indicated that stable horses were calmer in a calm environment or if they heard country or classical music, but showed signs nervousness when listening to jazz or rock. This study also recommended keeping the music at a volume of 21 decibels. An Australian study found that racehorses in stables listening to the radio had a higher rate of gastric ulcers than horses listening to music, and racehorses in stables where a radio was played had a higher overall rate of ulceration than stable horses where they did not. there was a radio.
Horses have a great sense of balance, due in part to their ability to feel balance and in part to highly developed proprioception – the unconscious sense of where their bodies and limbs are at all times. A horse’s sense of touch is well developed. The most sensitive areas are around the eyes, ears and nose. Horses are able to feel the contact as subtle as an insect landing on any part of the body.
Horses have an advanced sense of taste, which allows them to separate their fodder and choose what they would most like to eat, and their prehensile lips can easily separate even small grains. They don’t usually eat poisonous plants; however, there are exceptions; Occasionally, horses eat toxic amounts of poisonous plants, even when there is adequate healthy food.
All horses move naturally with four basic movements: the four-step stride or walk, which averages 6.4 kilometers per hour; trotting or two-stroke racing at 13 to 19 kilometers per hour (faster for racehorses); the canter or short canter, a three-beat march that is 19 to 24 kilometers per hour; and the canter. The gallop is on average 40 to 48 kilometers per hour, but the world record for a horse galloping for a short running distance is 70.76 kilometers per hour. In addition to these basic steps, some horses perform a two-stroke pace instead of a trot.
There are also several four-stroke movements that are approximately the speed of a trot or step, although they are smoother to walk. This includes lateral support, walking and tölt, as well as diagonal trotting.
Horses are trapped with a strong fight or flight response. Their first reaction to a threat is to scare and generally flee, although they stand firm and defend themselves when escape is impossible or if their young are threatened. They also tend to be curious; when frightened, they often hesitate for a moment to ascertain the cause of their fear and do not always shy away from something they consider non-threatening. Most light riding breeds were developed for speed, agility, attention and endurance; natural qualities that extend from their wild ancestors. However, through selective breeding, some breeds of horses are quite docile, particularly some draft horses.
Horses are herd animals, with a clear hierarchy of classification, led by a dominant individual, usually a mare. They are also social creatures that are able to form company bonds with their own species and with other animals, including humans. They communicate in a variety of ways, including vocalizations, such as whistling or neighing, mutual care and body language. Many horses will become difficult to manage if they are isolated, but with training, horses can learn to accept a human as a companion and thus be comfortable away from other horses. However, when confined to company, insufficient exercise or stimuli, individuals can develop stable addictions, a variety of bad habits, mainly stereotypes of psychological origin, which include chewing wood, kicking the wall, “weaving” (swinging forward and back) and other problems.
Intelligence and Learning
Studies have indicated that horses perform various cognitive tasks daily, facing mental challenges that include acquiring food and identifying individuals within a social system. They also have good spatial discrimination skills. They are naturally curious and able to investigate things they have never seen before. Studies have evaluated equine intelligence in areas such as problem solving, learning speed and memory. Horses excel at simple learning, but are also able to use more advanced cognitive skills that involve categorization and concept learning. They can learn using habituation, desensitization, classical conditioning and operant conditioning and positive and negative reinforcement. One study indicated that horses can differentiate between “more or less” if the amount involved is less than four.
Domesticated horses can face greater mental challenges than wild horses, because they live in artificial environments that prevent instinctive behavior and, at the same time, learn tasks that are not natural. Horses are habit animals that respond well to training, and respond best when the same routines and techniques are used consistently. A trainer believes that “intelligent” horses are reflections of intelligent trainers who effectively use response conditioning and positive reinforcement techniques to train in the style that best fits an animal’s natural inclinations.
