|MadSci Network: Zoology|
Hi Susan... Thanks for asking about horses - they're a favourite animal of mine. We know lots about where horses came from because there are lots of fossil horses that show us how, and where, they evolved. Yes, the first horse we know of was from North America, so you could say they are native to North America. This first horse was called Hyracotherium, and was about the size of a terrier dog. It lived all over North America about 50 million years ago, and ate leaves from low growing bushes. Lots of different sorts of horses evolved since then, and they spread from North America into Europe, Asia and Africa. They became bigger, and better at running away from predators . They also became much better at eating grass, rather than the leaves of bushes and trees. Zebras, which are only found in Africa, are close cousins of the domestic horse we use for riding. Eventually, all the horses became very good at running over prairies and plains, but not very good at living anywhere else. And then , for why we don't know exactly, about 15,000 years ago all the horses in North and South America died out. It might have been that they were driven extinct by the Ice Age cold. it's also possible that the humans living in America at the time hunted them all. The horses you have in America today were brought over from Europe by settlers in the 1400s. So there's your answer! Yes, horses were native to North America, but the ones you have around you today are not. Here's a picture of the first horse, Hyracotherium. And this website is really good for information on all sorts of mammals: here's what it says about horses and here you can look for all sorts of other mammals. References: The Rise of the Mammals. M. J. Benton. 1991. Quarto Publishing. London The Mammalian Radiations. J. F. Eisenberg. 1981. Athlone Press. London
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