Horses and History
The Dog May Be Man's Best Friend,
but It Was the Horse that Built Civilization!
by Melinda Maidens
"History was written on the back of the horse," according to an inscription at The Horse Park in Kentucky. Horse lovers do not need to be reminded how much human beings owe to equus caballus, but to the general population, civilization's debt is perhaps not immediately apparent. A comparison of civilizations that had horses with civilizations that did not soon makes it clear that human history, at least in Eurasia, would have been profoundly different were it not for the horse.
A prime example is the entire Western Hemisphere, which was horse-free as of 30-40,000 years ago for reasons as yet unknown. One of the consequences was that its native populations remained scattered, sparse and overwhelmingly in the hunter-gatherer stage of development. The most culturally and socially complex civilizations were those of the Incas, Mayans, and Aztecs. Although successful as warriors, they could not spread their knowledge terribly far, since they lacked swift, agile animals like horses to carry them and their ideas to the rest of the Americas. As accomplished as they were, they ultimately were no match for the mounted conquistadores.
Other horseless parts of the world, such as Australia and sub-Saharan Africa, provide similar examples of restricted human mobility and development.
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photo © 1999-2009 Melinda Maidens
1999-2009 Melinda Maidens