Horses are mammals and, as such, are warm-blooded or endothermic creatures, as opposed to cold-blooded or poikilothermic animals. However, these words developed a separate meaning in the context of equine terminology, used to describe temperament, not body temperature. For example, “warm blooded” dogs, like many racehorses, exhibit more sensitivity and energy, while “cold blooded” dogs, like most traction breeds, are quieter and quieter. Sometimes “warm-blooded” is classified as “light horse” or “riding horse”, with “cold-blooded” classified as “draft horses” or “work horses”.
The “warm-blooded” breeds include “oriental horses”, such as the Akhal-Teke, the Arabian horse, the Barb and the Turkoman horse, now extinct, and the thoroughbred, a breed developed in England from the more oriental breeds old ones. Warm-blooded people tend to be witty, bold and learn quickly. They are created for agility and speed. They tend to be physically refined – with thin, thin skin and long legs. The original Eastern breeds were brought to Europe by the Middle East and North Africa, when European breeders wished to infuse these characteristics in racehorses and light cavalry.
Heavy, muscular draft horses are known as “cold-blooded” because they are bred not only for strength, but also for the calm and patient temperament required to pull a plow or heavy carriage full of people. They are sometimes called “gentle giants”. Known draft breeds include the Belgian and the Clydesdale. Some, like Percheron, are lighter and more lively, designed to pull carriages or plow large fields in drier climates. Others, like the Shire, are slower and more powerful, designed to plow fields with heavy, clayey soils. The cold-blooded group also includes some pony breeds.
Half-blooded breeds, such as Trakehner or Hanoverian, developed when European chariots and war horses were crossed with Arabs or thoroughbreds, producing a horse with more refinement than a draft horse, but larger and larger milder temperament than a lighter breed. Some ponies with half blood characteristics were developed for smaller riders. Half blood is considered a “light horse” or “riding horse”.
Today, the term “half blood” refers to a specific subset of sport horse breeds that are used for dressage and jumping competition. Strictly speaking, the term “half blood” refers to any cross between cold-blooded and warm-blooded races. Examples include breeds such as the Irish Draft or Cleveland Bay. The term has already been used to refer to breeds of light horses, which are not purebred or Arab, such as the Morgan horse.
Horses are able to sleep standing up and lying down. In a wildlife adaptation, horses are able to fall asleep using an “apparatus” on their legs, allowing them to doze off without passing out. Horses sleep better when in groups, because some animals sleep while others stand guard to watch predators. A horse kept alone does not sleep well because its instincts are to keep an eye out for danger.
Unlike humans, horses do not sleep in a solid, continuous period of time, but take many short periods of rest. Horses spend four to fifteen hours a day at rest and a few minutes to several hours lying down. Total sleep time over a 24-hour period can vary from a few minutes to a few hours, especially at short intervals of about 15 minutes each. The average sleep time for a domestic horse is said to be 2.9 hours a day.
Horses must lie down to achieve deep sleep. They only need to lie down for an hour or two every few days to meet the minimum requirements for deep sleep. However, if a horse can never lie down, after several days it will be deprived of sleep and, in rare cases, it may collapse suddenly when it involuntarily falls asleep while still standing. This condition differs from narcolepsy, although horses can also suffer from this disorder.
Taxonomy and Evolution of the Horse
The horse adapted to survive in areas of open land with scarce vegetation, surviving in an ecosystem where other large grazing animals, mainly ruminants, could not. Horses and other equines are ungulates with odd fingers of the order Perissodactyla, a group of mammals that was dominant during the tertiary period. In the past, this order contained 14 families, but only three – equidae (the horse and related species), tapiridae (the tapir) and Rhinocerotidae (the rhinos) – have survived to the present day.
The oldest known member of the Equidae family was the Hyracotherium, which lived between 45 and 55 million years ago, during the Eocene period. It had 4 fingers on each front paw and 3 fingers on each back paw. The extra finger on the front legs soon disappeared with Mesohippus, which lived 32 to 37 million years ago. Over time, the extra lateral fingers decreased in size until they disappeared. All that remains of them in modern horses is a set of small vestigial bones in the leg below the knee, known informally as splint bones. The legs also elongated when the toes disappeared until they became a hoofed animal capable of running at great speed.
