blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

More horses

When clearing my desk, I find all sorts of notes for blogposts I meant to write but never did. Sometime in 2010 I remember visiting an exhibition at the Musée des Civilisations (now known as the Musée Canadien de l'Histoire / Canadian Museum of History) entitled "The Horse"––it was about their evolution, their biology, their characteristics and about how we humans have made use of them through the ages. It included Joe Fafard's sculpture of 11 horses, now installed outside the National Gallery on Sussex Drive. It seems a shame to throw away my notes on that experience unused, so I'll transcribe them here.

Cave painting at Lascaux
55 million years ago there were prehistoric horses with four or five toes; they evolved into three-toed animals (hypohippus) and eventually the middle toe developed into a hoof.

Wild horses appear in the French cave paintings made 33,000 years ago. I have seen the ones at Lascaux. It's thought that the first domesticated horses were the ones in Kazakhstan between 5000 and 3500BC. Villagers raised them for meat.

Samurai warrior
History is full of stories of horses ridden into battle, pulling chariots or carrying fighting men on their backs. Chariot races took place in hippodromes. Trousers were invented for the purpose of horse riding by the Scythians. Medieval horses in Europe had to carry a 46kg load, their armour being so heavy. The special breed able to bear it was known as the "Great Horse" or destrier. The Spaniards went on horseback to fight the Incas and in North America, 300 years ago, native tribes began to make use of horses captured from Spanish invaders. The Japanese samurai were cavaliers. In the first World War, the long suffering animals were still being exploited; 800 horses were killed in a single Canadian charge.

Elsewhere they've been used as pit ponies, draft (draught) horses pulling all kinds of merchandise as well as fire trucks and for transporting people or mail. On the Silk Road safe conduct passes were carried on horseback. The Pony Express in the USA went through relay stations changing horses every 16km. Horses were famously used by cowboys or gauchos where a mere five horsemen could control 1000 head of cattle.

The Arab people value mares more than stallions and the Sakhas of northeast Russia ferment mares' milk (koumiss) to drink. In Mongolia, the music made by fiddles with horses' heads transports listeners into a spiritual world.

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