In the matters of so much evidence, that wild horses are indeed Indigenous to North America, it becomes an imperative that roundups stop. As well, the cattle-only paradigm is an insufficient excuse to allow further roundups, as we potentially are speaking about an Indigenous Species to North America, which due to recent information, may be significant in events toward our natural environment. The actual reduction of populations of wild horses, in order to place more and more cattle on public lands, is of questionable standards and ecology, which equates to no Conservation or Ecological efforts what so ever, made toward America’s Public Lands.
The extinction of particular species, by human’s and climate, have been the topic of much scientific debate today. Ironically, the Ice Age may not have been as devastating to many mammals as we were led to believe. There is a majority of evidence, and more accumulating almost weekly right now, that supports the hypothesis of “Pleistocene Overkill” (Martin and Wright 1967, Flannery 2001), or events similar to this same situation, perhaps not as dramatic within a population-kill context.
What we are finding currently is this:
- Pleistocene Horse Bones are being found at Pre-Columbian archeological dig sites in the west;
- Pleistocene Mammoth bones are being located in huge bone-piles, with human-made spear tips throughout their skulls and bodies, and within several Pre-Columbian dig sites, as well as Pleistocene Horse Bones — in grassy meadows sites in the west.
What does this mean? That Wild Horses in the west are Indigenous Species and require protection under the Endangered Species Act — it also means that such agencies as the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of the Interior have been lying all along in the matters of the wild horses not being an Indigenous species.
What is required here? That a MORITORIUM be imposed on further wild horse roundup and/or birth control and/or sterilization situation be accomplished immediately! If not, then the present Administrators and Managers of the BLM and DOI will be held accountable, and taken to task for such poor attention to factual science, and their incompetence —
Wildlife Overkill Events
If not in total, it then becomes a significant link to a combination of Ice Age and Pleistocene Overkill – which leads many of us to believe that wild horses did survive, and current overlooked evidence, from the past attests to this situation. The fact is many archeologists and paleontologists of the past, simply took the non-debatable route (career oriented) of non-inclusive animals from Ice Age survival.
The fact is questions are easily answered, in the matters of so many wild horse bones being found along side — of and with – Dwarf Woolly Mammoth bones, as both fed on similar vegetation, and existed pre-ice age as well as post ice-age – as shown at many modern-day archeological sites.
This hypothesis of Pleistocene-Overkill suggested that as humans spread across the two continents, they preyed upon the large herbivores, such as mammoths, ground sloths, etc. Such large animals are more vulnerable to extinction than smaller ones because they cannot hide as easily, and because their lower reproductive rates cannot compensate for the losses due to hunting. Horses are within this categorical situation as well, but being smaller at that time, the question does arise, were all wild horses killed, or were there many left to breed, that is, once the larger prey-animals become extinct?
Before humans entered the picture, North America had an impressive assortment of large mammals and birds. The herbivores of this megafauna included 3 species of elephants (woolly mammoths, giant mammoths, and mastodons), horses, camels, giant bison, giant ground sloths, giant armadillos, tapirs, giant beaver, giant tortoises (roughly the size of Volkswagen bugs), and a peccary as large as the wild boars of Europe.
They also may have had a fearlessness of humans, somewhat like the dodo bird, because these animals evolved without human presence. When the large herbivores disappeared, their natural predators, such as saber-toothed tigers and short-nosed bears, became extinct as well. The large scavenger bird species, adapted to eating the remains of large animals, then followed into extinction. The California condor may have held on because it had access to the carcasses of marine mammals, which did not suffer high extinction rates at that time.
Questions Abound in Realistic Horse Extinctions
Some researchers propose that North American caballine horses did not become extinct, and instead persisted until historical times (Clutton-Brock 1981). This hypothesis has not been previously generally accepted because: (1) No horse bones from the late pre-Columbian era have been found to support the idea, and (2) no indisputable images of horses have been found in late pre-Colombian American Indian “art” — That is, until the Nevada find, the Oregon finds, the New Mexico finds, numerous Alaska finds, the substantial Northwestern Canada finds, etc. All of these archeological finds reported not only late pre-Columbian horse bones, but images on horses within nearby caves, some were considered overlooked in the past, and some misidentified as other than late pre-Columbian America Indian “art.”
Furthermore, when the Spanish arrived with their horses to Mexico in the 16th century, the Aztecs and other educated peoples of that region did not initially understand what horses were. All horses found today in North America are thus believed to be descended from horses brought to the New World from the Old World after the year 1492. Misidentification had plagued proper identification of the horse throughout history, many times, which only now is being questioned as well.