About 5 million years ago, modern Equus had evolved. Equine teeth have also evolved from chewing soft tropical plants to adapt to chewing drier plant material and then pasturing grasses on tougher plains. Thus, proto-horses have moved from leaf-eating forest dwellers to grass-eating inhabitants of semi-arid regions around the world, including the steppes of Eurasia and the Great Plains of North America.
For about 15,000 years ago, Equus ferus was a widespread holistic species. Horse bones from this period, the late Pleistocene, are found in Europe, Eurasia, Beringia and North America. However, between 10,000 and 7,600 years ago, the horse was extinct in North America and rare elsewhere. The reasons for this extinction are not entirely known, but one theory notes that the extinction in North America was parallel to human arrival. Another theory points to climate change, noting that approximately 12,500 years ago, the characteristics of grasses in a steppe ecosystem gave way to the tundra of shrubs, covered with unpleasant plants.
Wild Species That Survive Until Modern Times
A truly wild horse is a species or subspecies without ancestors that has been domesticated. Therefore, nowadays, most “wild” horses are actually animals that have escaped or been released from domestic herds and descendants of these animals. Only two never domesticated subspecies, the tarpan and Przewalski’s horse, survived recorded history and only the latter survives today.
Przewalski’s horse (Equus ferus przewalskii), named after Russian explorer Nikolai Przhevalsky, is a rare Asian animal. It is also known as the Mongolian wild horse; The Mongolian people know it as taki, and the Kyrgyz people call it kirtag. It is assumed that the subspecies was extinct in the wild between 1969 and 1992, while a small breeding population survived in zoos around the world. In 1992, it was restored to nature due to the conservation efforts of several zoos. Today, a small population of wild animals exists in Mongolia. There are still animals in zoos around the world.
The European tarpan or wild horse (Equus ferus ferus) has been found in Europe and much of Asia. It survived the historic era, but was extinct in 1909, when the last captive died in a Russian zoo. Thus, the genetic line was lost. Attempts were made to recreate the tarpan, which resulted in horses with external physical similarities, but still descended from domesticated ancestors and not from true wild horses.
Periodically, horse populations in isolated areas are speculated to be relics of wild horse populations, but they have generally been proven to be domesticated. For example, Tibet’s Riwoche horse was proposed as such, but the tests revealed no genetic differences in domesticated horses. Likewise, Sorraia de Portugal was proposed as a direct descendant of Tarpan based on shared characteristics, but genetic studies have shown that Sorraia is more closely related to other horse breeds and that external resemblance is an unreliable measure of relationship.
Other Modern Equines
In addition to the horse, there are six other species of the genus Equus in the family Equidae. These are the donkey, Equus asinus; the mountain zebra, Equus zebra; lowland zebra, Equus quagga; Grévy’s zebra, Equus grevyi; the quiangue, Equus kiang; and the hemi, Equus hemionus.
Horses can breed with other members of their gender. The most common hybrid is the mule, a cross between a donkey (male donkey) and a mare. A related hybrid, a bardoto, is a cross between a stallion and a donkey (female donkey). Other hybrids include the zebroid, a cross between a zebra and a horse. With rare exceptions, most hybrids are sterile and cannot reproduce.
The domestication of the horse probably occurred in Central Asia before 3500 BC. Two main sources of information are used to determine where and when the horse was first domesticated and how the domesticated horse spread around the world. The first source is based on paleological and archaeological discoveries; the second source is a comparison of the DNA obtained from modern horses with that of bones and teeth from the remains of ancient horses.
The oldest archaeological evidence for the domestication of the horse comes from sites in Ukraine and Kazakhstan, dating from approximately 3500 to 4000 BC. In 3000 BC, the horse was completely domesticated and in 2000 BC there was a sharp increase in the number of horse bones found in human settlements in northwest Europe, indicating the spread of domesticated horses across the continent. The most recent, but most irrefutable, evidence of domestication comes from places where horse remains were buried with carriages in graves of the Sintashta and Petrovka cultures in 2100 BC.
