Equus Primitiveus

...and on the eighth day God created Equus in perfect image, to romp, graze, gallop, play and make manure wherever it darn well pleases, in divine grace.

Horses actually went extinct in North America around 10,000 years ago, but continued to evolve in Asia and Europe.

There were four primitive breeds, and it is possible to establish a study on their development, each of which became adapted to its own particular environment.

Recall, we have discussed Przewalski’s Horse in previous editions of "Horsin’ Around."

The "Equus przewalski przewalski poliakov" was originally from the steppe regions of Asia. (1)

However, the wild horses of Asia are not free-ranging any longer, though they are being bred in captivity, with the plan being to reintroduce them into their natural Mongolian habitat in the near future.

This is a very primitive breed and looks much like a shaggy mule.

It had been rediscovered in 1879 by N.M. Przewalski, a Polish colonel, out in Mongolia. (2)

They have a long, heavy head, with small eyes set high on the face, with a convex or straight profile.

They have darker stockings and come in a dun color with a dark dorsal stripe. Their mane is upright and coarse, and have a different chromosome count of 64 than that of today’s modern horse, which is 66. (3)

Next is the Tarpan, or "Equus przewalski gmelini antonius," which originally came from Poland .(3)

It is faster in speed and lighter in build than Przewalski’s Horse.

They, too, come in a dun color, which turns white during the winter, and also have the dark dorsal stripe and dark stockings.

The Tarpan has been technically extinct for some time, although a reconstructed version of the breed is being maintained in Poland.

It is believed that many of the light horse breeds in the world today can be traced to the Tarpan for their development.

Moving on, there is the Forest Horse, or " Equus przewalski silvaticus," also called the "Diluvial Horse." (4)

Originally from Europe, the Forest Horse, now extinct, was a slow moving, large-boned horse and is believed to be the ancestor of the Draft horses of Europe.

It had developed broad hooves and was well adapted to its surrounding environment, which helped it to live in the vast swampy areas.

It had a wiry, thick haircoat, which may have been dappled to help with camouflage.

Finally, there was the Tundra Horse, from northeast Siberia, also now extinct. (5)

It is likely to be the ancestor of the Yakut Pony, which currently resides in Siberia, but it does not appear to have played a significant role in the development of any other domestic equine breeds.

The Yakut Pony has a thick, white coat.

Continuing, there are other "sub-types," including, "Pony Type I," developed in northwest Europe and was a small, hardy and tough pony that possibly came in around 12HH to 12.2HH. (6)

They were apparently resistant to heat and cold, living in very harsh conditions, and the modern Exmoor Pony and other native English breeds appear to have retained these qualities.

Pony Type I had a straight profile with a small head, small ears and a broad forehead.

The jaw line, in particular, bears a striking similarity to the Exmoor Pony.

The modern Exmoor Pony mares come in at a feminine 12HH, while the stallions and geldings come in at 12.3 HH.

It originates in England and is a semi-wild animal, found mainly in Exmoor, in the southwest corner of Devon.

Once found everywhere, its numbers have been greatly reduced.

There is an ongoing, strictly monitored breeding program to ensure its continuation.

They are one of the best known feral ponies in Europe, and while some are bred at privately owned stud farms, they run free over the moors, for the most part.

They are a very primitive breed, and come in dun with black points, bay or black.

The Pleistocene cave paintings in Spain and France of the wild horses compared with the Tarpan, Both the Przewalski’s Horse and the Exmoor Pony strongly suggest that the Exmoor itself is a direct link to an ancestral wild horse. (7)

Due to the geographical isolation of their habitat in the moors, the Exmoor Pony has largely retained their original features and has not been over influenced by other breeds.

The Exmoor has distinctive features, mostly having evolved from its environmental habitat.

They are resistant to many equine diseases as well as harsh weather.

Their winter hair-coat is waterproof, composed of a double layer.

The top layer is long and greasy, while the undercoat is short and woolly, thus keeping the heat in and the rain and cold out.

Their eyes have a heavy top lid, known as "toad eye," while their tails have a fan-like growth of bushy hair at the top.

They have strength, durability, stamina and make excellent children’s ponies.

One time a year, Exmoor Ponies are rounded up, inspected and branded with star, herd number on their shoulder and a pony number on their left hindquarter.

They have primitive characteristics in their appearance, which include the dun color with black points. They are attractive, with a reasonable slope on the shoulder, with a deep, wild chest.

Their frame is compact, with a deep girth, hard hooves and short legs, and they are considered at warm-blood. (8)

Remember, it is the time of year to give an Ivermectin paste wormer, and keep water troughs and buckets free from ice; your buddy likes his drink straight up, not on the rocks.

Until next time, I’ll leave you with the immortal words of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, "Happy Trails to You."

1-8: "The Encyclopedia of Horses and Ponies," by Tamsin Pickeral