Early history of the horse

 

Early history of the horse

Eohippus, the Grandfather of All Horses

 
Lusitano-038Some background about the early history of the horse.   Horses first wandered the humid tropical jungles of the Cenozoic Era during the late Paleocene Epoch, about sixty million years ago.   This is how long it took our beloved friends to grow to the magnificent beasts we know today.   In the Eohippus Era, a horse was the size of a dog, two feet long by fourteen inches high weighing fifty pounds.
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Lusitano-044Horses are closely related to zebras and donkeys.   The mule is a crossbreed between a donkey and a horse.   The way horses are able to move their upper lip and the position and shape of their teeth also makes them cousins to the tapir and rhinoceros.   They belong to the Family Equidae, within the Order Perissodactyla which means odd-toed ungulates.   Ungulates are simply mammals with hooves.   Its first known member was the Eohippus which in Greek means “Dawn Horse”.
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Lusitano-031Back them the horse had four toes in his front legs and three toes on its hind legs.   Their feet had paddings like dogs have today.   This served them well on the soft, cushiony ground.   Also, their extended toes gave them support and balance.   Fossil evidence also shows that their teeth were shaped to grind and swallow leaves.   With time, the tropical forests started to shrink and the horse was forced to go out to the growing savannahs for food.
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Evolution

Lusitano-036Again, Nature and evolution had to make changes in its body for the horse to survive in this new environment.   There were no places to hide from predators, like in the forest, so the horse needed speed to get away from those wanting a snack.   The abundance of foliage in the forest was also gone.   So the horse was forced to walk long distances to get food and water.   Over millions of years and selective survival, its legs grew longer and stronger while the additional exercise made his body grow too.
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Lusitano-001The environmental change from the soft forest surface to the hard ground in the savannah changed the horses’ feet too.   Two of the three toes started to shrink until only the third toe was left.   This gave the horse better support and speed as it roamed the land far and wide.   The horse grew and changiedto become one of the instruments men used to rise and conquer the world.
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