It’s hard to imagine a time when horses and humans weren’t living peacefully side-by-side. We may not rely on them as much as we did in the past, but these majestic mammals are now comfortable around people and are often happy to work on riding and training with their handlers, as long as they’re well cared for.
Yet, how did this animal and human relationship begin? Let’s look at the evolution of the horse and human relationship throughout different stages of history. Horses may even play a significant role in your future travel plans!
When Did Horses Become Domesticated?
Horses and humans have roamed the planet together for millions of years, and horses were around long before our human ancestors were. Horses are suspected to have been on this planet for at least 50 million years while human ancestors have been around for only two million years. The first known horse relative was about the size of a dog, but it evolved over time to gain the characteristics of the horses we know today.
Despite being on the planet for so long, horses weren’t fully domesticated until about 7,000 years ago. It’s believed that these horses and humans first bonded in the Eurasian Steppe, in the area where Ukraine and West Kazakhstan exist today.
However, people didn’t start controlling, bonding with and riding horses until about 4200 BC. Humans began to form a closer connection with horses, so they were more commonly used for transportation and other tasks rather than meat. The bond between horses and humans only grew stronger from there.
What Horse DNA Tells Us
The evolution of horses isn’t a single timeline. Horse DNA suggests that not all horses evolved from the same ancient horse creatures. The horses of the Botai population are thought to be the first domesticated equids, but horses today don’t seem to share the same DNA as those animals. The horse species most closely related to the Botai horses is the Przewalski’s horse.
It seems that the region, culture, and resources all played a role in the evolution of horses, so the bond between humans and horses varied greatly depending on the location.
For example, Botai horses were mostly used for meat and milk, and they were only ridden for herd management. However, other ancient cultures were close enough to horses that they believed they could read the emotions of the animals.
The art from ancient cultures is a good indication of how the people interacted with the horses. Some created art showcasing facial expressions and body language on the horses to indicate that they were viewed similarly to humans. So, some cultures were much faster to bond with horses than others, but over time, all regions learned to coexist with horses rather than slaughtering them for meat.
Uses for Horses Over the Years
It took a while for humans to figure out the best uses for horses, so these gentle giants had many purposes over the years. The timeline for horse uses varied for different areas, but most civilizations learned to connect with horses more as time went on. At first, many places used horses for milk and meat, but neither of those is common in today’s society.
Before humans invented more modern modes of transportation, horses were a common way to get from one place to another. Sometimes they would transport humans, and other times, they would haul resources.
Amid wars, horses became more versatile creatures. They’re commonly associated with cavalry charges in combat, but they also were essential for pulling heavy weapons and transporting injured people to hospitals. Their strength likely saved many people on the battlefield.
Over time, new equipment removed the need for horses in war and in everyday transportation. Yet, that didn’t stop humans from keeping the majestic creatures in their lives. Once there was less of a need for horses in those aspects, humans began to keep them mostly as companions. They learned to focus on an emotional bond more than necessary training.
Today, most horses are used for leisure horseback riding or ranch work. Many are even kept as pets to provide companionship and entertainment to their handlers. They can sometimes be used for specific police work, such as handling crowds at large events or performing in parades.
If we look at the evolution of horses and humans from a horse’s point of view, things have improved greatly. They’re now treated with much more respect, and their duties aren’t life-threatening anymore.
Horses and Humans: An Emotional Bond
While horses have had many roles throughout history, those roles didn’t always involve an emotional bond with humans. Certain cultures had closer connections to horses, but overall, the closeness to these animals is more modern. There’s not enough research to determine how strong the horse-human bond is, but research shows that horses are most relaxed around humans they recognize.
Horses may not develop a bond with their humans as closely as a dog or cat would, but there’s no doubt that they require some level of trust to let humans ride on them. Grooming, training, and care are just some ways horses build a foundation of trust with humans.
So, if you go horseback riding, take some time to form a sense of trust with the horse. It’s important to greet your horse with confidence to help them feel more comfortable when you mount them. Be patient and gentle with your horse to allow both of you to get the best experience possible during your horseback riding experience.
Include Horses in Your Vacation Plans!
If you love being around horses, a horse pack trip could be an excellent opportunity for you. Tsylos Park Lodge & Adventures near Chilko Lake, British Columbia, offers week-long horseback riding adventures. You’ll get to experience miles of horseback riding in the incredible mountain landscapes. There are plenty of shorter horseback riding tours for guests to choose from as well.
Trail guides will accompany you on your excursions to ensure that your experience is as breathtaking and safe as possible. It’s the perfect opportunity to unplug and spend your time enjoying the nature around you. If you choose the week-long trip, you’ll get to camp in beautiful areas near the resort, and the guides will help make sure you have everything you need for the trip. Plus, every horseback riding adventure will allow you to experience the horse and human bond first-hand.
If you’re looking for an adventurous horseback riding experience or another vacation surrounded by nature, contact Tsylos for more details. It’s the perfect place to enjoy the beauty that this planet has to offer.