It is hard to believe that the beautiful horse that we all love started life about 55 million years ago as a little creature no bigger than a pet cat! Officially, it is called Hyracotherium but most people call this creature Eohippus (which means "Dawn Horse" and is much easier to say). It was only 20cm (8in) high at the shoulder — no bigger than a pet cat!
There are many different theories about how the various breeds of Equus ferus caballus, the modern domesticated horse, came about. One popular theory is called the ‘Four Foundation' theory, however recent genetic testing has strongly questioned its simplicity.
As the ancestors of the modern horse spread across Asia and Europe 50,000 years ago they came into contact with humans. Both Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon man hunted the wild horses as a valuable source of food.
The most important thing to remember is that all breeds today are the one species known as Equus ferus caballus. The diversity of the more than 350 breeds is, we think, due to a number of factors over millions of years…
You probably love all kinds of horses but there are a handful of breeds that have that special something that sets them apart. The Arabian is one of them. Its distinctive head, high set tail, intelligence, spirit and stamina make it one of the most impressive breeds today.
The Thoroughbred breed started in England for the specific purpose of racing. Horse racing, in England, had always been a popular pastime however it was King Charles II who decided to improve the English racing horse by introducing foreign blood-lines.
As the name implies, the Welsh Pony and Welsh Cobs originated in Wales, in the United Kingdom. It is believed that a welsh-type breed existed in the British Isles more than 3,600 years ago and that they are descended from early native horses called Celtic ponies.
The Andalusian horse gets its name from Andalusia, the region in southern Spain where the breed was developed about 600 years ago.
Contrary to what the name suggests, horses are not native to Australia. The Australian Stock Horse was a breed that came about after years of environmental and human selection.
This breed got its name because it is a breed that was developed in America and is the fastest horse over a quarter mile distance – simple!
Just think of a big, jet black, powerful, elegant horse with a long flowing mane and tail and you are probably thinking of a Friesian.