Musings on the origin of the horse in North America

Carter horses and the Spanish "Dun Factor," maybe that is not the only ancient marker we should be prioritizing?

Carter horses and the Spanish “Dun Factor,” maybe that is not the only ancient marker we should be prioritizing?

Right now the “wild v feral” debate is on again. Even though current law declares them “wild and integral” this debate seems to be a crux to those that want wild horses and burros removed from our public land to free up resources like grazing for domestic livestock.

July 7, 2014

No one seems to argue that horses originated on the North American continent. The current scientific consensus is that Equus came close to dying out about 10,000 years ago. It is believed that at that time a few migrated into Asia across the Bering land bridge connecting Alaska with Siberia.

One of the most fascinating discoveries was that of Yukon horse (Equus lambei). This smaller (about 12 hands) evolved equid populated Alaska, Yukon and Northwest Territories.Yukon horse resembles Preswalskii’s horse. Yukon horse is absolute evidence that the horse evolved to it’s modern form on the North American Continent.

As current law requires the management of wild horses on federal land to be done “wild,” the debate is often irrelevant under law. However as more and more private profiteers continue to industrialize areas populated by wild horses and burros the debate could become very significant in gaining actual protection under law (the act protecting wild horses has been eroded by private interest lobbies).

Very little pre-Columbian research has been done that centers around wild horses. However some research about trade with the “New World” has been compiled.

One such paper talks about Chinese trade with the Carolina’s, Virginia, Mississippi, Illinois, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Maine

Notes from the paper: · Dr James P. Scherz interviewed a Menominee Indian (Wisconsin) named Pamita (can be found in “Ancient American, Archaeology of the Americas Before Columbus”). On asking ‘Did you get the little horses from the Vikings?’ he responded ‘No, from the Chinese…People from across the seas came to visit and we went there to visit’ (Joanna Bergeron)

Another interesting point is that the “Silk Road” trade routes were used to trade camels and horses. The camel is a species that also originated on the North American Continent. So we have two species that originated inNorth America being traded heavily on the Silk route. This is an interesting juncture in sociological anthropology.

This fact makes you wonder if horses were traded not only as an export from China, but an export of the “New World?”

When we look at certain horse breeds like the appaloosa. and the horses of Ghengis Khan It does make you ask a few questions about accepted theory that horses were extinct in North America at that time and not being exported from the new world to the old.

Then you add in the knowledge of the massive Chinese trade ships? A wreck of one of these ships was found off of San Francisco. “One such junk seems to be buried in the bottom sands of the Sacramento River just off the north-east corner of San Fransico Bay. Not only that it seems that divers were able to retrieve bits of what seems to be medieval chinese amour before the ship was entirely covered with sands.”

The question of origin of the modern horse becomes even more compelling when you read mariner records that cite exploration and colonization of the new world by the Chinese “pre” disappearance of the Bering land bridge, when we know horses existed on the North American Continent. Did the chinese bring horses back to china? “They traveled to New Guinea and to Australia, and formed the cultures that would develop in those places. Somewhat later (although the date is contested) people from north of the Yangtze River crossed the Bering land bridge to the American continent, becoming the descendants of the First Americans. Between 14,000 BCE and 4,000 BCE, the seas rose and caused a second wave of southeastern Asians to travel out and colonize Indonesia and Polynesia. Chinese exploration as early as 3000-2500 BCE is thought to have taken place in Siberia and across into Alaska.”

All of this is rather speculative but it does ask some interesting questions.

However, the modern horse did evolve on the North American continent. Anyone that goes to the range can see how compatible horse dung is to the environment. Fossil collection in the Great Basin of anything that resembles a horse is abysmal. Excavating mines doe not stop for a horse skeleton, but do for a rusted car, according to all of the documents we have seen. How can the record even be thought to be complete?

As with any area that has to do with management of a species as wild, where others want to reap a profit off of the disappearance of that species, we are required to ask any and all questions.

We hope you found this interesting. The greatest question this brings to mind is that we have “markers” of Spanish descent that are seen as the “ancient” markers we watch for in determining protection. Perhaps we should begin to look at Chinese markers as well? Maybe they could tell a story all their own?

As we discuss management in todays America we need to remember there is no fossil record of European cows, hunters with long guns and ATV use.  Is this really the debate everything should be tiered to? Just a thought.