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Two Nokota horses standing in open grassland with rolling hills and trees visible in the background.
Conservation status
Scientific classification e
E. f. caballus
Trinomial name
Equus ferus caballus
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Horse riding

Horses are a diverse group of animals of the family Equidae. They are herbivores, which means they eat grass and other plants. Some plants are dangerous for them like ragwort, lemongrass (oil grass) and sometimes acorns.

The common horse is the species Equus caballus. It was domesticated from wild horses by humans at least 5000 years ago. They are large, strong animals, and some breeds are used to pull heavy loads. Racehorses can gallop up to 30 miles an hour.

A male horse is a stallion, and a female horse is a mare. The general term for a young horse is foal. A young female horse is a filly, and a young male horse is a colt. A castrated horse is a gelding. Horses have hooves which need protection by horseshoes from hard or rough ground.

Early horses

A group of horses

The evolution of horses has been well studied.[3][4] Fifty million years ago, there were no horses as we know them now. Of the earliest fossil horse, the North American one is called Eohippus, and the Eurasian one is called Hyracotherium. Both were small animals: Eohippus was the larger of the two at twice the size of a terrier dog.

Many changes took place between those little animals and today's horse.[5] These changes are best explained as adaptations to its changing ecological niche. From a small forest-dweller eating nuts and fruit to a larger forest browser eating leaves and small branches. Finally, the modern horse is a grazer on open grassland, with different teeth, legs for running and much larger size. Major changes happened in the mid-Miocene when the climate became cooler, and grassland began to replace forests. This change continued, and several groups of mammals changed from browsers to grazers.[3][4]

Horses and humans

Horses pulling a plough

Horses have been domesticated for at least 5000 years.[6] They have been used by humans in many different ways for travel, work, food, and pleasure and showing. Cavalry horses were used in war until the middle 20th century. They are used for riding and transport. They are also used for carrying things or pulling carts, or to help plow farmer's fields in agriculture. People have used selective breeding to make bigger horses to do heavy work.

Some people keep horses as pets. Today, horses are mostly used for entertainment and sports. They are also still used for work and transportation in some places. Horses are used in equestrianism, which is equine sports such as cross-country, showjumping, dressage, horse polo, rodeo, western pleasure, horsemanship, reining, and halter/showmanship events etc. Showjumping, cross-country and dressage are Olympic sports. "Equus" is the old Latin word for horse.

Other uses of horses

Horsehide is a tough leather made from the skin of horses. Horsehair is used to make a stiff fabric. Horsehair can also be used as a stuffing for furniture. Horsehair can be mixed with plaster to make it strong. Horse bones can be used to make gelatin for food. The bones can also be used to make glue. Animal glue is still preferred by some wood workers.[7]

Horses are used all over the world to carry people and pull carts. They are used in big cities to help police watch and protect people in crowds.[8]


A mare is a female horse. Other female equines are also sometimes called mares. Before her third birthday, she is called a filly. When a mare wants to mate, she is called in heat. This part of the estrous cycle lasts for about three weeks.[9] Mares are more prone to being temperamental, some people would call this being "mare-ish".

Horse breeds

These are some well-known horse breeds among the hundreds that exist:

Related pages


  1. Linnaeus, Carolus (1758). Systema naturae per regna tria naturae :secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis.. 1 (10th ed.). Holmiae (Laurentii Salvii). p. 73. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  2. Grubb, P. (2005). "Order Perissodactyla". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 630–631. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0 . OCLC 62265494 . 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Simpson G.G. 1951. Horses: the story of the horse family in the modern world and through sixty million years of history. Oxford University Press.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Benton M.J. 1992. Vertebrate palaeontology. 2nd ed, Chapman & Hall, p341–343.

    Template-specific style sheet:

    ISBN 978-0-412-73810-4
  5. MacFadden, Bruce J. (1994). Fossil Horses: systematics, paleobiology, and evolution of the family Equidae. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-47708-6 . 
  6. Outram A.K. et al 2009. The earliest horse harnessing and milking. Science 323 (5919) 1332–1335. [1]
  7. "Archived copy". 
  8. "Archived copy". 
  9. Hodgson D.R. et al 1993. Dissipation of metabolic heat in the horse during exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology 74, 1161-1170.