Were Horses on North America in Ancient Times and if So Were They Different?


Horses are one of the most iconic animals in the world, and they have played a crucial role in human history. It is widely believed that horses originated in North America before migrating to other parts of the world.

However, it is still unclear whether horses were present in North America during ancient times. In this article, we will explore this topic and try to understand whether horses were present in ancient North America and if so, how they were different from modern-day horses.

History of Horses in North America

The history of horses in North America dates back to the Eocene epoch, which was around 56 million years ago. During this period, small hoofed mammals called Eohippus or “dawn horse” roamed the forests of what is now Wyoming. These early horses were quite different from modern-day horses as they were much smaller (around the size of a dog) and had toes instead of hooves.

Over time, these early horses evolved into larger species such as Mesohippus, which had three toes on each foot and lived around 35 million years ago. Later on, during the Miocene era (around 23-5 million years ago), the horse species became even larger and more diverse.

However, despite their long history in North America, horses disappeared from this continent around 10-12 thousand years ago. This disappearance is believed to be due to climate change and hunting by humans who migrated from Asia across the Bering Strait.

Reintroduction of Horses to North America

It wasn’t until the arrival of Europeans that horses were reintroduced to North America. Spanish explorers brought them over during their expeditions in the 1500s. These horses quickly spread throughout the continent and became an integral part of Native American cultures.

However, the horses brought over by the Spanish were quite different from the ancient horses that once roamed North America. These horses had been selectively bred for centuries in Europe, resulting in larger and more robust breeds such as the Andalusian and Arabian.


In conclusion, it is still unclear whether horses were present in North America during ancient times. While there is evidence of horse-like animals that lived on this continent millions of years ago, there is no concrete evidence to suggest that horses as we know them today were present in North America before their reintroduction by Europeans.

Nonetheless, the history of horses in North America is a fascinating one, and it highlights how much our world has changed over time. From tiny forest-dwelling Eohippus to towering thoroughbreds, horses have evolved alongside us for millions of years and will continue to play an important role in our lives for centuries to come.