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Horse and foal

The horse (Equus ferus caballus) is a domesticated one-toed hoofed mammal. It belongs to the taxonomic family Equidae and is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature, Eohippus, into the large, single-toed animal of today. Humans began domesticating horses around 4000 BC, and their domestication is believed to have been widespread by 3000 BC. 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, as this term is used to describe horses that have never 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, possessing 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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A recruitment poster for the Canadian Mounted Rifles, stating "Quick Service Overseas". In the foreground is a man in military dress on a horse, with other men and horses in the background.
A Canadian cavalry recruitment poster

The use of horses in World War I marked a transitional period in the evolution of armed conflict. Cavalry units were initially considered essential offensive elements of a military force, but over the course of the war, the vulnerability of horses to modern machine gun, mortar, and artillery fire reduced their utility on the battlefield. This paralleled the development of tanks, which ultimately replaces cavalry in shock tactics. While the perceived value of the horse in war changed dramatically, horses still played a significant role throughout the war.

All of the major combatants in World War I (1914–1918) began the conflict with cavalry forces. Imperial Germany stopped using them on the Western Front soon after the war began, but continued with limited use on the Eastern Front, well into the war. The Ottoman Empire used cavalry extensively during the war. On the Allied side, the United Kingdom used mounted infantry and cavalry charges throughout the war, but the United States used cavalry only briefly. Although not particularly successful on the Western Front, Allied cavalry had some success in the Middle Eastern theatre due to the open nature of the front, allowing a more traditional war of movement, in addition to the lower concentration of artillery and machine guns. Russia used cavalry forces on the Eastern Front but with limited success. (Full article...)

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Haflinger Fohlen 01.jpg
Credit: Böhringer Friedrich

A Haflinger foal. The Haflinger is a breed of horse developed in Austria and northern Italy. Haflinger horses are relatively small and are always chestnut in color. The breed is well-muscled, but with an elegant appearance. Haflingers have many uses, including light draft and harness work as well as various under-saddle disciplines.

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Clydesdale horse by Bonnie Gruenberg.JPG

The Clydesdale is a Scottish breed of draught horse. It is named for its area of origin, the Clydesdale or valley of the River Clyde, much of which is within the county of Lanarkshire.

The origins of the breed lie in the eighteenth century, when Flemish stallions were imported to Scotland and mated with local mares; in the nineteenth century, Shire blood was introduced. The first recorded use of the name "Clydesdale" for the breed was in 1826; the horses spread through much of Scotland and into northern England. After the breed society was formed in 1877, thousands of Clydesdales were exported to many countries of the world, particularly to Australia and New Zealand. In the early twentieth century numbers began to fall, both because many were taken for use in the First World War, and because of the increasing mechanisation of agriculture. By the 1970s, the Rare Breeds Survival Trust considered the breed vulnerable to extinction. Numbers have since increased slightly, (Full article...)

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