After over 55 million years of evolution and residence in North America, horses became extinct, supposedly. This extinction occurred either in the late Pleistocene or early Holocene. (The Holocene is the period of time we live in now. It began after the Wisconsonian glaciers melted, roughly 10,000 years ago.) But in reality, were they simply left unseen, or around so much perhaps taken for granted? Well, we remain unsure – for example even in the old west, even though not mentioned in many history books or records, we know horses played a part in not only transport, but farming, ranching, building of cities, trail building, surveys, roadwork, et al.
Were the hunters/gatherer’s distracted by other wildlife, more palatable, so the horse neglected in total, or shoved aside? Because explanation still needs to be developed in horse bones next to the Dwarf Woolly Mammoth bones, late pre-Columbian era, that are currently being found at archeological sites throughout the western United States.
Horse Species Survival
When horses became extinct in the New World, some species of Equus still survived in the Old World (e.g. zebras, wild asses and caballines) that portray a hypothesis that wild horses from the Pleistocene era more than likely survived as well. Their ancestors had dispersed there years earlier via the Bering Land Bridge, which connected Alaska to Siberia during periods when sea levels were lower. Many of these horse species are still living, however most surviving species are now endangered. But one significant problem — we have no sense of confirmation, acceptability of how many species were at that time or remain alive today —
The Bering Land Bridge, also known as the central part of Beringia, is thought to have been up to 600 miles wide. Based on evidence from sediment cores drilled into the now submerged landscape, it seems that here and in some adjacent regions of Alaska and Siberia the landscape at the height of the last glaciation 21,000 years ago was shrub tundra – as found in Arctic Alaska today.
And the mystery becomes much more, well, let’s just say either short-sighted or confused, as some questions are answered — The vegetation, i.e. throughout Beringia, was first believed would not have supported the large, grazing animals – woolly mammoth, woolly rhino, Pleistocene horses, camels, and bison.
These animals lived on the vegetation of the steppe-tundra which dominated the interior of Alaska and the Yukon, as well as interior regions of northeast Siberia. Although, the shrub tundra, found up to this point, would have supported elk, perhaps some bighorn sheep, and small mammals. But problems with both the finding of Woolly Mammoths as well as Dwarf Woolly Mammoths later, and throughout the western United States, places this information into serious questions categorically.
“Permafrost horses and what they tell us —- Horses depicted in cave art are generally stocky, mostly tan or yellowish with a white belly, and usually shown with a stiff, dark mane*. They thus resemble Przewalski’s horse of modern Mongolia. Corroboratory evidence that Ice Age horses of some populations looked like this comes not only from living wild caballoids but also from the Selerikan horse (or Selerikan pony), a Pleistocene stallion preserved in Siberian permafrost, discovered in 1968, and extensively described in works largely unknown in the west (Guthrie 1990, Ukraintseva 2013). * It should be noted that not all ancient horses were like this – we have evidence that some Pleistocene horses in North America (and maybe elsewhere) had long, flowing manes.”
Throughout the Holocene, wild caballine horses continued to range across the grasslands of Europe and Asia. Approximately 5,000 years ago, wild caballines were captured at numerous locations in this vast geographic area and domesticated by diverse peoples, as the knowledge and technology for capturing, taming and riding horses spread (Vilà et al. 2001; Bendrey 2012).
Horse’s Today Perhaps Misidentified?
Thus, the domestic horse of today originated not from one local population of wild horses, but from numerous populations spread across Eurasia (Vilà et al. 2001; Bendrey 2012). Only one of these original wild caballine populations still exists. It is known as Przewalski’s Horse – or is it simply the only one we want to accept, because it is the easiest to explain? The fact is we are also finding, through DNA as well as Bloodlines, Pleistocene era attributes . . . in horses across the United States, Spain, and other European areas, i.e. France as well . . .
The supposed extinction of North America’s horses occurred during a time period when many other large mammals throughout the world also became extinct. Was it more comfortable to simply attest to the extinction of wild horses to be included, as a fact; or, just comfort because no explanation available, and who cared about this upstart country called America?
But yes, more problems — It is hard to find agreement in the literature about terminal dates. Kurtén and Anderson (1980) reported a dating of 8,000 years ago for horse fossils from Alberta, Canada, but MacFadden (2005) writes that North American horses became extinct roughly 10,000 years ago. Oh, there is so much more confusion, and this just the tip of the iceberg (pardon the pun) so to speak.
