Back to Nature (Published on TBNWeekly.com - Aug. 4, 2005)
Wild horses the spirit of America
Horses are prey and human is the predator. Man
remains the only real enemy to the horse and because of this, somewhere, not so
deeply, buried in the horses instincts remains that memory.
|Photo by Rick Tremmel
|At the Seminole Agricultural
Farm a horse enjoys quietly grazing being outdoors.
Primitive man 3,000 years ago observed horses as food, and used the horse as a
beast of burden. Today horse meat (and by-products) is sold on the open market.
With the recent beef scare the demand for horse meat has increased in European
Recipes abound on the Internet on how to cook horsemeat and prepare horsemeat
pies. Government agencies regularly issue permits to capture and slaughter wild
horses and burros in regions around the United States, while rescue organizations
work tirelessly to save them.
Many people think that the Spanish originally brought horses to North America.
What they dont know is evidence of the first known horse on earth, the
Hyracotherium, or eohippus Dawn Horse survived to the end of the Eocene
epoch right here in North America. Domestic horses from the Old World ran wild and
became plentiful after being reintroduced by man in North and South America.
About 8,000 years ago, Equus became extinct in the New World and was not to return
until the Spanish brought horses to the Western Hemisphere in the 1400s.
Hyracotherium (eohippus) (Dawn Horse) 60 Million Years Ago
Mesohippus 40 Million Years Ago
Merychippus 25 Million Years Ago
Pliohippus 10 Million Years Ago
The Progressive Merychippus led to modern day horses, as we know them, Equus. The
Equus was quite small, a mere 10 inches high comparing to the average house cat of
8 or 9 pounds. Species in this genus lived from 11 million to 18 million years
Merychippus represents a milestone in the evolution of horses. Though it retained
the primitive character of three toes, it looked like a modern horse. Merychippus
had a long face. Its long legs allowed it to escape from predators and migrate long
distances to feed. It had high-crowned cheek teeth, making it the first known
grazing horse and the ancestor of all later horse lineages. (Merychippus Florida
Museum of Natural History, 10 July, 2005 www.flmnh.ufl.edu/natsci/vertpaleo/fhc/merychippus.htm)
The Pliohippus spread into South America, as well as Asia, Europe, and Africa. In
the last 2 million years, Pleistocene and present, Equus Przewalski emerged as the
large, magnificent creature we admire today.
Though Equus arose in North America, they ranged from Alaska to the Strait of
Magellan while enormous herds roamed in Europe, Asia and Africa during the
Pleistocene epoch. Equus is the only surviving genus in the once diverse family of
horses which was domesticated about 3,000 years ago.
Species of Equus lived from 5 million years ago until the present. For reasons
that arent clear, they died out in North and South America, then in Europe
remaining only in Africa and Asia. Todays survivors include the African Ass
and three species of Zebras, the Asiatic onager, and other species that may survive
only in zoos. (The Fossil Book, Fenton, pg. 419).
No matter how far we believe we have come in the domestication of horses, horses
still respond with the ancient flight from trouble response to humans. Bolt, run
and ask questions later. Perhaps it is this same lack of trust and this inability
to completely domesticate the horse that endears horses to us.
Although were enraptured while viewing a film of wolves running free, we
probably wouldnt have this same attachment to a pack of domesticated poodles
or pit bulls running with abandon in the forest. And yet, the image of horses
running along a beach, prairie or pastoral field is one of pure freedom and
Horses seem naturally wild.
In 2004 U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Montana) slipped into the 3,300-page federal
budget a rider that opened the door to the slaughter of thousands of wild
I think what we should do is put some language in this thing that allows the
BLM to sell excess wild horses, Burns said. Id prefer to sell
em to whomever. Maybe some of them will end up going to slaughter. --
Sen. Conrad Burns, (4/30/04, Billings Gazette).
After it was discovered that the sales of horsemeat went up 41 percent, the House
voted to reinstate the ban. Currently laws inadequately protect horses. The Courier
Journal of Louisville, Ky., recently reported, There are only 27,000 wild
horses and 4,000 wild burros on government land in Western states. Allowing the
sale of these animals could endanger the species.
Other resources state that there are less than 40,000 wild horses left in North
America. The American Humane Society issued this update: On January 25, 2004,
a bill was introduced by U.S. Representatives Nick J. Rahall (D-WV) and Ed
Whitfield (R-KY) that, if passed, would bring back the original ban on the sale and
slaughter of wild horses and burros put into place more than 30 years ago.
This bill would once again prevent wild horses and burros from being sold
and slaughtered for human consumption abroad, in countries such as Germany and
Japan. Please urge your U.S. representatives to protect these living symbols of the
American West by cosponsoring H.R. 297, the Rahall-Whitfield Bill.
Karen can be reached at MyMuddyPawsStudio@gmail.com.