What Is the Origin of the Horse?
Sixty-five million years ago, some small animals no bigger than foxes, ran about the forests of Europe and North America. These prehistoric horses had arched backs and snout-like noses. They had several toes on each foot.
These small animals were dawn horses, and they were the ancestors of today’s horses. The scientific name for the little dawn horse is Eohippus (ee-o-HIP-us). Over millions of years, the horse grew bigger and had fewer toes. Horses keep changing.
Eventually, they became much like the horses of today. All the toes disappeared except the middle toe, which developed into a single “foot”. Modern horses, zebras, and asses belong to the genus Equus, the only surviving genus in a once diverse family, the Equidae.
No one knows where horses originated. Fossils show that during the Ice Age horses lived on every continent except Australia. Great herds wandered throughout North and South America. Then for some unknown reason, horses disappeared from the Western Hemisphere.