Historical Horses: Until Relatively Recently, the Horse Has Played a Significant Role in the Everyday Lives of People across the World, Octavia Lamb Explores the Horse's Place in History with a Series of Images from the Archives of the RGS-IBG

Article excerpt

The dog may be man's best friend, but the horse is his most useful. Without it, the development of human society would probably have taken a different course. Although horses first evolved around 55 million years ago, humans first came into contact with them about 50,000 years ago, when the Cro Magnons began hunting them. It was to be another 40,000 years or so before the techniques of animal husbandry developed, in what is now Iraq, where cattle were first kept as livestock for labour, food and skins. Goats, sheep and dogs were next to be domesticated, followed by horses, probably around 5,000 or 6,000 years ago.

At first, farmers kept horses for their meat and milk, but they subsequently began to use them as pack animals and eventually to pull carts. Although animal-drawn carts weren't new, the strength, speed and endurance of the horse revolutionised the practice, and it wasn't long before these qualities took horses onto the battlefield: the Shang Dynasty Chinese began using horse-drawn war chariots in around 1450 BC. …