Are Horses Native to America?

Yvette Running Horse Collins recent dissertation may have rewritten every natural history book on the shelf. A Lakota/Nakota/Cheyenne scholar, Collin worked within the University of Alaska Fairbanks Indigenous Studies program to synthesize fossil evidence, historical documents and oral history to present a compelling new story of the horse in the Americas.

At this point, the narrative shifted to say that horses originated in the Americas, but were later completely extinguished due to the last Ice Age period (roughly 13,000 to 11,000 years ago). She also drew from recorded observations in the diaries and maps created by explorers such as Sir Francis Drake, Sebastian Cabot, and other early Spanish conquistadors.

The dissertation posits that the discrepancy between the Spanish reintroduction theory and the story reflected by current evidence has to do with a cultural bias that is still present within Western academia. Collin theorizes that because horses were a symbol of status and civilization in Spain during that time, and because conquerors needed to illustrate the Native people as savage and uncivilized to justify their conquest to the Queen of Spain, the truth about the relationship between Native peoples and the horse was purposefully distorted. For this reason, she posits in through an intercultural translation lens that the history of the relationship between the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas and their horses was covered up and rewritten.

Collin says, according to her ancestors ways, she refuses to sell her horses but gifts them to people who are interested in them for ceremonial or healing purposes and are willing to care for them according to her cultural traditions. Collin seeks to inspire more research to illuminate the truth behind what the government has labeled as feral so that wild horses can be protected by the Indigenous Species Act.

Who brought horses to America?

In 1493, on Christopher Columbus’ second voyage to the Americas, Spanish horses, representing E. caballus, were brought back to North America, first to the Virgin Islands; they were reintroduced to the continental mainland by Hernán Cortés in 1519.

When did native Americans get horses?

The Indians got their first horses from the Spanish. When the Spanish explorers Coronado and DeSoto came into America they brought horses with them. This was in the year of 1540. Some horses got away and went wild.

Did horses exist in America before Columbus?

The original theory accepted by the Western World was that there were no horses in the Americas prior to Columbus ‘ arrival in 1492. The Western World concluded that all horses of Native American peoples were, therefore, descendants of horses brought from overseas.

Where are horses originally from?

Most experts agree that horses originated in North America approximately 50 million years ago. They were small animals, no larger than a small dog, and lived mostly in forests. They gradually increased in size over millions of years and adapted to more and more environments, including grassy plains.

Horses have been a crucial component of American life and culture since the founding of the nation. In 2008, there were an estimated 9.2 million horses in the United States,[1] with 4.6 million citizens involved in businesses related to horses.[2][3] Notably, there are about 82,000[4] feral horses that roam freely in the wild in certain parts of the country, mostly in the Western United States.

Horses remained an integral part of American rural and urban life until the 20th century, when the widespread emergence of mechanization caused their use for industrial, economic, and transportation purposes to decline. [10] Digs in western Canada have unearthed clear evidence horses existed in North America as recently as 12,000 years ago.

For example, in Alaska , beginning approximately 12,500 years ago, the grasses characteristic of a steppe ecosystem gave way to shrub tundra , which was covered with unpalatable plants. The other hypothesis suggests extinction was linked to overexploitation of native prey by newly arrived humans. The extinctions were roughly simultaneous with the end of the most recent glacial advance and the appearance of the big game-hunting Clovis culture .

There have been various hypotheses presented that argue that horses did not become extinct in the Americas, [19] but no fossil or DNA evidence has been found to substantiate such claims. These were Iberian horses first brought to Hispaniola and later to Panama , Mexico , Brazil , Peru, Argentina , and, in 1538, Florida. Subsequent explorers, such as Coronado and De Soto brought ever-larger numbers, some from Spain and others from breeding establishments set up by the Spanish in the Caribbean.

Starting in the mid-19th century, larger draft horses began to be imported, and by the 1880s, thousands had arrived. [26] Formal horse racing in the United States dates back to 1665, when a racecourse was opened on the Hempstead Plains near Salisbury in what is now Nassau County, New York . From a trade center in the Santa Fe, New Mexico area, the horse spread slowly north.

[29] By 1742, there were reports by white explorers that the Crow and Blackfoot people had horses, and probably had had them for a considerable time. [28] The horse became an integral part of the lives and culture of Native Americans, especially the Plains Indians , who viewed them as a source of wealth and used them for hunting, travel, and warfare. Horse-drawn sightseeing bus, 1942At the start of the 20th century, the United States Department of Agriculture began to establish breeding farms for research, to preserve American horse breeds, and to develop horses for military and agricultural purposes.

