Animal domestication has been present for thousands of years, but few animals have provided as much value as the horse. The horse has given humans an unparalleled and unique freedom that only mechanical inventions have outmatched. Let’s take a look at the various roles that horses have played throughout history.
First Record of Horses – Food & Transport
We can look to Kazakhstan for the earliest record of domesticated horses. Around 5,000 BC, we suspect that horses were utilized for meat, and even potentially, their milk. It wasn’t until half a century later do we find the first record of transport. The ability to ride a horse increased the speed of travel for humans from about 4 mph to upwards of 40 mph. This increase led to massive trade and exploration gains.
Apart from human riders in the ancient world, we also have artifacts and fossils revealing carts, chariots, and other forms of carriers that became commonplace for the horse to carry.
Horses became increasingly pertinent in warfare. About 2,000 years ago, China is touted to have created the first saddle, not only easing the ability to travel but to provide a riding tool for warriors. With a saddle, soldiers could remain planted on a horse without their hands, thus allowing for weapons to be carried and deployed simultaneously. This advantage cannot be overlooked in the efficacy of warfare.
In addition to warfare, horses have long been instrumental in the sport and act of hunting. Early paintings from more than 2,600 years ago show the horse in wild animal hunts, such as the lion, boar, and bear. And in more recent history, horses played a significant role in Britain’s national pastime of foxhunting.
Early Mail Carriers
Horses certainly allowed for couriers to travel in the ancient world and were also especially pertinent in the development of America. The Pony Express, while only in service for about a year in 1860, provided a lifeline between East and West coast America.
Today, horse riding is both a competitive sport and hobby. Horses pull carriages full of lovers in NYC. Police use them in cities to help crowd control and for increased maneuverability. The horse is even used as a form of therapy for autistic children. While many of their traditional roles have been dissolved, the horse continues to be a valued animal who’s adaptability continues to improve the lives of humans across the world.