Pony Club Victoria



Origin of the Horse




Origin of the HorseOrigin of the Horse


PEGASUS - was the great flying horse of Greek mythology.


TROJAN HORSE - was a large wooden horse built by the Greeks which helped them capture the city of Troy during the Trojan War, about 1200 B.C.

Trojan Horse

COBB & CO. - the overland coach and mail transport company which operated in Australia from 1853 - 1924.

Cobb and Co


PHAR LAP - was the winner of the Melbourne Cup in 1930 and died in mysterious circumstances in the U.S.A.


Scientists believe that the earliest ancestor of the horse was a small animal about 25 to 50 cms high. They called this animal Eohippus (dawn horse) or Hyracotherium. It lived about 65 million years ago in what is now North America and Europe.

These prehistoric horses had arched backs and snout-like noses. They looked more like racing dogs, such as greyhounds or whippets, than like the straight-backed, long faced modern horse. They had four toes on their front feet and three toes on their hind feet. Each toe ended in a separate small hoof, Large, tough pads similar to those on a dog's foot kept the toes off the ground. These pads bore the animal's weight.

The next important ancestor of the modern horse was Mesohippus (middle horse). It lived about 35 million years ago. Scientists have found fossil remains of these animals in the USA. Mesohippus averaged about 61 cms in height, and had long, slender legs. Each foot had three toes. The middle toe was the longest.

Horse like animals continued to develop, and Merychippuss (ruminants or cud chewing horse) appeared about 26 million years ago. It grew about 100 cms high. Like Mesohippus, it had three toes on each foot. The side toes were almost useless, but the centre toe grew long and strong. It ended in a large, curved hoof and bore all the animal's weight.

By the time of the Ice Age, about one and a half million years ago, horses probably looked somewhat like modem horses. They grew bigger than their ancestors. The side toes became short bones along the legs, leaving the centre toe with its hoof to support the animals. The teeth became better fitted for eating grass. Scientists group these horses with the modern domestic horse.

No one knows where horses originated. Fossils show that during the Ice Age horses lived on every continent except Australia. Great herds wandered throughout North and South America. Then for some unknown reason, horses disappeared from the Western Hemisphere.