[37] But as increased mechanization reduced the need for horses as working animals , populations declined. “Ancient DNA Clarifies the Evolutionary History of American Late Pleistocene Equids”. ^ Heintzman, Peter D; Zazula, Grant D; MacPhee, Ross DE; Scott, Eric; Cahill, James A; McHorse, Brianna K; Kapp, Joshua D; Stiller, Mathias; Wooller, Matthew J; Orlando, Ludovic; Southon, John (November 28, 2017).

“A calendar chronology for Pleistocene mammoth and horse extinction in North America based on Bayesian radiocarbon calibration” . “New carbon dates link climatic change with human colonization and Pleistocene extinctions”.

Are wild horses truly wild, as an indigenous species in North America, or are they feral weedsbarnyard escapees, far removed genetically from their prehistoric ancestors? The question at hand is, therefore, whether or not modern horses, Equus caballus, should be considered native wildlife.

Dr. Ross MacPhee, Curator of Mammalogy at the American Museum of Natural History, and colleagues, have dated the existence of woolly mammoths and horses in North America to as recent as 7,600 years ago. Had it not been for previous westward migration, over the 2 Bering Land Bridge, into northwestern Russia (Siberia) and Asia, the horse would have faced complete extinction.

By ecomorphotype, we refer to differing phenotypic or physical characteristics within the same species, caused by genetic isolation in discrete habitats. In North America, isolated lower molar teeth and a mandible from sites of the Irvingtonian age appear to be E. caballus, morphologically. While earlier taxonomists tried to deal with the subjectivity of choosing characters they felt would adequately describe, and thus group, genera and species, these observations were lacking in precision.

According to the work of researchers from Uppsala University of the Department of Evolutionary Biology (Forstn 1992), the date of origin, based on mutation rates for mitochondrial-DNA, for E. caballus, is set at approximately 1.7 million years ago in North America. Despite a great deal of variability in the size of the Pleistocene equids from differing locations (mostly ecomorphotypes), the DNA evidence strongly suggests that all of the large and small caballine samples belonged to the same species. In another study, Kruger et al. (2005), using microsatellite data, confirms the work of Forstn (1992) but gives a wider range for the emergence of the caballoid horse, of 0.86 to 2.3 million years ago.

Finally, very recent work (Orlando et al. 2009) that examined the evolutionary history of a variety of non-caballine equids across four continents, found evidence for taxonomic oversplitting from species to generic levels. Feist and McCullough (1976) dubbed this social conservation in his paper on behavior patterns and communication in the Pryor Mountain wild horses. As a form of wildlife, embedded with wildness, ancient behavioral patterns, and the morphology and biology of a sensitive prey species, they may finally be released from the livestock-gone-loose appellation.

Forty million years ago, horses first emerged in North America, but after migrating to Asia over the Bering land bridge, horses disappeared from this continent at least 10,000 years ago. For millennia, Native Americans traveled and hunted on foot, relying on dogs as miniature pack animals.

The Spanish quickly realized that the last thing they wanted was for Indians to have horses, because that would put them on equal footing, says Viola, but thats exactly what happened following the Pueblo Uprising of 1680. For the Plains Indians, the newfound speed and efficiency of hunting on horseback provided an abundance of high-quality meat, hides for tipis and clothing, and rawhide for shields and boxes.

Not only did tipis get bigger, but it lifted some of the daily burden from women, giving them more time to create works of art and sacred objects, many of them inspired by the horse. Raiding and capturing enemy horses was a key tactic of inter-tribal warfare and was considered an honorable rite of passage for a young man trying to earn his place as a warrior.

Horses in the United States

Horses have been a crucial component of American life and culture since the founding of the nation. In 2008, there were an estimated 9.2 million horses in the United States,While genusHorses remained an integral part of American rural and urban life until the 20th century, when the widespread emergence of mechanization caused their use for industrial, economic, and transportation purposes to decline. Modern use of the horse in the United States is primarily for recreation and entertainment, though some horses are still used for specialized tasks.

Evolution[edit]

Fossils of the earliest direct ancestor to the modern horse,A 2005 genetic study of fossils found evidence for three genetically divergent equid lineages in Pleistocene North and South America.

