I was reading a very wonderful booklet called REWILDING HORSES IN EUROPE written by Leo Linnartz (ARK Nature) and Renee Meissner (Herds & Homelands). These people are my heroes because they are rewilding the fallow farmlands of Europe with rare or extinct horses (and other natural residents) to bring back the land to vitality.
Inside this article were some fascinating, although maybe obvious, findings about coat color, hooves, mane, forelock, coats and gait.
I found myself saying, “Of Course!” to myself… but had never really pondered these things before.
So, I bring them to you – maybe you will find these facts interesting, too!
HORSE MUTATIONS AND ADAPTATIONS
First, what I find very interesting about all of this, is that horses who were built and shaped for one habitat, can, over generations adapt to their new environment – physically. Very interesting. But, if you think about it, if you are a dun horse in a dark forest, you will be seen. So, if you put a bunch of dun horses in the forest, eventually, the darkest dun horses will be the survivors – and they will breed. So, in time, the herd will change color to adapt to the environment. And so on and so on…
1) Coat Color
Some horses live in grass lands and some were pushed into forests due to man and his need to hunt them.
This is so obvious but I had never thought about it… Duns developed their coloring because they lived in grasslands – not as easily noticed. Black, brown and bay horses lived in forested regions.
Environmental factors are at work here, too. A stiff, upright mane is warmer and will protect against cold (hence the upright mane on my Icy), whereas hanging manes help to run off the rain.
In dry climates, the forelock can be absent like the zebra and Przewalski horse. A short forelock is seen in horses from a dry climate as well. A long forelock protects the eyes against rain and insects. An extremely long forelock – an example being the the Yakut – horses helps to protect from the very cold.
This may be very obvious, but soft marshy wetlands make for wide, slow-growing hooves. Rocky surfaces demand strong, fast-growing , small and narrow hooves.
If you take a herd that is from the wetlands and put them in rocks, it will take a few generations for the evolution to happen, but it will. And, vice-versa. As hoof condition is very important to survival, the ability to adapt here is very key.
5) Suitable coat
I didn’t know that not all horses have a double coat in the winter… I have learned that some horses from hot lands, do not have a double coat in the warm winter. This is an adaptation.
6) Social Behavior
Did you know that horses learn to protect themselves from predators? They learn it from their elders… however, if a new, uneducated group – who has never met a predator – is put in an area with predators, it will not take long for them to learn how to defend the herd.
It is believed that ‘gaits’ (lateral leg movement) may have been a natural part of early horses because it allowed them to comfortably travel fast over long distances – like the elephant.
It is believed that the lateral gait was bred out of horses by man when he started to use them for pulling carts instead of riding a horse daily.
That’s it… I had never pondered these things and found them interesting. I hope you did, too!
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