When we talk about the horse in North America we think about the Spaniards who first brought their horses from Europe to New Spain. This occurred circa 1519.
|Drawing on left is the Hagerman horse|
Horses in North America Prior to the Spaniards
Soon after they discovered America, the Spanish reintroduced horses to the continent. The Spanish horses were from the finest strains and were regarded as the top breed in Europe. They were also prized by North American plains Indians. Stallions and mares that escaped from the Spanish were what formed the nucleus of the great herds of wild horses that spread upward from Mexico, into Texas and northward into the western Plains country. These herds of wild horses were generally referred to as Mustangs.These were the horses captured by the Native Americans that changed their daily lives.
|Snake River at Twin Falls|
Interestingly enough there was another breed of horse on the North American continent which became extinct between 13,000‐11,000 years ago.
Most believe that the ancient North American horses became extinct during the Paleo Indian period. This was perhaps 10,000 years ago. These early horse species were decimated by climatic changes and eventually vanished completely from North America. At about the same time in Europe and north Africa, horses were becoming common in many ancient civilizations.
Around 3,000 years ago, horses were domesticated in Europe for the first time. Just like the Spanish horses that arrived in North America centuries later they were used for transportation for humans and cargo. About five hundred years after that, Persian officials began using mounted couriers to convey messages back and forth.
The Hagerman Horse, Idaho’s state fossil, was the first true horse on the North American continent. The Hagerman horse fossil was designated the official state fossil of Idaho in 1988. This horse was about the size of a modern Arabian horse but it's bones most closely resembled those of the Grevy’s zebra. Over two hundred individual fossils of both sexes and all ages were recovered by the Smithsonian. Included are complete skeletons as well as skulls, jaws and detached bones.
|Hagerman Horse Exhibit|
The discovery of this magnificent fossil bed goes back to 1928 when a local cattle rancher was digging on a bluff in the Hagerman Valley and discovered fossilized bones. Curious of his find, the rancher took a few of the horse like bones to a local scientist who after examining them passed them on to the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian was aware they were on to something and organized an expedition to the Idaho site. The Smithsonian expedition ended up recovering over three tons of fossils including five full horse skeletons. Several times the Smithsonian returned to the site that became known as the "horse quarry".The Hagerman horse is one of the oldest horse fossils ever discovered.
Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument
Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument is located in South Central Idaho northwest of Twin Falls. contains the largest concentration of Hagerman Horse fossils in North America. Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument is home to over two hundred different species of fossil plants and animals.
|The Snake River in the National Monument|
This Idaho National Monument also includes a portion of the Oregon Trail. The Oregon Trail crosses the southern portion of Hagerman Fossil Beds. Ruts for the trail can be seen at the Oregon Trail Overlook parking lot. The Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument has the distinction of being one of only four units in the National Park system that contains parts of the Oregon National Historic Trail.
See the Western Trips articles on the links below...
Travel Idaho's Sawtooth Scenic Byway
The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway and the Nez Perce War
A few excellent books regarding the Hagerman horse and wild horses of North America includes Equus evolves: The Story of the Hagerman Horse by author Mark Cohen and Into the Wind: Wild Horses of North America by author Jay F. Kirkpatrick.
|Boise Idaho State Capitol|
Your Idaho Vacation
The state of Idaho encompasses is on the western side of the continental divide. The landscape of the state is dominated by mountains and farmland. People have said that if you flatten all the mountains in Idaho, the state would be the size of Texas.
Boise is the largest city in Idaho and is the state capital. Any part of Idaho that your western trip takes you you’ll find spectacular scenery and plenty of fun and historic sites to visit. The Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument located about a one hour and forty five minute drive southwest of Boise Idaho and about a fifty minute drive northwest of Twin Falls Idaho.
(Article copyright 2014 Western Trips. Photos and images in the public domain)