Friday, August 2, 2019

The Long History of Horses in America – Part IV

Continued from the previous post regarding the enormous evidences of horses in the Americas long before Columbus arrived.
    As discussed in the last post, the Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets abutted one another, creating a solid area of glacial ice from the coastal range to the Rocky Mountains, and from the 60th parallel north (Alaska) to about Edmonton, Alberta in the south, creating a solid body of impenetrable glacial ice  (Arthur S. Dyke and Victor K. Prest, ”Late Wisconsinian and Holocene History of the Laurentide Ice Sheet,” Géographie physique et Quaternaire. Vol.41, No.2, 1987, pp237–263).
    Thus, as point out in the last post, there would have been no space for an ice-free corridor, which would be required for humans and animals to pass across between Siberia and Alaska.
    Another issue about such concepts as America horses traveling across the Siberian Land Bridge is that, tnough it made sense in the beginning, it has not withstood the test of time. Archeologists have kept uncovering horse bones that were subjected to radiocarbon testing; and the resulting dates kept getting closer-and-closer to the Modern Era. Currently, theorists who like the Extinction Model have to be content with 5,000 BC as the horizon for their presumed event. If this trend continues, by 2050 the gap in time will probably be down to nil; and the “extinction” will become extinct.
Mongolian kit horse, resembling the wild Tarpan horse. It is able to withstand extreme temperatures and is a hardy animal

In fact, in Asia, there never was an extinction of the horse. Instead, there was “a transition” from ancient horses into modern varieties. Biologists suggest that most domesticated horses evolved from the intermingling of three basic horse types: 1) a primitive forest horse; 2) the wild horse of the Steppes (or “Przewalski”); and 3) the desert horse (or “Tarpan”).
    In the 20th century, an effort was mounted in an attempt to recreate the Tarpan by selective breeding of horses that manifested qualities of the more-ancient horse. A similar effort was undertaken by American breeders who tried to revive the lost “Chickasaw” horse of the Eastern American Woodlands. In both cases, breeders noted that ancient horse characteristics occasionally surfaced; but their frequency was insufficient to reverse the direction of evolution.
    No doubt, a similar situation took place in the Americas. The presence of “throw-back” qualities seen in photographs of some Plains Indian ponies suggests that the ancient Native horse didn’t actually go “extinct;” it evolved or transitioned into later breeds that were already here when Columbus reached the New World, or in some cases, imported from the Old World.
Only known illustration of a tarpan horse (Equus ferus ferus) made from life; which are bay, black or leopard complex as depicted from cave paintings

The Native American horse might have looked something like the ancient Tarpan. The horse has some features (such as a short neck, short round face, and short legs) that are similar to the Mongolian “kit.” These features were apparent in the sketch that Rudolph Kurz made of a Blackfoot pony in 1851. Probably, Kurz picked this horse for his drawing because it seemed so unusual—it certainly was not sort of horse that is typically included in most books about horses or Indians, because it is basically an ugly horse.
    A recent proposal by Chilcotin Ranchers in British Columbia to “eradicate the ugly wild horses” in the region is a reminder that such ungainly-looking beasts are occasionally encountered roaming in the northern forests.
    As stated in an earlier post, there was a widespread belief among professionals that “horses were extinct”in the Americas for more than 8,000 years. As a result, nobody has made a serious effort to verify the origins of most of America’s wild and ugly horses. They are simply regarded as being “expendable.”
    About 1884, the French administrator, knight of the Legion of Honor, paleontologist and anthropologist, Jean Du Pouget (Marquis de Nadiallac) toured South America. He was a correspondent of the Institut de France (Academy of Inscriptions and belles-letters) and president of the Archaeological Society of Vendômois, his writings were critically important and highly regarded, with most of his publications appearing first in the Journal of the Institute or in the Journal des Scientific. He noted during this tour of the Americas, that Lund’s excavations at Minas Geraes, Brazil, had uncovered horse bones that were associated with human remains and with extinct fauna from the last Ice Age (although, obviously, the horse was not extinct).
    Du Pouget noted that the horse bones were similar to those of modern horses. In other words, the South American wild horse had evolved beyond the extinct species (Hippidion) that is known to paleontologists.
Sebastian Cabot 1544 World Map with sketches of areas main resource

Sebastian Cabot, Venetian navigator, explorer, and cartographer who at various times served the English and Spanish crowns, took an expedition to northern Argentina, South America, in 1526, just ten years after the Spanish expedition by Juan Diaz de Solis to the Rio de Plata. Cabot’s entourage of a hundred-plus men where he spent five months exploring the river’s estuary and established a fort called San Salvador at the confluence of the Uruguay and the Rio San Salvador (the first Spanish settlement in modern-day Uruguay), and later they constructed a small fort called Santo or Espíritu Santo at the confluence of the Paraná and the Rio Garcarañá, the first Spanish settlement in present-day Argentina. In this region he encountered wild horse herds and cattle. They ate horsemeat and beef during their time on the Argentina grasslands.
    Back in Europe in 1544, Cabot completed a world map based in part on his voyages and exploration that was published in Antwerp. On this map, he included sketches intended to represent the primary assets of each region. In the area of northern Argentina, Cabot drew a horse, representing the major resource in the country—a horse because of the vast herds of horses in the rolling grasslands of northern Argentina. Once again, this was only 10 years after the Spanish reached this area in Diaz de Solis’ expedition to the river (Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center, Boston Public Library).
    Pedro de Mendoza led an expedition to Buenas Aires, Argentina, where he spent five years. It was recorded that they also lived on herds of wild horses. In trying to determine where all these horses came from, some writers have suggested that these enormous herds resulted from “an explosive population” that found a favorable habitat in the Argentine grasslands. While that is probably partially true, if all these horses had come from just a few abandoned Spanish horses left by de Solis; then the resulting herds would have been uniformly like typical Spanish horses. However, later settlers noted that the Argentine horse had an unusually comfortable walking gait; so they named these mounts Paso Fino (“Walks Good”).
Artifacts found in Cuzco dating to around 1400 AD, nearly hundred years before the arrival of the Spanish

Around 1400 AD, artifacts of pins found in Cuzco showed both mounted horses and llama/alpacas. The famed Nez Percé Appoloosa horse with the spotted blanket over the flank cannot be explained by European horses brought to the Americas, nor the multitude of other factors showing horses or numbers of horses where large herds could not have accumulated by importing horses from Europe by the early Spanish.
    The point is, horses have always been in the Americas, and though not specifically noted in the historical writings of the Spanish priests, there nonetheless are numerous accounts of such animals found here before the Spanish arrival.

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