Were There Horses in North America in Ancient Times?

The History of Horses in North America

The history of horses in North America is a fascinating topic that has been debated for years. Many believe that horses evolved on the continent, while others argue that they were brought over by European settlers.

So, were there horses in North America in ancient times The answer is yes, but with a few caveats.

Native American Horses

The first horses to arrive in North America were not brought over by Europeans. Instead, they were native to the continent and evolved around 55 million years ago. These horses were much smaller than modern-day horses and had three toes instead of one hoof.

These native American horses thrived until about 10,000 years ago when they went extinct due to climate change and hunting by early humans. For thousands of years after their extinction, there were no horses on the continent.

Horses Brought Over by Europeans

It wasn’t until the 15th century when Christopher Columbus brought over a group of horses from Spain that they returned to North America. These horses quickly spread throughout the continent and became an integral part of Native American culture.

However, it’s important to note that these horses were not truly “native” to North America since they were brought over by Europeans. They may have been present during ancient times, but only after being introduced by humans.

The Importance of Horses in Native American Culture

Despite not being native to the continent, horses played a significant role in Native American culture. They allowed for easier transportation and hunting, which greatly improved their quality of life.

Horses also played an essential role in religious ceremonies and were considered sacred animals. They were often featured in Native American art and were seen as a symbol of power and strength.


In conclusion, while there were horses on the continent during ancient times, they were not truly native to North America. The native American horses that evolved on the continent went extinct 10,000 years ago, and it wasn’t until Europeans brought over horses that they returned to the continent. However, despite not being native, horses became an integral part of Native American culture and played a significant role in their way of life.