In Alaska, stilt-legged horses became extinct about 31,000 years ago, while caballine horses became extinct about 12,500 years ago (Guthrie 2003). Interestingly, Alaskan caballines showed a precipitous decline in body size before extinction, and vanished 1,300 years before woolly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius) became extinct in the same area (Guthrie 2003). But once again, the Dwarf Woolly Mammoths being found throughout the western United States, turns the theories above into highly questionable information – confused at best.
Because climate change often causes alterations in the abundance of many other organisms, such as food plants, disease vectors, predators and competitors, extinction scenarios involving climate change can be diverse and involve many different mechanisms.
Although still unproven, the “overkill hypothesis” is a plausible explanation and should be given serious consideration. However, the reader needs to be wary of the political agenda of both some of its supporters, and the dubious conclusions that they derive from it, as well as the detractors, and simply not wanting to toss confusion into the game of horse breeding or authenticating blood-lines.
Conclusion or A Beginning
The modern-day American, like humans everywhere, are passionate horse lovers. The fossil record’s revelation to us all, that our very own continent is the ancient motherland of horses, has deepened the already strong emotions that we all feel toward horses, and strengthens Our-Bonds, that we indeed have with these extraordinary animals.
One example is the recent interest we Americans show for saving various species of Old World horses from extinction. This is developed to authenticate and bring concerns that such species occurred in North America, are closely-related to horses that existed centuries ago.
Some people, such as myself, strongly suggest introducing these species back into America, and to set all the wild horses in captivity, back onto America’s Public Lands – and for legitimate reasoning of not only historical nature, supported via current fossil records, but of value to All American’s, and the Iconic principles that do exist, whether or not our government reaffirms such situations or not. It is indeed a controversial proposal that is being studied more closely and debated (Donlan 2005; Oliviera-Santos and Fernandez 2010; Cox 2014; Cox 2009; Simson-Cox 2008; Stenson 2006).
There is no doubt we see a soul mate, a natural symbol of our own love for freedom, with deep and ancient roots in our own America – We are the Owners of America and the Wild Horses, and not the government nor any others that represent our behalf, and certainly not just the ranchers.
At the same time, the older fossil records are sobering, make no doubt of this situation. They had created revelation of the horse’s extinction in North America eight thousand years ago, and certainly reminded us today of the vulnerability of all nature and the need to make environmental protection a high priority. Even though current fossil records are showing us something different, extinction did not take place, even more sobering is the fact of how misinformation played such a roll within the current attempted demise of the wild horses on Public Lands.
Currently, this priority still exists, but now the priority of not only Humane Conduct, but developing the truth out of current Fossil Records, in a time when our own government in America has turned against the very people they are supposedly representing, and pay them to do so – thereby, throwing legitimate science, fossil records, and truthfulness into the wind. True American’s will not allow this façade to happen much longer . . .
References and Readings:
Alberdi MT, Prado JL, Ortiz-Jaureguizar E (1995) Patterns of body size change in fossil and living Equini (Perissodactyla). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 54:349-370
Azzaroli A (1995) A synopsis of the Quaternary species of Equus in North America. Bollettino della Societa Paleontologica Italiana 34:205-221
Azzaroli A (1998) The genus Equus in North America. Palaeontographia Italica 85: 1-60
Azzaroli A, Voorhies MR (1993) The genus Equus in North America. The Blancan species. Palaeontographia Italica 80:175-198
Bauer IE, McMorrow J, Yalden DW (1994) The historic ranges of three Equid species in northeast Africa – a quantitative comparison of environmental tolerances. Journal of Biogeography 21: 169-182
Bendrey R (2012) From wild horses to domestic horses: a European perspective. World Archaeology 44: (Special Issue) 135-157
Benton MJ (1990) Vertebrate Palaeontology. Unwin Hyman, London
Camp CL, Smith N (1942) Phylogeny and functions of the digital ligaments of the horse. University of California Mem. 13: 69-124
De Stoppelaire GH, Gillespie TW, Brock JC, Tobin GA (2004) Use of remote sensing techniques to determine the effects of grazing on vegetation cover and dune elevation at Assateague Island National Seashore: impact of horses. Environmental Management 34: 642-649
Donlan J, Greene HW, Berger J, Bock CE, Bock JH, Burney DA, Estes JA, Foreman D, Martin PS, Roemer GW, Smith FA, Soulé ME (2005) Re-wilding North America. Nature 436: 913-914
