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Evolution Of The Horses

Evolution of horses or development of the horses, The modern horse (Equus caballus) has been 60 million years in the making. That is how long it has taken its earliest ancestor, Eohippus, to evolve into the family Equidae. This family includes the zebra, the donkey, and the domestic horse, as well as the less well-known wild asses of Africa and Asia, and Przewalski’s wild horse.

It is thought that the immediate ancestors of the modern horse were three primitive types of horses. From these, two pony types and two horse types possibly developed; these, in turn, were the foundation of all modern types and breeds.

Small ancestor:

Eohippus was much smaller than the modern horse only about 14 in (35 cm) at the shoulder. Instead of having one toe protected by a hoof, as a modern horse has, it had a pad with four toes on the forefeet and three on the hind feet.

three primitive types:

Forest horse:

Forest horse
Forest horse
An important ancestor of some modern breeds was the Forest Horse of northern Europe. It lived in woodland, where galloping speed was not important. It had large hooves to spread its weight on wet ground, and thick hair to protect it. It may have looked like this modern French Poitevin, which lives on marshes.


Tarpan Pony
The Tarpan has influenced many breeds. We are probably indebted to it, via the Arab, for the refined look of our modern horse’s head. The original Tarpan is extinct, but attempts are being made to recreate it, as shown here. It evolved in semi-desert conditions in Europe and Asia and had a fine physique, necessary for traveling long distances in search of food.

Przewalski’s horse:

Przewalski’s horse
Przewalski’s horse
Przewalski’s horse is the only true survivor of the three early types of horse. In prehistoric times, it lived on the steppes of central Asia and Europe. It has coarse features and a tufted tail—more like an ass than a modern horse. Small numbers have been bred in captivity since 1902, and selected groups are now being used to increase the wild herds.

Descendants of four basic types:

Highland Pony:

Highland Pony
Highland Pony
Height: up to 14.2 HH (147 CM).
Pony Type 2 lived in northern Europe and Asia. It was adapted to be resistant to cold and was heavily built. The Highland pony is thought to be a descendant.

Exmoor Pony:

Exmoor Pony
Exmoor Pony
Height: 12.2 - 12.3 HH (127 - 129 CM).
The Exmoor, possibly the oldest breed in Great Britain, is believed to be similar to Pony Type 1. This type lived in northwest Europe. It had a thick coat and bushy mane and tail to protect it against cold and wet.


Height: 15.2 HH (157 CM)
Horse Type 3 was a tough horse that lived mainly in the deserts of central Asia. Its fine coat and slender build helped it to lose heat. The Akhal-Teke is probably a descendant.


Height: 16.2 HH (168 CM).
One of the largest modern horse breeds, the Percheron is actually descended from the delicate Arab, which in turn is thought to derive mainly from Horse Type 4. This was a fineboned desert horse that lived in western Asia.