Extinction and return[edit]

Equidae in North America ultimately became extinct, along with most of the other New World megafauna during the Quaternary extinction event during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition. The causes of this extinction have been debated. Given the suddenness of the event and because these mammals had been flourishing for millions of years previously, something unusual must have happened. The first main hypothesis attributes extinction to climate change. For example, in Alaska, beginning approximately 12,500 years ago, the grasses characteristic of a steppe ecosystem gave way to shrub tundra, which was covered with unpalatable plants.The other hypothesis suggests extinction was linked to overexploitation of native prey by newly arrived humans. The extinctions were roughly simultaneous with the end of the most recent glacial advance and the appearance of the big game-hunting Clovis culture.There have been various hypotheses presented that argue that horses did not become extinct in the Americas,Horses returned to the Americas thousands of years later, well after domestication of the horse, beginning with Christopher Columbus in 1493. These were Iberian horses first brought to Hispaniola and later to Panama, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Argentina, and, in 1538, Florida.These domesticated horses were the ancestral stock of the group of breeds or strains known today as the Colonial Spanish Horse. They predominated through the southeast and western United States (then New Spain) from 16th century until about 1850, when crossbreeding with larger horse breeds changed the phenotype and diluted the Spanish genetic features.

Historic period[edit]

European settlers brought a variety of horses to the Americas. The first imports were smaller animals suited to the size restrictions imposed by ships. Starting in the mid-19th century, larger draft horses began to be imported, and by the 1880s, thousands had arrived.There are multiple theories for how Native American people obtained horses from the Spanish, but early capture of stray horses during the 16th century was unlikely due to the need to simultaneously acquire the skills to ride and manage them. It is unlikely that Native people obtained horses in significant numbers to become a horse culture any earlier than 1630. From a trade center in the Santa Fe, New Mexico area, the horse spread slowly north.In the 19th century, horses were used for many jobs. In the west, they were ridden by cowboys for handling cattle on the large ranches of the region and on cattle drives.At the start of the 20th century, the United States Department of Agriculture began to establish breeding farms for research, to preserve American horse breeds, and to develop horses for military and agricultural purposes.

Statistics[edit]

In 1912, the United States and Russia held the most horses in the world, with the U.S. having the second-highest number.In 2013, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) estimated there were about 82,000 feral horses in the United States under the supervision of the BLM on federal lands in the west.

Horses Transformed the Buffalo Hunt

Buffalo are big, strong and fast. Before horses came to the Plains, Native hunters pursued large herds on foot, but it was dangerous, difficult work with low odds of success. One technique was to startle and chase an animal toward a cliff or dropoff called a “buffalo jump.” Once wounded, the buffalo was easier to kill.“When horses were introduced, the modes of hunting changed,” says Emil Her Many Horses, a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and a member of the Oglala Lakota nation. “A favorite hunting horse could be trained to ride right into the stampeding buffalo herd.”For the Plains Indians, the newfound speed and efficiency of hunting on horseback provided an abundance of high-quality meat, hides for tipis and clothing, and rawhide for shields and boxes. With the help of a draggable wooden sledge called a travois, horses could now transport entire villages and their possessions to follow the seasonal hunt.

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“With the introduction of the horse, tribes gained more wealth, in a sense,” says Her Many Horses. Not only did tipis get bigger, but it lifted some of the daily burden from women, giving them more time to create works of art and sacred objects, many of them inspired by the horse.

Raiding Became Honorable Rite for Plains Warriors

Competition among the Plains Indians for the best hunting and war horses turned old allies into rivals, says Her Many Horses. More and better horses meant you could expand your hunting territory, bringing even more wealth to the tribe. Raiding and capturing enemy horses was a key tactic of inter-tribal warfare and was considered an “honorable” rite of passage for a young man trying to earn his place as a warrior.Young men would walk miles to a rival camp, scout for the most-prized horses and wait for nightfall to make their move. Sneaking into an Indian village without alerting its canine security system was only the first challenge.“Some of the horse owners were so concerned about their prize animals that they’d go to sleep with a rope tied to their wrist running under the tipi cover, so they could tug on it to make sure that horse was still safely there,” says Viola.If the daring horse capturer was stealthy and lucky enough to make it out of the village alive—many didn’t—the final act was to give away the hard-won horse to a widow or someone in need, topping off their bravery with a show of generosity.