Downs T, Miller GJ (1994) Late Cenozoic Equus from the Anza-Borrego Desert of California. Contributions in Science, Los Angeles County Museum 440:1-90
Duncan P (1992) Horses and Grasses. Springer-Verlag, Berlin
Eisenmann V (1992) Origins, dispersals, and migrations of Equus (Mammalia, Perissodactyla). In Mammalian migration and dispersal events in the European Quaternary. von Koenigswald W, Werdelin L (editors). Courier Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg, Frankfurt, Germany
Feranec RS, MacFadden BJ (2000) Evolution of the grazing niche in Pleistocene mammals from Florida: evidence from stable isotopes. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 162:155-169
Forsten A, Eisenmann V (1995) Equus (Plesippus) simplicidens (Cope), not Dolichohippus. Mammalia 59: 85-89
Fortelius M, Solounias N (2000) Functional characterization of ungulate molars using abrasion-attrition wear gradient: a new method of reconstructing paleodiets. American Museum Novitates 3301:1-36
Froehlich DJ (2002) Quo vadis eohippus? The systematics and taxonomy of the early Eocene equids (Perissodactyla). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 134: 141-256
Garcés M, Cabrera L, Agustí J, Parés JM (1997) Old World first appearance datum of “Hipparion” horses: late Miocene large-mammal dispersal and global events. Geology 25:19-22
Gingerich PD (1989) New earliest Wasatchian mammalian fauna from the Eocene of northwestern Wyoming: composition and diversity in a rarely sampled high-floodplain assemblage. University of Michigan Papers on Paleontology 28: 1-97
Gingerich PD (1989) Systematics and evolution of early Eocene Perissodactyla (Mammalia) in the Clark’s Fork Basin, Wyoming. Contributions from the Museum of Paleontology, University of Michigan 28: 181-213
Guthrie RD (2003) Rapid body size decline in Alaskan Pleistocene horses before extinction. Nature 426: 169-171
Henry M (1947) Misty of Chincoteague. Simon & Schuster, New York
Hermanson JW, MacFadden BJ (1996) Evolutionary and functional morphology of the knee in fossil and extant horses (Equidae). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 16:349-357.
Hulbert RC (1993a) Late Miocene Nannippus (Mammalia, Perissodactyla) from Florida, with a description of the smallest hipparionine horse. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 13:350-366
Hulbert RC (1993b) Taxonomic evolution in North American Neogene horses (subfamily Equinae): the rise and fall of an adaptive radiation. Paleobiology 19:216-234
Hulbert RC, Harrington CR (1999) An early Pliocene hipparionine horse from the Canadian Arctic. Palaeontology 42:1017-1025
Janis CM, Colbert MW, Coombs MC, Lambert WD, MacFadden BJ, Maden BJ, Prothero DR, Schoch RM, Shoshani J, Wall W (1998) Part V: Perissodactyla and Proboscidea. Pp. 511-524 in Evolution of Tertiary Mammals of North America. Volume 1: Terrestrial carnivores, ungulates, and ungulatelike mammals. Janis CM, Scott KM, Jacobs LL (Editors). Cambridge University Press, UK
Janis CM, Damuth J, Theodor JM (2000) Miocene ungulates and terrestrial primary productivity: where have all the browsers gone? Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 97: 7899-7904
Janis CM, Damuth J, Theodor JM (2002) The origins and evolution of the North American grassland biome: the story from hoofed mammals. Paleogeography, Paleoclimatology, Paleoecology 177: 183-198
Kurtén B (1988) Before the Indians. Colombia University Press, New York
Kurtén B, Anderson E (1980) Pleistocene Mammals of North America. Columbia University Press, New York
MacFadden BJ (1992) Fossil Horses: Systematics, Paleobiology, and Evolution of the Family Equidae. Cambridge University Press, UK
MacFadden BJ (2001) Three-toed browsing horse Anchitherium clarencei from the early Miocene (Hemingfordian) Farm, Florida. Bulletin of the Florida Museum of Natural History 43:79-109
MacFadden BJ (2005) Fossil horses: evidence for evolution. Science 307: 1728-1730
MacFadden BJ, Hulbert RC (1990) Body size estimates and size distribution of ungulate mammals from the Late Miocene Love Bone Bed of Florida. Pp. 337-363 in Body Size in Mammalian Paleobiology. Cambridge University Press, UK
MacFadden BJ, Cerling TE (1996) Mammalian herbivore communities, ancient feeding ecology, and carbon isotopes: a 10 million-year sequence from the Neogene of Florida. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 16:103-115
MacFadden BJ, Solounias N, Cerling TE (1999) Ancient diets, ecology and extinction of 5-million-year-old horses from Florida. Science 283: 824-827
MacFadden BJ, Carranza-Castañeda O (2002) Cranium of Dinohippus mexicanus (Mammalia: Equidae) from the early Pliocene of Central Mexico, and the origin of Equus. Bulletin of the Florida Museum of Natural History 43: 163-185
Maguire KC, Stigall AL (2008) Paleobiogeography of Miocene Equinae of North America: A phylogenetic biogeographic analysis of the relative roles of climate, vicariance, and dispersal. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 267: 175-184
Maguire KC, Stigall AL (2009) Using ecological niche modeling for quantitative biogeographic analysis: a case study of Miocene and Pliocene Equinae in the Great Plains. Paleobiology 35: 587-611.