Domestication is also studied using the genetic material of current horses and comparing it with the genetic material present in the bones and teeth of the remains of horses found in archaeological and paleological excavations. The variation in genetic material shows that very few wild stallions contributed to the domestic horse, while many mares were part of the first domesticated herds. This is reflected in the difference in genetic variation between DNA that is transmitted along the paternal or reproductive line (Y chromosome) versus that transmitted along the maternal or matrix line (mitochondrial DNA). There are very low levels of Y chromosome variability, but a great deal of genetic variation in mitochondrial DNA. There is also regional variation in mitochondrial DNA due to the inclusion of wild mares in domestic herds. Another characteristic of domestication is an increase in the variation in coat color. In horses, this increased dramatically between 5000 and 3000 BC.
Before the availability of DNA techniques to address issues related to horse domestication, several hypotheses were proposed. A classification was based on body types and conformation, suggesting the presence of four basic prototypes that had adapted to the environment before domestication. Another hypothesis held that the four prototypes originated from a single wild species and that all different types of bodies were entirely the result of selective breeding after domestication. However, the lack of a detectable substructure in the horse resulted in the rejection of both hypotheses.
Current wild horses are born and live in the wild, but are descended from domesticated animals. Many populations of wild horses exist around the world. Studies of wild herds have provided useful information on the behavior of prehistoric horses, as well as a greater understanding of the instincts and behaviors that drive horses that live in domestic conditions.
There are also semi-wild horses in many parts of the world, such as Dartmoor and New Forest, in the United Kingdom, where all animals are privately owned, but live for significant periods in “wild” conditions in underdeveloped conditions, usually on public land. Owners of these animals usually pay a fee for grazing rights.
The concept of pure blood, a controlled and written record of the breed has become particularly significant and important in modern times. Purebred horses are sometimes called “purebred” incorrectly or inaccurately. Purebred is a specific breed of horse, while a “purebred” is a horse (or any other animal) with a defined lineage recognized by a breed record. Horse breeds are groups of horses with distinct characteristics that are transmitted consistently to their descendants, such as conformation, color, performance capacity or disposition. These inherited characteristics result from a combination of natural crosses and artificial selection methods.
Horses have been bred selectively since domestication. One of the first examples of people who practiced selective breeding of horses was the Bedouins, who had a reputation for careful practices, maintaining extensive pedigrees of their Arabian horses and placing great value on pure bloodline. These pedigrees were originally transmitted through an oral tradition. In the 14th century, Carthusian monks from southern Spain maintained a meticulous pedigree of bloodlines still found today in the Andalusian horse.
Breeds developed due to the need for “the way to work”, the need to develop certain characteristics to perform a certain type of work. Thus, a powerful but refined breed, such as the Andalusian, developed as a riding horse with an aptitude for dressage. Heavy, traction horses were developed from the need to perform demanding agricultural work and pull heavy carts. Other breeds of horses have been developed specifically for light agricultural work, transport and road work, various sports disciplines or simply as pets. Some breeds have evolved over centuries by crossing other breeds, while others have descended from a single breeder, or another limited or restricted blood substance from the breeder. One of the first formal records was the General Stud Book for Thoroughbreds, which started in 1791. There are more than 300 breeds of horses in the world today.
Interaction of Horses with Humans
Around the world, horses play a role in human cultures and have been doing so for millennia. Horses are used for leisure, sports and work purposes. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that in 2008 there were almost 59,000,000 horses in the world, with around 33,500,000 in the Americas, 13,800,000 in Asia and 6,300,000 in Europe and smaller portions in Africa and Oceania . In a 2004 “survey” by Animal Planet, more than 50,000 people from 73 countries voted for the horse as the fourth favorite animal in the world.
Communication between humans and horses is essential in any equestrian activity; To assist in this process, horses are usually mounted with a saddle on their back to help the rider balance and position himself, and a related bridle or harness to help the rider maintain control. Sometimes horses are ridden without a saddle, and occasionally horses are trained to act without a bridle or other harness. Many horses are also driven, which requires harness, bridle and some type of vehicle.
