Wednesday, August 17, 2022

SearchResearch Challenge (8/17/22): Horses are native to... where?

 Everything comes from somewhere.... 

White Horse in Field by Helena Lopes (

... right?  

The other day I read that horses in North America were brought here in the 1400s by Spanish conquistadors.  As you know, they rode them all across what was once known as Spanish America. 

But then another day I read that there were horses in North America 10,000 years ago. 

What happened?  I know this part of the story--the horses of North America went extinct along with most of the other New World megafauna during the Quaternary extinction event at the Pleistocene-Holocene transition. 

While the causes have been widely debated, their disappearance was rapid. Was it climate change? (Beginning around 12,500 years ago, the grasses characteristic of a open plains ecosystem radically changed.)  Or was it people? Was it just due to overexploitation of large animals by those newly arrived humans. 

In any case, this brought up a deep question:  Are horses native to North America?  Or exactly where ARE they from? 

This leads to our Search Challenge this week: 

1.  Where did horses (as a species) come from?  That is, where are they native? 

For our purposes, we'll define "horse" as some version of Equus that developed roughly 5 million years ago.  Where did THEY develop?  Where are they from? 

The challenge here isn't really to find the information (that part is simple); the Challenge is to figure out what it means to be native (which I take to mean as "historically grew and developed in a particular place") and how we know that history about horses. 

Bonus Challenge: 

2. What other animals are/were native with the early horses? Can you name a few of the megafauna that also lived in the same territory as the horse?  (I'm especially interested in other megafauna that might have interacted with horses.) 

What can you find out?  How do you know?  


Search on! 


  1. This time and specially after reading the instructions about horse and native, I am reading carefully before nothing.

    However, my first query was [ first Equine in history] and similar like [Equines through history] or [Equines first saw]

    And then tried on YouTube with [first equine found in history]

    Found this: Evolution of horses and their relatives

    Video sounds interesting. And, has been difficult to understand to me. It's very quickly, a different accent and difficult words. So I need to watch more times. I hope English as first language finds it more helpful

    The first comment brings light to our question. And next comments are interesting too.

    Also there is with my query on YouTube, a video from PBS in which the title says horses took North America twice. I'll watch later

    1. Searched maps on Twitter in Simon Kuestenmacher profile

      Found these. Not on the topic and very interesting

      Horses and cars words; same route

      Horses replaced by cars

      And, Equine coat colors

    2. With [Equus first origin]

      Britannica article. In article mentions multiple hypotheses. Also mentions relationship between Europe and North America

      Equus: Story of the Horse — Origins

      "In Episode 1, Origins, Thompson takes us 45 million years back in time to meet Dawn Horse, a creature that led to all horses today..."

      [Dawn horse native site]

      2018: Dawn Horse fossil to be featured in Smithsonian exhibit


      Introduction Dawn Horse

    3. I thought about searching in YouTube, Today I Found Out Channel, about our Challenge.

      I didn't find that. However, found this

      Engines and horsepower

  2. it's a moving target… at least that's what Mr. Ed told me…
    used: 'horses and megafauna' videos
    Yukon wild horses - see video -
    ice age horseys

  3. I don't know if this is overly simplistic: I searched [horse] which led me to wikpedia. This led to an article specifically on the evolution of horses. This led to an article in Canadian Geographic (

    It sounds like horses evolved from a smaller animal in North America. Then some Equus crossed into Eurasia via land bridges like the Bering land bridge. While the NA horses eventually went extinct, the horses in Eurasia thrived and diversified. However, since they were already Equus before migrating, I think the argument can be made that modern horses are native to NA.

    Nonetheless, this still leaves open the question of what a "native" is. I was thinking about "Native Americans." They are from Eurasia, and before that Africa. So why are they considered Native *Americans*? I searched [what makes something native], and found an article differentiating native, non-native, and invasive species. To be native, a species must have originated, developed, and adapted to that habitat. But if Equus in NA died off 12,000 years ago, it can be argued that they did not adapt to that habitat. At the same time, the branch of Equus that "conqured" Eurasia can arguably be considered an invasive species, because they outcompeted the local animals by running faster and having stronger teeth to better handle local plants/grasses. So Equus in Eurasia did better at adapting to their habitat, even though they didn't originate there.

    tl;dr: This sounds like a 3-legged stool problem, and you have to decide which of the three legs of nativeness matters the least -- origination, development, or adaptation -- because you can only have two.