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The Horse, Equus caballus, is a large ungulate mammal, one of the seven modern species of the genus Equus.

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Evolution of the Horse

The evolution of the horse[?] from the very early (ca 55 million years ago) Hyracotherium to the wild equids listed below, is well understood. It is the transition from the wild species existing in the fossil or tundra record, to the myriad domesticated breeds today, that is not well understood.

Domestication of the Horse and Surviving Wild Species The earliest evidence for the domestication of the horse has been found in Central Asia, about 3,000 BCE. There are competing theories about the time and place of domestication. However, wild species continued into historic times, including the Forest Horse, Equus caballus silvaticus (also called the Diluvial Horse); it is thought to have evolved into Equus caballus germanicus, and may have contributed to the development of the heavy horses of northern Europe, such as the Ardennais[?]. The Tarpan, Equus caballus gmelini, became extinct in 1880, but has been "bred back", by crossing living domesticated horses that had primitive features, thanks to the efforts of the brothers Lutz Heck (director of the Berlin zoo) and Heinz Heck (director Tierpark Munich Hellabrunn). The resulting animal is more properly called the Wild Polish Horse.

The only true surviving wild-horse species is Przewalski's Horse, Equus caballus przewalskii prewalskii Polaikov [[]], a rare Asian species. In Mongolia it is known as the taki, while the Kirghiz people call it a kirtag. There are wild populations in Mongolia and you can find more here: http://www.treemail.nl/takh/.

Wild vs. Feral Horses

An important distinction should be made between wild animals, whose ancestors have never been domesticated, and feral animals, whose ancestors have been domesticated. There are several populations of feral horses, including those in the West of the United States (often called mustangs) and in parts of Australia (called brumbies). These feral horses may provide useful insights into the behavior of their ancestral wild horses.

Other Equids

Other members of the horse family include zebras, donkeys, and hemoinids. The Donkey or Domestic Ass, Equus asinus, like the horse, has many breeds. A mule is a hybrid of an ass and a horse.

Specialized vocabulary In the English-speaking world, horses are measured in hands. One hand is 4 inches, or about 0.11 meter. Adult horses can range in size from 5 hands (a very small miniature horse[?] or falabella to over 18 hands. The convention is: 15.2 hh means 15 hands, 2 inches in height, measured at the highest point of the withers.

A vocabulary of specialised words relating to horses

  • horse - adult equine of either sex over 14.2 hh (58 inches, 1.47 meters)
  • pony - equine under over 14.2 hh (58 inches, 1.47 meters)
  • mare - adult female horse
  • stallion - adult, uncastrated male horse
  • gelding - adult, castrated male horse
  • foal - infant horse of either sex
  • filly - female horse from birth to sexual maturity (about 24 months)
  • colt - male horse from birth to sexual maturity (about 24 months)
  • withers - the highest point of the shoulder, where the mane[?] ends

The Origin of Modern Horse Breeds Horses come in an astonishing array of sizes and shapes. The draft breeds can top 20 hands (80 inches, 2.03 meters) while the smallest miniature horses can be as little as 5.2 hands (22 inches, 0.56 meters). These are breed differences, not race differences; the individuals would still be fertile if bred.

There are several schools of thought on how this amazing range of size and shape came about. These schools grew up reasoning from the type of dentition and the horses' outward appearance. One school, which we can call the "Four Foundations" is that the modern horse evolved from two types of early domesticated pony and two types of early domesticated horse; the differences between these types accounts for the differences in type of the modern breeds. A second school is the "Single Foundation"--that there was only one breed of horse domesticated, and it diverged in form after domestication by human selective breeding (or in the case of feral horses, ecological pressures). Finally, there are those geneticists who are evaluating the DNA and mitochondrial DNA to construct family trees.

Breeds, Studbooks, Purebreds, Landraces, and other Agricultural Enthusiasms

The idea of a "purebred" animal is a particularly 19th century idea. selective breeding

Hotbloods, Warmbloods, and Coldbloods

The Arabian horses, whether originating on the Saudi peninsula or from the European studs (breeding establishments) of the 18th and 19th century, are termed "hotbloods", for their fiery temperaments. (Some include the thoroughbred in the "hotblood" category.) The slow, heavy draft horses are termed "coldbloods" as they are usually quite calm in temparement. The warmbloods are everything else, but the term also specifically refers to the European breeds such as the Hanoverian that have dominated dressage and show jumping since the 1950s.

The list of horse breeds provides a partial alphabetical list of breeds of horse extant today, plus a discussion of rare breeds conservation.

Horses today

The invention of the internal combustion engine and the tractor reduced the utility of the horse in agriculture, although there are still working teams, in particular in specialty forestry.

Horses in Sport today

Racing in all its forms

It is a safe bet that the domestication of the horse preceeded betting on which horse was fastest by a matter of hours. Certainly the desire to see which horse is fastest seems to be an innate human feature! Horse-racing today can be divided into racing short distances under saddle on a track: flat racing or the thoroughbred horse race. Thoroughbreds are the most famous of the racing breeds, but Arabians, quarter horses, and Appaloosas are also raced on the flat in the United States. Steeplechasing[?] is racing on a track, where the horses also jump over obstacles. It is most popular in Great Britain. Endurance ridingis[?] very popular in the United States and Europe, race lengths varying from 20 to 100 miles.

The Traditional European Competitions

Originally, there were three Olympic equestrian events: dressage is the training of the horse to a very high level of flexibility and obedience. It became an Olympic sport in 1912. Show jumping is judged on the ability of the horse and rider to jump over a series of obstacles, in a given order. Eventing or "the complete test" as its French name translates, puts together the obedience of dressage with the athletic ability of show jumping, with the fitness demands of a long endurance phase and the "cross-country" jumping phase.

Polo is another European tradition that has become international, differing from racing and the other competitions in that it is a team sport.

Noncompetitive Horse Sports

The horse is one of the 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar. It is thought that each animal is associated with certain personality traits.

See also: list of horse breeds, horse tack, horse teeth, Trojan Horse.

A horse is a piece of equipment used in gymnastics. It consists of a horizontal padded mass, representing the body of a horse, with two handles on top.

Horse is also the name of a game played with a basketball.

Horse is also a slang term for the recreational drug heroin.

Horses is the name of an album by Patti Smith.

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