Historically, riders honed their skills through games and races. Equestrian sports provided entertainment for the crowds and enhanced the excellent riding required in battle. Many sports, such as dressage, events and jumping, have their origins in military training, focused on the control and balance of horses and riders. Other sports, such as rodeo, developed from practical skills, such as those needed on farms and workstations.
Sport hunting on horseback has evolved from previous practical hunting techniques. Horse racing of all types evolved from improvised jockey competitions. All forms of competition, in need of demanding and specialized skills of horses and riders, resulted in the systematic development of specialized breeds and equipment for each sport. The popularity of equestrian sports over the centuries has resulted in the preservation of skills that would otherwise disappear after horses stop being used in combat.
Horses are trained to be mounted or driven in a variety of sporting competitions. Examples include jumping, dressage, three-day events, competitive riding, endurance, gymkhana, rodeos and hunting. Horse exhibitions, which originate in medieval fairs in Europe, are held all over the world. They offer a huge variety of classes, covering all mounted and harnessing disciplines, as well as classes where horses are led by hand, rather than mounted, to be assessed for conformation.
The method of judgment varies by discipline, but winning usually depends on the style and skill of the horse and rider. Sports like polo do not judge the horse itself, but use the horse as a partner for human competitors as a necessary part of the game. Although the horse requires specialized training to participate, the details of its performance are not judged, only the result of the rider’s actions – whether it be getting a ball through a goal or some other task. Examples of such partnership sports between human and horse include the joust, in which the main objective is for one rider to overthrow the other, and buzkashi, a team game played across Central Asia, with the aim of capturing a goat carcass a horse.
Horse racing is an equestrian sport and the main international industry, observed in almost all nations of the world. There are three types: “flat” running; obstacle race, that is, running and jumping; and harness racing, where horses trot or walk while pulling the driver in a small, lightweight cart known as sulking. Much of the economic importance of horse racing lies in the bets associated with it.
There are certain jobs that horses do very well, and no technology has been developed to replace them completely. For example, mounted police are still effective for certain types of patrol and crowd control tasks. Cattle farms still require cowboys to touch cattle scattered over remote and rugged terrain. Search and rescue organizations in some countries rely on teams set up to locate people, mainly hikers and children, and to provide disaster relief.
Horses can also be used in areas where it is necessary to avoid vehicle disturbances on delicate soils, such as nature reserves. They may also be the only form of transport permitted in the wild. Horses are quieter than motor vehicles. Police officers, such as forestry or environmental police, can use horses for patrols, and horses or mules. They can also be used to clear trails or other jobs in areas of rough terrain, where vehicles are less effective.
Although machines replace horses in many parts of the world, an estimated 100 million horses, donkeys and mules are still used for agriculture and transportation in less developed areas. That figure includes about 27 million work animals in Africa alone. Some land management practices, such as cultivation and logging, can be efficiently carried out with horses. In agriculture, less fossil fuel is used and greater environmental conservation occurs over time with the use of draft animals, such as horses. Logging with horses can result in reduced damage to the soil structure and less damage to trees due to more selective logging.
Horses have been used in war for most of recorded history. The first archaeological evidence of horses used in war dates from 4000 to 3000 BC, and the use of horses in war was widespread in the late Bronze Age. Although mechanization has largely replaced the horse as a weapon of war, horses are still seen today in limited military uses, primarily for ceremonial purposes, or for reconnaissance and transportation in areas of rugged terrain where motor vehicles are ineffective. Horses were used in the 21st century by Janjaweed militias in the Darfur War.
Entertainment & Culture
Modern horses are often used to reenact many of their historical work purposes. They are used with completely authentic equipment or a painstakingly recreated replica, in various historical reenactments of action from specific periods in history, especially recreations of famous battles. Horses are also used to preserve cultural traditions and for ceremonial purposes. Countries like the UK still use carriages to transport royalty and other personalities for certain culturally significant events. Public exhibitions are another example, as at Oktoberfest, where a team of draft horses pull a beer cart similar to the one used before the invention of the modern motorized truck.
