There are many theories that exist today regarding the history of humans using horses for work. Human association with horses go back as much as more than 6000 years ago and there is not enough evidence to prove for definite as to when and where humans started to work with horses. Today a lot of horses live in human habitats when compared to those in the forest and we now breed them, shelter them and use them for work. In this article, let us check out the interesting history of humans working with horses.
Initially, horses were hunted by cavemen for eating their meat as it gave them a sustainable source of diet full of energy. A great amount of research studies suggests that about 6000 years ago horses were first domesticated by humans in the Europe and Central Asia regions. In those days, donkeys were mostly used for transportation and carrying burden from one place to another. When compared with donkeys, horses have much more power, stamina, speed and strength for longer periods of time. When humans came to realize that horses are just not animals to be preyed upon and could be used for other purposes, history was reinvented. As per social historians the classification of horse eras are as follows:[i]
· Era of Consumption (50,000BC to present)
· Era of Utilization and Status (4000BC to 1900AD)
· Era of Herding (3500BC to present)
· Era of the Chariot (1700BC-400AD )
· Era of the Cavalry (700BC – 1942AD)
· Era of Agriculture (900AD – 1945AD)
· Era of the Carriage (1700AD-1920AD)
· Era of Leisure – (1900 to present)
As per historians, horses were first harnessed for their power and speed by humans around 4000 BC and this allowed humans to travel much faster compared to covering great distances on their two legs. Humans realized that horse power could be used to travel for longer duration and will help them to gain better modes of transportation by saving time. Horse soon became man’s best friend due to the capacity and strength displayed. Keeping horses helped nomadic tribes to gain control over their herds of cattle in a much more efficient way. Nature has designed horse’s digestive system in such a way that it is able to eat and then digest the food by running and does not require a break in between meals like other animals.
Sedentary cultures were used to driving with sledges using a draft animal and so they preferred to use horses for sledges rather than ride on them. It was much later that horse with wheeled carriages started to be used for transportation purposes and moving goods. It is believed that in China around 2000 years ago, horses started to be used for warfare. Around the 13th century Mongolians used horses with chariots and archers fought being mounted on horses. Later on European troops too started to mount horses for battles and they used metal plates for protection as armors. Right after the voyages by Christopher Columbus, native Indians realized the importance of ‘horse power’ and also started breeding horses looking for great traits and lineage.
With the invention of the steam engine, horses became less used for transportation. Now horses are widely used either as a status symbol, for utility purposes or sports and till today cavalry is an integral part of any nation’s military strength.
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