The horse (Equus ferus caballus) is a domesticated, one-toed, hoofed mammal. It belongs to the taxonomic family Equidae and is one of two extantsubspecies of Equus ferus. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature, close to Eohippus, into the large, single-toed animal of today. Humans began domesticating horses around 4000 BCE, and their domestication is believed to have been widespread by 3000 BCE. Horses in the subspecies caballus are domesticated, although some domesticated populations live in the wild as feral horses. These feral populations are not true wild horses, which are horses that never have been domesticated. There is an extensive, specialized vocabulary used to describe equine-related concepts, covering everything from anatomy to life stages, size, colors, markings, breeds, locomotion, and behavior.
Horses are adapted to run, allowing them to quickly escape predators, and possess an excellent sense of balance and a strong fight-or-flight response. Related to this need to flee from predators in the wild is an unusual trait: horses are able to sleep both standing up and lying down, with younger horses tending to sleep significantly more than adults. Female horses, called mares, carry their young for approximately 11 months and a young horse, called a foal, can stand and run shortly following birth. Most domesticated horses begin training under a saddle or in a harness between the ages of two and four. They reach full adult development by age five, and have an average lifespan of between 25 and 30 years.
Horse breeds are loosely divided into three categories based on general temperament: spirited "hot bloods" with speed and endurance; "cold bloods", such as draft horses and some ponies, suitable for slow, heavy work; and "warmbloods", developed from crosses between hot bloods and cold bloods, often focusing on creating breeds for specific riding purposes, particularly in Europe. There are more than 300 breeds of horse in the world today, developed for many different uses. (Full article...)
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Young Boulonnais stallion
The Boulonnais, also known as the "White Marble Horse", is a draft horse breed. It is known for its large but elegant appearance and is usually gray, although chestnut and black are also allowed by the French breed registry. Originally there were several sub-types, but they were crossbred until only one is seen today. The breed's origins trace to a period before the Crusades and, during the 17th century, Spanish Barb, Arabian, and Andalusian blood were added to create the modern type.
During the early 1900s, the Boulonnais were imported in large numbers to the United States and were quite popular in France; however, the European population suffered severe decreases during 20th-century wars. The breed nearly became extinct following World War II, but rebounded in France in the 1970s as a popular breed for horse meat. Breed numbers remain low; it is estimated that fewer than 1,000 horses remain in Europe, mostly in France, with a few in other nations. Studies as early as 1983 indicated a danger of inbreeding within the Boulonnais population, and a 2009 report suggested that the breed should be a priority for conservation within France. The smallest type of Boulonnais was originally used to pull carts full of fresh fish from Boulogne to Paris, while the larger varieties performed heavy draft work, both on farms and in the cities. The Boulonnais was also crossbred to create and refine several other draft breeds. (Full article...)
Image 5This image shows a representative sequence, but should not be construed to represent a "straight-line" evolution of the horse. Reconstruction, left forefoot skeleton (third digit emphasized yellow) and longitudinal section of molars of selected prehistoric horses (from Evolution of the horse)
Image 16Secondary characteristics of a stallion include heavier muscling for a given breed than is seen in mares or geldings, often with considerable development along the crest of the neck, as shown in this image. (from Equine anatomy)
Image 29The dispersal of the DOM2 genetic lineage, believed to be the ancestor of all modern domesticated horses, is linked with the populations which preceded the Sintashta culture and their expansions. (from Domestication of the horse)
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