Horses are often used in television, films and literature. Sometimes they are presented as an important character in films about specific animals, but they are also used as visual elements that guarantee the accuracy of the stories. Both live horses and iconic images of horses are used in advertising to promote a variety of products. The horse often appears in heraldic coats of arms, in a variety of poses and equipment. The mythologies of many cultures, including Greco-Roman, Hindu, Islamic and Nordic, include references to normal horses and those with additional wings or limbs. The horse also appears in the 12-year cycle of animals in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar.
People of all ages with physical and mental disabilities obtain beneficial results from an association with horses. Therapeutic riding is used to mentally and physically stimulate people with disabilities and help them improve their lives through better balance and coordination, greater self-confidence and a greater sense of freedom and independence. The benefits of equestrian activity for people with disabilities have also been recognized with the addition of equestrian events to the Paralympic Games and the recognition of para-equestrian events by the International Equestrian Sports Federation (FEI). Hipotherapy and therapeutic horseback riding are names for different physical, occupational and speech therapy strategies that use equine movement. In hippotherapy, a therapist uses the horse’s movement to improve the patient’s cognitive, coordination, balance and motor skills, while therapeutic riding uses specific riding skills.
Horses also provide psychological benefits to people. “Equine-assisted” or “equine-facilitated” therapy is a form of experimental psychotherapy that uses horses as pets to help people with mental illness, including anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, mood disorders, behavioral difficulties and those who are undergoing major changes in life. There are also experimental programs using horses in prison environments. Exposure to horses appears to improve prisoners’ behavior and help to reduce recidivism when they leave.
Horses are raw materials for many products manufactured by humans throughout history, including by-products from the slaughter of horses, as well as materials collected from live horses.
Products collected from live horses include mare’s milk, used by people with large herds of horses, such as the Mongols, who allow it to ferment to produce kumis. Horse blood was once used as food by Mongols and other nomadic tribes, who found it a convenient source of nutrition when traveling. Drinking the blood of their own horses allowed Mongolians to ride for long periods of time without stopping to eat. The drug Premarin is a mixture of estrogens extracted from the urine of pregnant mares, and was previously a drug widely used for hormone replacement therapy. The hair on the horses’ tail can be used to make bows for string instruments such as violin, viola, cello and double bass.
Horse meat has been used as food for humans and carnivorous animals throughout the ages. Approximately 5 million horses are slaughtered for meat each year worldwide. It is consumed in many parts of the world, although consumption is taboo in some cultures and the subject of political controversy in others. Horse leather has been used for boots, gloves, jackets, baseballs, and baseball gloves. Horse hooves can also be used to produce glue. Horse bones can be used to make implements. Specifically, in Italian cuisine, the horse’s tibia is sharpened like a probe called a spine, which is used to test a ham’s readiness as it heals. In Asia, saba is a leather container used in the production of kumis.
Horses are grazing animals, and their main source of nutrients is good quality forage from hay or pasture. They can consume approximately 2% to 2.5% of their body weight in dry food every day. Therefore, a 450 kg adult horse can eat up to 11 kg of food. However, sometimes, concentrated foods, such as grains, are used in addition to pasture or hay, especially when the animal is very active. But when fed with grains, horse nutritionists recommend that 50% or more of the animal’s weight diet is still forage.
Horses need an abundant supply of clean water, at least 38 to 45 liters per day. Although horses are adapted to live outdoors, they need shelter from wind and rain, which can range from a simple shed or shelter to an elaborate stable.
Horses require routine care from a farrier with their hooves. In addition to vaccines to protect against various diseases and dental examinations by a veterinarian or dentist specializing in equines. But, if horses are kept in a barn, they require regular daily exercise for their physical health and mental well-being. When raised free, they require well-maintained, sturdy fences to safely contain them. Regular cleaning is also useful to help the horse maintain good hair and skin health.