McNaughton SJ, Tarrants JL, McNaughton MM, Davis RH (1985) Silica as a defense against herbivory and a growth promoter in African grasses. Ecology 66: 528-535
Mihlbachler MC, Rivals F, Solounias N, Semprebon GM (2011) Dietary change and evolution of horses in North America. Science 331: 1178-1181
Nowak RN (1999) Walker’s Mammals of the World. Sixth Edition. John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore
Oakenfull EA, Lim HN, Ryder OA (2000) A survey of Equid mitochondrial DNA: implications for the evolution, genetic diversity and conservation of Equus. Conservation Genetics 1: 341-355
Oliviera-Santos LGR, Fernandez FAS (2010). Pleistocene rewilding, Frankenstein ecosystems, and an alternative conservation agenda. Conservation Biology 24: 4–5
Repenning CA, Weasma TR, Scott GR (1995) The early Pleistocene (latest Blancan-earliest Irvingtonian) Froman Ferry fauna and history of the Glenns Ferry Formation, southwestern Idaho. US Geological Survey Bulletin 2105:1-86
Secord R, Bloch JI, Chester SGB, Boyer DM, Wood AR, Wing SL, Kraus MJ, McInerney FA, Krigbaum J (2012) Evolution of the earliest horses driven by climate change in the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Science 335: 959-962
Seliskar DM (2003) The response of Ammophila breviligulata and Spartina patens (Poaceae) to grazing by feral horses on a dynamic mid-Atlantic barrier island. American Journal of Botany 90: 1038-1044
Simpson GG (1951) Horses. Oxford University Press, New York
Skinner MF, Hibbard CW (1972) Early Pleistocene pre-glacial and glacial rocks and faunas of north-central Nebraska. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 148: 117-125
Solounias N, Semprebon G (2002) Advances in the reconstruction of ungulate ecomorphology with application to early fossil Equids. American Museum Novitates 3366: 1-49
Steiner CC, Ryder OA (2011) Molecular phylogeny and evolution of the Perissodactyla. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 163: 1289-1303
Turner A, Kirkpatrick JF (2002) Effects of immunocontraception on population, longevity and body condition in wild mares (Equus caballus). Reproduction Supplement 60: 187-195
Vilà C, Leonard J, Götherström A, Marklund S, Sandberg K, et al. (2001) Widespread origins of domestic horse lineages. Science 291: 474-477
Voorhies MR (1981) Dwarfing the St. Helens eruption: ancient ashfall creates a Pompeii of prehistoric animals. National Geographic 159: 66-75
Wang Y, Cerling TE, MacFadden BJ (1994) Fossil horses and carbon isotopes: New evidence for Cenozoic dietary, habitat, and ecosystem changes in North America. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 107:269-280
Weinstock J, Willerslev E, Sher A, Tong W, Ho SyW, Rubenstein D, Storer J, Burns J, Martin L, Bravi C, Prieto A, Froese D, Scott E, Xulong L, Cooper A (2005) Evolution, systematics, and phylogeography of Pleistocene horses in the New World: a molecular perspective. PLOS Biology 3: 1373-1379
Winans MC (1989) A quantitative study of North American fossil species of the genus Equus. Pp. 262-297 in The Evolution of Perissodactyls. Prothero DR, Schoch R (editors). Oxford Univeristy Press, UK.
Zimov SA (2005) Pleistocene Park: return of the mammoth’s ecosystem. Science 308: 796-798 Information about this Review The author is: Dr. Paul D. Haemig (PhD in Animal Ecology)