Items

Forums
When the Horses Returned
 By Saferaphus   •   27th Sep 2016   •   766 views   •   0 comments
When the Horses Returned

Many people are surprised to learn that what we call wild horses are not truly wild at all. There is some debate on how horses disappeared from the North American continent, why they did, where they went and how it all happened. Scientists tend to agree that the horse disappeared about a few thousand years ago after about 35 to 56 million years of evolution, evidenced by fossil remains. In fact, it’s held that North America was the birthplace of the earliest horse, the eohippus.

There are several theories about why they disappeared. It may have been an infectious disease that wiped them out. A change in climate may have brought about changes in the vegetation horses ate. Or, more recently, scientists are speculating that over-hunting by man might have been the reason. Prehistoric man may have hunted the huge wooly mammoth to extinction. Did the same thing happen to the North American horses?

But, there is little debate about when the horse returned to North America. Most of us know that “in fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”. Columbus is generally credited with discovering North America. This is debatable too since there were Europeans sailing to and living in North America at least 500 years before Columbus took his cruise. But, Columbus is the guy that gets the credit. The Vikings to the north settled and then went home. Those Europeans that followed Columbus stayed.

There may have been no horses on Columbus’ first voyage. However, in all voyages thereafter, horses and other livestock were part of the cargo. It was a royal decree that ensured this. Despite this, Columbus doesn’t get the credit for reintroducing horses to the Americas. And in fact, the horses that Columbus brought may never have set hoof on the actual mainland. The person that is credited with reintroducing horses to the Americas was a Spaniard named Hernán Cortés.

Cortés arrived in the new world in 1504 and began life as a colonist and aid to the local governor, He eventually became mayor of Cuba. where a thriving colony existed. After 15 years, he was given command of an expedition to colonize Mexico. He set sail early in 1519 and included in the ships’ cargo were thirteen horses. These baker’s dozen of Spanish bred horses were the first horses in the Americas since the mysterious extinction 1000s of years earlier.

These horses had no easy time, and neither did the soldiers and adventurers who accompanied Cortés. The first crossing of the Atlantic was made on ships that were small, crowded, had only primitive navigation and were prone to rot and other structural damage. In those days, the crossing could have taken up to two months. Horses may have been at least partial suspended in slings to protect their legs and help them balance as rolling waves rocked the boat. If horses did not break legs during the violent tossing of storms, they could become badly bruised as the hit the sides of their wooden stalls. We know that it isn’t good for horses to stand still for long periods of time, and the stress of life at sea would have been great. Columbus’ The Nina had a deck length estimated to be 50 feet long. In her hold would have been the livestock, provisions, weapons and fresh water. A crew of about 20 would live onboard as well. Cortes would have arrived on something similar or slightly larger.

The journey that Cortés took from Cuba to the Yucatan Peninsula would have been much shorter, but what awaited them was unknown. Horses would have been unprotected from biting insects and have to adjust to new food and environment. Nor did Cortés wander about idly. There were many skirmishes with the indigenous people, who thought they were being invaded by strange gods and centaurs.

Are there descendants of these first horses roaming the wild herds of North America? I think it’s unlikely. In the few decades that followed, horses were so valued that it's recorded they were traded only for slaves or gold. Many died of illness and injury. It would be many decades before horses were in any number, and a few lost couldn’t be accounted for. Breeding stock was valuable. But, in March of 1519, with those first few conquistadors mounts, the Americas saw the return of the horse for the first time in thousands of years.
Horse News More In This Category:  General      Horse News More From This Author:  Saferaphus
 More News by Saferaphus
Horse Pregnancy Check
17th Jul 2018   |   General   |   Saferaphus
I was recently able to watch an ultrasound examination of a mare thought to be in foal. The mare was sedated, and while guiding the scope to the area of the reproductive organs, the vet explained what we were seeing on the screen ...
History of Horse Spurs
13th Jul 2018   |   General   |   Saferaphus
Basic spurs haven’t changed much over the centuries. The earliest went around the rider’s heel and had a straight post on the back that was used to cue the horse. Often this was sharp, obviously intended to prick the horse. Later ...
New Ways to Heal Broken Horse Legs
11th Jul 2018   |   General   |   Saferaphus
It wasn’t that long ago that a leg fracture meant a sure end for a horse. But, thanks to advances in veterinary science, that is no longer true. Yes, there are some fractures that are too complicated, or because of where they are ...
Horse Racing Scandals and Cheats
8th Jul 2018   |   General   |   Saferaphus
The newest triple crown winner may have been aided by a block. The newest Triple Crown winner may have taken his lead thanks to another horse, a long shot, Restoring Hope, swerving and then pinning another horse to the rail, keepi ...
Equine Stress and PTSD
6th Jul 2018   |   General   |   Saferaphus
Some horses can develop what could be considered posttraumatic stress disorder. This isn’t common, but it can happen when horses are exposed to stressful situations over a long period. Horses with PTSD have damage to their hippoca ...
Cleaning Horse Bits and Stirrups
4th Jul 2018   |   General   |   Saferaphus
Tack that is kept clean lasts longer and is more pleasant to use. Saddle soap, some sponges and clothes and a good leather conditioner will take care of the main parts of your saddles and bridles. But the metal fittings require a ...
Equine Euthanasia
30th Jun 2018   |   General   |   Saferaphus
This is a topic that is difficult to discuss. But, it’s something that horse owners should educate themselves about. When we take on the responsibility for any animal’s life, in my opinion anyway, we also must accept the responsib ...
US House and Senate at Odds on Horse Slaughter
27th Jun 2018   |   General   |   Saferaphus
The FY19 Agriculture Appropriations bill has been passed by the United States Senate Appropriations Committee with a provision to continue the ban on horses and donkeys being slaughtered for human consumption. There will be no fu ...
  View All News by Saferaphus
 
©2002 - 2018   PonyBox LLC Create Account Terms & Conditions Privacy Contact Us
393 Members Online 239,948 Registered Members 2,452 News Articles 10,120,819 Unique News Article Views 220,622,960 Website Views