Do you know the true “Story of the Horse?”

Patricia J. Wynne image of horse evolution

Our Animated, Educational Video!

Watch our special “Story of the Horse” video, with animation by Rafael Moura, images and artwork by Patricia J. Wynne and narrated by TV Host and journalist Darley Newman.

Educating the public about issues related to horses and the environment is important to CANA Foundation. In honor of this season of giving, we wanted to share with you a special video we’ve created highlighting the history of the horse.

CANA Foundation is working to prove that the horse is a native species to North America, using research and information from Dr. Ross MacPhee, curator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and CANA’s Scientific Advisor. We’ve created an animated video to share the story in an easy, digestible way. You can view the video in this blog, and we encourage you to click through to Vimeo to share this with your friends, family and colleagues. By sharing to social media, embedding it on your website or emailing it to a friend, you’re sharing important information! 

At CANA, we strive to work through science backed education that will ultimately help with rewilding initiatives to better the lives of horses, each other and our planet and make for happy future holidays.

The Story of the Horse

And in case you do like to read…
below is The Story of the Horse’s transcript.

Horses… when you think about these majestic animals, you may think about them roaming the iconic American West, their bond with humans throughout history or horses in the present day. Survivors, partners and friends, horses have made their home in North America for quite some time. But do you know the true story of the horse? 

In evolutionary terms, the ancestors of the horse family appeared 53 million years ago, just 13 million years after the demise of the dinosaurs, placing them among the oldest groups of North American mammals to have survived into modern times. 

Horse evolution art by Patricia J. Wynne with coloring from Rafael Moura.

Thanks to the Bering land bridge that from time to time connected Alaska to eastern Siberia, early horses were able to expand their range by crossing from North America into Eurasia. The ancestor of the modern horse, Equus caballus, made the trip sometime between 800,000 and 1 million years ago. 

According to fossil records, horses continued to thrive in North America until around 11,000 years ago, when something happened that is still one of the greatest mysteries in natural history. At that time, dozens of large species died out in the Americas. It used to be thought that horses also died out at the same time, but new evidence indicates they survived until much later. How long, we don’t yet know.

Meanwhile, thanks to earlier migrations across Beringia, Equus survived in Eurasia and other parts of the Old World, where it was eventually domesticated 6000 years ago. 

Horses crossing back and forth over Beringia. Please note that the half-brown/half gray horses are meant to represent hybrids between different populations of horses living on opposite sides of Beringia.

It has long been assumed that, when Europeans brought their horses to North America 500 years ago, this was the first time that horse hooves had been heard in the New World. It wasn’t. 

It’s part of the mission of the CANA Foundation’s Back Home Project to find out more and confirm that horses are a native species to North America––by working with experts using ancient DNA techniques to establish the horse’s genetic history, and to verify that the modern horses we see today belong to the same stock as the horses that once roamed ice-age North America.

So next time you see a horse in real life or in the movies, think about their rich ancient pedigree and how lucky we are to be able to experience these special animals now and for many years to come.

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