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 If we think back thousands of years, to a time before records were kept diligently, before academics were academic, before students studied, once, for the first time, a human must have gotten on a horse.

 I have gotten on a horse for the first time. The first time I ever got on a horse was when I was 3. I remember the rocking motion, how far away the ground seemed, how I never wanted to get off. The horse I rode was old and patient and had a grown up attached to the other end of the lead rope, in case anything went wrong. It felt foreign to me, as a three-year-old, but it also felt like coming home.

 I also have gotten on a horse for his first time. Putting your leg over his back, committing yourself to being on him is very frightening. You have to trust him and trust yourself.

That first equestrian must have bravely swung his leg over a horse’s back and found himself sitting high above the ground, on an animal far swifter and stronger than he. After that, the whole world was at the tips of his fingers. He could get places much more quickly, could hunt at the same pace as his prey. He was as fast as a horse.

 Of course, we can never know anything of the very first time that a person thought to climb up on a horse. However, we can understand many general themes surrounding that first ride on a horse, including the chief benefit that it provided—rapid transport and hunting—and how that changed the world. Here, I explore motives for the domestication of the horse, both from the horse’s point of view and the human’s. Further, I seek to explain how horses and humans reached a point in their evolutionary history at which they could work together. Finally, I discuss the changes to horses and to human society brought about by domestication. Primarily, the horse provided swift, readily available transport and that in resulted everything—people, goods, and ideas–becoming more widespread.


Use the navigation bar (above) to read the different sections of this project.

About me and this “blog”:

I’m Camilla Hughes, a senior in Animal and Poultry Sciences and Biological Sciences at Virginia Tech. This “blog” is for my final project in UH3004H: Deep History and Domestication, which is on the topic of horse domestication. I put the word blog in quotation marks because this is not truly a blog in that in will be updated regularly. I am just using it as a place to put my entire final project. My actual blog (in which I post regularly) for Deep History and Domestication is located here and the mother blog for the class is located here.

The header image is of The Jockey of Artemision (retrieved from http://www.mlahanas.de/Greeks/Arts/Jockey.htm), a Greek sculpture from about 140 BC. Although it is much more recent than the initial domestication of the horse, it shows accurately what the horse provided to humankind: speed, strength, agility, and transport that they previously had not possessed.

Here’s my favorite domesticate:

Photo credit: Carrie Kroehler

Photo credit: Carrie Kroehler